American companies in Ireland have been leading the way here for many years with enlightened equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) policies.
“Getting EDI right is a win-win for both sides, because if you are not reaching out to people from different backgrounds, whether black, LGBT, or someone with a disability, you are leaving out a lot of talent from your company,” says Brian Armstrong of the US-based International Coaching Federation. Its Irish chapter, ICF Ireland, recently hosted Strength Through Diversity, an online conference.
As part of his coaching practice, Armstrong works with executives in relation to EDI, to ensure unconscious bias is never at play. No diversity programme will be effective if it’s not supported from top down, he points out. “It’s the same as emotional intelligence, before you are aware of others, you have to be aware of yourself,” he says.
As well as being the right thing to do, having a corporate brand that is recognised as strong on EDI helps employers to attract talent.
Irish multinational business PM Group is a member of the 30% Club, for example, a global campaign led by chairs and chief executives which aims to increase gender diversity at board and senior management levels.
“We have a series of EDI teams too, and a number of ‘voice of the people’ teams set up in various regions to discuss matters of interest to them, and to share them back up through the organisation. We’ve some great ideas coming through that,” says Allan Schouten, PM Group’s US president.
US MNC Diligent, a developer of board management software which recently opened a base in Galway, also has a number of activities aimed at leveraging the benefits of equality diversity and inclusion.
For example, as part of its recent Global Day of Service, Diligent employees took part in a “speed mentoring” night with members of the Alice Paul Institute (API), a non-profit organisation which provides young women with the support and training they need to meet their leadership potential.
“Diligent and the API share a common goal to change the face of leadership by providing access to guidance and mentorship to underrepresented populations. Diligent is passionate about effecting positive change in governance and within the technology sector. We are committed to supporting causes that seek to increase racial and gender diversity in corporate leadership,” explains Ruairi Conroy, Diligent’s site lead in Ireland.
“As a modern governance company, Diligent embraces its responsibility to enhance diversity and inclusion throughout all levels of the organisation. However, a diverse workforce means very little if we do not work to foster a culture in which diverse opinions – an essential component of innovation – are fully welcomed and openly sourced.”
To this end it established a DEI employee task force to ensure employees know they have a forum for their ideas to be heard. “We want to ensure that all employees are empowered to do their best work because they know their contributions are valued and will make a lasting impact,” he explains.
Already its DEI task force has added several initiatives he believes are “foundational” to its culture and strategy internally to its people and for talent acquisition, as well as externally to its clients.
Earlier this year, they launched seven new employee resource groups (ERGs) generational, multicultural, parenting and care giving, mental health, women in tech, remote and work from home, and Pride (LGBTQIA+).
“These play an important role in fostering a sense of community and providing an opportunity to facilitate important discussions across the organisation,” he explains.