Inclusive institutions and structures are needed to go beyond the “illusion” of diversity

Diversity has different meanings in different contexts, and cultural change in the workplace cannot be obtained with one-off policies says The Future of Diversity , a new publication of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the École nationale d’administration publique (ENAP) of Québec.

To make progress on diversity, whether in businesses, organizations or societies at large, inclusive institutions and structures should take into account that not everyone receiving the same label has the same needs.

Legal protections from discrimination and provisions for equal opportunities are often not enough to deliver outcomes of equality and inclusion. To foster an environment where everyone fits in and no one is regarded as the “Other”, pro-diversity initiatives should bear in mind variables outside the labour market, says the publication.

The book brings together the perspectives of scholars and practitioners from different disciplines, from both the world of work and academia. It covers issues such as gender equality and mainstreaming, migration and ethnic diversity, racism, violence against LGBTI people and age discrimination. By exposing a variety of perspectives, it aims to increase awareness about forms and elements of ‘diversity’.

The authors show that biases and stereotypes that lead to discrimination and violence – whether in blatant or more subtle forms such as microaggressions – are a major impediment to diversity. So are tacit norms or collective images of what a “typical worker” should be.

Those who do not resemble this image are the “others“, who are more at risk of having to overcome obstacles in seeking work and maintaining employment. They are disproportionally exposed to more or less subtle forms of discrimination and violence in the workplace. “Typical workers”, on the other hand, are often unaware of their privileges in the labour market.

The book analyzes, among other topics, the gender pay gap among crowdworkers; the experiences of LGBTI people in labour markets; old-age and migration and ageing in diverse societies.

Embracing diversity makes economic sense says The Future of Diversity. The goal is to increase efficiency or profits by underlining what different individuals might contribute to organizations.

Beyond the economic environment, the book also looks at how political discourse plays a major role in the production and reproduction of inequalities in a society. The ways in which political elites in any society talk about immigrants, race or gender contribute through media coverage to shaping public opinions and ultimately to opportunities and outcomes in the labour market for different groups of workers and individual workers.

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