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Diversity and inclusion now central to organisational success

Drive to embrace diversity as pandemic shines a light on social inequalities

‘Having unconscious biases is a part of our biological make-up; our brains become conditioned to use the information available to us to draw quick conclusions.’ Photograph: iStock

Ireland continues to make enormous strides in the areas of diversity and inclusion, but with many challenges facing those driving the agenda for their organisations, now more than ever businesses must continue to show leadership in this space.

Gender equality continues to be an area of huge focus but others have become more prominent and important to companies, too, including LGBTQ+, race, age and disability.

Transparent conversations have been critical to recent advancements in Ireland, according to Rhonda Doyle, director of operations, services and projects at Schneider Electric Ireland.

As a result, huge improvements are being made by embedding initiatives to address diversity and inclusion into the culture within organisations.


“The pandemic shone a light on social inequalities, emphasising how companies respond to diversity, equality and inclusion challenges. As a result, in the past year, we have seen more companies pledging to D&I [diversity and inclusion] inclusive workplaces and employment programmes,” she says.

Rhonda Doyle, director of operations, services and projects, Schneider Electric Ireland

“These have allowed diversity and inclusion to no longer be seen as purely ‘compliance’ but as central to organisational success. As a result, we see company policies and practices being implemented and changed to reflect diverse internal and external communities.

“By enacting and reinforcing policies, we are truly able to establish a sense of belonging. In addition, we see huge support from companies when it comes to legislation change. For example, the Irish Government’s Gender Pay Gap Information Bill will require any company employing more than 250 people to publish data on the differences between men and women receiving bonuses and benefits, as well as the differences between the average and median hourly pay and bonuses,” she says.

Employee support network

At William Fry they have expanded their focus to include other critical areas of diversity through their employee support network DiversiFry.

“We’re very proud to work with the Irish Centre for Diversity, which helps companies benchmark and identify where they are in the D&I journey and roadmap their continued improvement through the Investors in Diversity programme,” says Catherine O’Flynn, partner and CSR manager at William Fry.

Another recent example is the launch of the Business in the Community Elevate D&I pledge, where William Fry joined 45 other leading companies in Ireland in a commitment to build more inclusive workplaces that are representative of all members of Irish society.

Diversity and inclusion goes beyond the enormous progress being made at company level. Ireland itself has also embraced it, says Anna Scally, head of technology and media, fintech lead, at KPMG in Ireland.

“We have a reputation as an open, tolerant and diverse society and that’s fundamental in attracting talent. It’s not enough for Ireland to appeal at a corporate level – companies thinking about choosing Ireland or expanding their activities here also need to look at the openness of our society through the lens of their potential employees.

“One of the features of inward investment is that many creative and innovative businesses have chosen Ireland. That is no surprise, as they in turn depend to a large extent on a diverse, multicultural, creative, and innovative workforce. In our case we’ve almost 50 different nationalities on our teams, and that has been so important in growing our business in recent years. Having a workforce which is inclusive and welcoming for all is not just a nice thing to do, it’s the right thing to do, and really helps to drive innovation and fresh perspectives and aids problem solving,” she says.

International markets

At Vistatec, they provide global content solutions to organisations that operate across international markets.

“You could say that diversity is at the very core of what we do. I sometimes struggle to explain to people unfamiliar with our industry that producing high-quality global content goes far beyond direct translation. We couldn’t do what we do without appreciation and respect for the very things that make us all different,” says Siobhán Gantly, chief human resources officer at Vistatec.

“Using inclusive language also plays a significant role in acknowledging and showing respect towards the diversity that exists between us. It is no longer acceptable to perpetuate stereotypes that do not reflect reality or make assumptions that can cause unnecessary offence. Not only is this something we practice at Vistatec, but it’s also a huge growth area for us in terms of the services we provide our blue-chip client base. There is a growing demand for inclusive language review services across all languages and content types.

“The rise in requirements is a clear indicator that D&I is high on the agenda for the world’s leading organisations,” she adds. “Language plays a significant role in successfully implementing strategic D&I programmes.”

Despite all these significant gains, there are still challenges facing those driving the D&I agenda in their organisations.

“It takes time, investment and support at all levels to move from having D&I initiatives and programmes to truly embedding D&I in your business,” says O’Flynn. “Gathering D&I data on workforces to enable target setting and measurement of progress is another key challenge organisations face as they grapple with how to collect this sensitive data in a way that respects employment law, data privacy and GDPR requirements.”

One of the problems many organisations will face is that embracing inclusivity means much more than tolerance.

“There is a shift towards culture-add and a move away from the more familiar culture-fit. However, not everyone will identify with the benefits, presenting new problems if not appropriately addressed. At Vistatec, we believe the way to combat this is through knowledge and transparency,” says Gantly.

“Having unconscious biases is a part of our biological make-up; our brains become conditioned to use the information available to us to draw quick conclusions – the fight-or-flight mode being an excellent example of this in practice. There should be no shame attached to having unconscious biases; we all are hard-wired this way. But by understanding how these cognitive processes can lead to exclusion in the workplace, we can then use techniques to help us counteract this,” she adds.