French Ireland Chamber Discusses D&I

25th May 2022

Earlier this week, the France Ireland Chamber of Commerce (FICC), the third largest bilateral trade association in Ireland, held an online panel discussing the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

The panel featured expert members of the FICC including Margot Slattery, President France Ireland Chamber of Commerce / ISS Group Head of Diversity & Inclusion – Group People & Culture, ISS World Services, and Sinead Patton, Chief Financial and Commercial Officer of Veolia in Ireland and Regional Director for Northern Ireland, as well as Co-Chair of the Social Inclusion Subgroup within the Leaders Group on Sustainability of Business in the Community Ireland, which recently published the annual report of the Elevate Inclusive Workplace Pledge. There to discuss the benefits of diversity and inclusion within the workplace, and the key obstacles and challenges facing Irish workplaces and society when it comes to this topic.

The panel was moderated by Aine Murray, Vice-President France Ireland Chamber of Commerce.

Numerous reports have stated that companies that emphasise diversity and inclusion will reap positive business benefits.

These companies will be two times more likely to meet or exceed financial targets, three times more likely to be high performing, six times more likely to be innovative and agile, and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

There are also added social benefits including increased productivity and employment outcomes, improvements in physical and mental health for staff, a reduced cost of social services, inclusive growth, and strengthening social networks by increasing trust and removing barriers.

Despite these benefits Margot Slattery noted that a recent hospitality report shows that racism and racial discrimination remain commonplace within the sector. High proportions of professionals from Black (53%), Asian (68%) and Mixed Ethnic groups (57%) from this sector reported experiencing racism in the workplace or at a company level. Despite these figures, the sector is taking inclusion and diversity seriously. With a massive increase in focus being placed on highlighting these issues due to movements and events that arose during the pandemic, including the Black Lives Matter movement.

Understanding bias is vital to changing automatic prejudices both on a personal level and for internal company structures, and as Ireland has diversified inclusion has become more mainstream. Sinead Patton noted that before the pandemic, companies would primarily choose a single aspect or community to focus their inclusion efforts on. However, the Pandemic did serve to highlight the need for a more flexible approach to the workplace and with that a more inclusive approach, so that people could feel comfortable to be themselves at work and feel more included without feeling the need to hide their true selves.

The event discussed the importance of examining organisation’s internal structures and processes to pinpoint any unintentional barriers that were preventing greater levels of inclusion on all levels, throughout the employee lifecycle. Sinead Patton noted that it’s about ensuring that organisations adapt their approach to enable the widest amount of people to see and apply for roles. Ensuring that there is a wide mix of applicants, which will then cascade through to the organisation’s workforce.

Speaking on the topic Margot Slattery said;

“I believe we have, for years, been too focused on fitting people and colleagues into specific boxes based on stereotyped assessments and boxes that keep getting smaller and smaller. We are ethically obliged to break these boxes.”

The panel agreed on the importance of making a deliberate effort to create a more diverse workplace, which will need to be led from the top, and that it won’t be as easy as one may think as, thanks to recent events covered in the media, more prejudice exists in Ireland than people may feel comfortable admitting to.

Diversity and inclusion will continue to be a hot topic, but there are clear steps companies can take to improve their inclusion efforts going forward. Enacting and implementing policy change, recognising unintentional barriers that are preventing diversity and seeking to fix or change them, and addressing shortcomings within your organisation can all help to start the process towards a more inclusive workplace and sector.

It doesn’t matter where you are on your D&I journey, what matters is taking action and if we all take small steps together, we can make a big impact.

Physical actions like unconscious bias and conscious inclusion training programs, widening the panel and types of recruitment organisations used, and introducing access programs for schools or migrants all help to showcase tangible solutions to fix issues that need to be addressed.