Economic prosperity alone cannot achieve social progress
Social trust is a very powerful factor in the advancement of economic activities and social progress. For instance, most mining companies around the world require a social contract of sorts from local communities before national governments issue and approve financial contracts. Likewise, the diversity and inclusion, or the lack thereof can inspire great, often powerful negative emotions towards institutions and in some cases, hamper their activities. Given the increased social media campaigns and institutional reforms over the years, particularly so at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, diversity and inclusion is a term that has been tossed around quite often in the past year. The question therefore is, “what do these terms stand for?”
Diversity and inclusion (D&I), for the most part, is a step (a lot of steps actually) towards social progress. They can be defined simply as:
- The antithesis of inequalities and the biases that promote these inequalities
- Representation and equal access despite social identities
The promotion of diversity and inclusion in leadership positions, in education, in employment and at home, theoretically speaking, will go a long way to eradicating racism, colorism, gender inequalities, amongst many others.
Almost 1 in 3 inactive women (31.7%) cite caring responsibilities as the reason for their inactivity in the job market.
Overt discrimination against marginalized groups is easy to recognize and call out. It is not unusual to see videos or tweets on social media, particularly, Twitter and YouTube calling out people or systems that continue to infringe on the rights of marginalized people, particularly people of colour and women. As with the rest of the world, the EU has seen increased income equality for minorities as a result of their susceptibility to social exclusion and poverty (Sustainable development in the European Union, 2019). Despite this, the EU is home to some of the most equal societies in the world: the recently launched European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan is a testament to that (“European Pillar of Social Rights”, n.d.). The EU’s fight for diversity and inclusion is not limited to its member states only. By supporting initiatives in least developed and developing countries, the EU hopes to nudge these nations towards inclusion and active participation in the global economy (Sustainable development in the European Union, 2019.
155 billion EUR were spent by the EU on financing to developing countries in 2017
From the EY Ireland’s 2019 Diversity and Inclusion report, 100% of respondents are in agreement that diversity and inclusion is essential to business performance (O’Beirne, 2019). Despite the advances made towards increasing representation, social inclusion and progress, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the fragility of our systems and its inability to safeguard the interests of minorities in society. Around the EU, member states, organizations and institutions are working towards improving D&I in laws, in systems, in workplaces, etc. Thus, D&I Initiatives have sprung up all over Europe and Ireland. A few are mentioned below.
- The EU -The EU has diversified its projects portfolio by providing funding for initiatives committed to reducing inequalities both in and outside the EU. One of these is the Responsible Research and Innovation Networking Globally (RRING), a network that advocates for gender equality and works towards presenting the experiences of female scientists to empower and encourage future researchers and innovators; both in academia and science (“10 initiatives fighting for gender equality you should know, share and replicate”, 2019). Another is the Bridging the Gap Project aimed at actions promoting the rights and increasing the visibility and inclusion of people with disabilities (“About the Project-Bridging the GAP”, n.d.).
- Ireland -The Irish Centre for Diversity, Inclusio and the DCU Centre of Excellence for Diversity and Inclusion organized the first Ireland’s National Diversity and Inclusion Conference in September 2019. Its next edition will take place virtually on 15th April 2021. The aim of this conference is to provide insight on topics such as Gender Pay Gap, workplace racial relations, COVID-19 and inclusive working environments among many others as well as inform participants on new strategies to employ at their own workplaces (“Inclusion Works”, 2021).
Diversity and inclusion have often been misconstrued and used interchangeably. However, in the 21st century, we often see diverse people in environments that do not encourage inclusion. Women, people of colour and other minorities are hired in workplaces that are predominantly white/male/majority based and expected to encourage/rewrite workplace culture inclusion on their own. Most women around the world are often required to forego many opportunities to care for their children and other members of their family without remuneration.
They often fall behind their male counterparts in a rapidly advancing world thus increasing the pay gap between genders. These result in a decline in progress towards all the SDGs and a more apparent need to uproot from our systems. Buthow can social constructs whose foundations have been laid for decades, be transformed to eradicate the systemic oppression of minorities in Ireland and in the rest of the EU? It starts with each individual, even members of marginalized groups, ready to acknowledge and understand how they covertly uphold systemic oppression and unconscious bias towards the minorities in society. Goal 10, of the SDGs calls for nations to reduce inequalities in income as well as those based on age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status (Sustainable development in the European Union, 2019. It is important to note that the onus falls to individuals as well.
10 initiatives fighting for gender equality you should know, share and replicate. Medium. (2019). Retrieved 6 April 2021, from https://unsdgaction.medium.com/10-initiatives-fighting-for-gender-equality-you-should-know-share-and-replicate-aed3be260396.
About the Project -Bridging the GAP. Bridging the GAP. Retrieved 6 April 2021, from https://bridgingthegap-project.eu/about-the-project/.
European Pillar of Social Rights. European Commission. Retrieved 6 April 2021, from https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/economy-works-people/jobs-growth-and-investment/european-pillar-social-rights_en.
Imprimerie Bietlot. (2019). Sustainable development in the European Union[E-book] (pp. 9, 199 -103). Belgium. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/3217494/9940483/KS-02-19-165-EN-N.pdf/1965d8f5-4532-49f9-98ca-5334b0652820?t=1573202053000
Inclusion Works. Inclusionworks.ie. (2021). Retrieved 6 April 2021, from https://inclusionworks.ie/.
O’Beirne, N. (2019). Everybody in? EY Ireland 2019 Diversity & Inclusion Survey Report. EY Ireland. Retrieved 6 April 2021, from https://www.ey.com/en_ie/consulting/ey-ireland-2019-diversity-and-inclusion-survey-report.