Progress toward an inclusive workplace, however, has been significantly impacted by COVID-19. And unfortunately, the pandemic has negatively affected marginalised workers the most – highlighting serious gaps in the inequalities that still exist.
We know that diverse work environments are more prosperous and spark innovation. In fact, companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues. Creativity and innovation have been shown to increase in diverse teams, offering unique insights that drive new ideas.
Faced with unprecedented challenges, it’s more critical than ever to engage in active problem solving to the adversity facing the most vulnerable populations:
💡 Across the globe, access to education varies significantly. Recent advances in remote work, digital learning and internet connectivity can surely help – can we do better?
💡 Young people have suffered devastating setbacks through the pandemic, with significant losses to education and work. Out of jobs, and left without a voice at the table, young people need to be included in the discussion regarding their own futures.
💡COVID-19 has hurt workers of . Service and hospitality jobs have been temporarily lost, with many businesses closed for good. Women, making up about 70% of frontline care workers globally, are unevenly exposed directly to the dangers of the coronavirus.
What can be done to ensure a diverse, inclusive and sustainable future of work, despite these challenging and unprecedented times?
Solutions to the Inclusion Imperative Challenge
FU.SE 2020 brought together innovative thinkers to generate concrete solutions to bridge the gap in inclusivity throughout the entire labour market. Over 270 eager FU.SE participants worked diligently in developing actionable ideas to address these pressing challenges.
#1. Fair and Affordable Education For All
Access to education, especially in developing countries, needs to be fair and affordable for all. Large gaps in access to education need to be closed, and a focus must be placed on the developing world in support of widespread training initiatives.
“One of the key aspects allowing to reduce inequalities consists of providing access to affordable education,” says Martine Ferland, CEO of Mercer. Business leaders, governments and NGOs need to be the drivers on this path toward equality.
UNICEF has a plan to connect 3 billion children to the internet by 2030, which will enable direct access to digital learning platforms. As Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Deputy Executive Director at UNICEF, says “we need the mobile network operators to help us give access to education to absolutely everyone and everywhere, especially in the poorest communities”.
She adds, “talent is universal around the world but opportunities are not,” highlighting the need to give everyone a fair and equal chance to ensure an equitable future.
#2. Leverage Technology
Rapid digitalisation in response to COVID-19 has accelerated development of remote work and learning technologies. From Zoom to Microsoft Teams, businesses and individuals have quickly shifted their perception of work and social gatherings to a completely virtual world.
Nazrene Mannie, President of the GAN Network, suggests that we can leverage technology to close the inequality gap, but we first need to provide everyone with access to technology.
Digital content is inclusive as it can be made accessible to every community through the use of custom platforms. Language and regional variances can easily be programmed, and bespoke solutions can be efficiently and affordably developed.
Leveraging technology effectively needs to be a multi-stakeholder effort. Government needs to budget for education, companies need to provide equipment and the mobile operators need to open up mobile networks for universal access.
With the astounding changes in the digital landscape triggered by the pandemic, it’s clear that the technological solutions are there. It’s now time to ensure widespread distribution of networks and devices to provide the world’s entire population with equal access to information.
#3. Encourage Inclusive Collaboration
At FU.SE 2020, participants worked together in a digital workshop to come up with concrete solutions to further inclusivity and diversity in the workplace. Their solution: a digital social platform where feedback on diversity and inclusive behaviours in a safe, digital space can be accessed and utilised by all, in an innovative social environment.
As Nazrene Mannie, put it, “every individual who has access to an online platform can have their voice heard at a massive scale”.
Giving every individual an equal voice – including young people, women, and minorities – in a fair and inclusive manner, will allow often suppressed perspectives to shine through.
All areas of business can prosper from working toward a completely inclusive labour market. Diverse work environments are shown to spur creativity and innovation. Despite these challenging times, recent technological advancements must be leveraged to ensure widespread and equal education for all.
Equal opportunity will lead to an inclusive, diverse workforce, and a sustainable future of work.