EU and global experts discussed how to address the complex issue of diversity and inclusion in organisations and make sure that the COVID-19 pandemic does not widen the inequality gap in the workplace at joint ACCA, PwC and EBRD web-conference
While everyone agrees that organisations embracing diversity and inclusion deliver better results, increase profits and are more innovative, high-level intentions by EU institutions and companies’ boards are not always being translated into real progress. Attacks against minorities, discrimination and hate speech unfortunately remain a reality in many EU member states and globally, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only set back the progress. The need to create genuine and sustained equality has thus rarely been more clear or urgent.
Over the years, the EU has enacted many laws against discrimination on the grounds of sex, age, religion or belief, racial or ethnic origin, disability or sexual orientation, including recently with an EU action plan against racism, and the first-ever EU Strategy for LGBTIQ+ equality. The European Commission also announced as part of its five-year gender equality strategy that it will propose binding pay transparency measures, as well as a new disability strategy in 2021. However, relying on legislation will not be enough – organisational culture changes and proactive leadership are essential in creating environment where everyone feels they belong, are valued and can live up to their full potential.
Striving to seize the opportunity to advance this agenda together, ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), PwC and the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) organised a lively discussion with key experts from the European Commission, the European Parliament, Eurofound, Adecco, the European Disability Forum and Booking.com , followed by over 350 participants in the EU and beyond, on how to address the complex issue of diversity, inclusion and belonging while supporting the agenda in the post-pandemic workplace.
Helen Brand, OBE, Chief Executive of ACCA said in her opening speech: ‘One thing that the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us is the need to reappraise our values and approaches. The rebuilding of our lives, our economies and our professions is an opportunity to reset that cannot be missed.
‘Diversity and inclusion are collectively one key component of this; building towards a better world where all have the same range of opportunities available to them. ACCA is currently focusing globally on the theme of Inclusion in action, with our new report, Leading Inclusion, which recommends actions to promote diversity and inclusion in organisations, from establishing a D&I policy to leadership principles that set the tone from the top. The report also suggests actions that professional accountants can take to develop this agenda’.
The discussions confirmed that organisations embracing diversity not only widen their access to the best talents, but, by doing so, deliver superior performance across all its aspects and are more creative and innovative. But also that things become more complex when applied to the workplace: determining what makes a team diverse, for example, can be less straightforward. The Covid-19 pandemic is an opportunity to reset, to pause to think how we can do better, which cannot be missed.
Samira Rafaela, MEP said : ‘Equality doesn’t always mean treating everyone the same. It also means taking into account inequalities that certain groups face in this society and acting accordingly. Parity is powerful. The time is now for policy makers and business leaders to step up and make it a reality.’
The speakers explored the impacts - both negative, such as the disproportionate impact on women and unequal access to telework, and positive, such as increased focus on wellbeing and more inclusive practices - of “New Ways of Working” on their D&I agenda. Online working represents an opportunity for people with disabilities, but online opportunities are only really opportunities when the online and virtual spaces are fully accessible and inclusive. Post-pandemic, we need to take advantage of opportunities and create office and online spaces accessible and inclusive for everyone.The debate showed that data and metrics are a key focus going forward, to ensure consistency that would allow all stakeholders to assess progress to achieving the diversity, inclusion and belonging objectives we all wish to see. It is very important to align how we can capture and report this data globally and leverage it for improved diversity strategic decision making.
Vinciane Istace, partner and Diversity & Inclusion leader for PwC Luxembourg said: ‘ Inclusion is the relentless focus on the quality of the human experience in the workplace. We should not miss the data imperative in assessing the shift that the pandemic is creating into the talent cycle . Measurements such as Gender Pay Gap and reporting should lead to more transparency and to the emergence of new leaders with collaboration and inclusion at the core of their role.
Barbara Rambousek , Director of Gender & Economic Inclusion at the EBRD concluded: ‘At the EBRD, inclusion and gender lie at the heart of what we do. For example, we pro-actively support our clients to open up skills and jobs opportunities for people with disabilities, and to create inclusive transport and infrastructure solutions that are accessible to all’.
Notes to editors
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