For 7 years, the participants of diversity agreements all over Europe have met at least twice a year to discuss the developments in their home countries and Europe, exchange experiences and share expert knowledge. This time, the representatives of diversity agreements met in Paris, Estonia was represented by the director of the Estonian Human Rights Centre and the manager of Estonian agreements, Kelly Grossthal. For Estonia, this meeting was especially important, since one of the discussion points was the diversity leadership conference to be held in Tallinn on November 6 – 7.
Diversity agreements have already been signed by 18 European countries, and Romania, Slovenia and Croatia are about to join them. The Estonian diversity agreement was created in 2012, making this out fifth year in action. Concurrently, Estonia is assuming presidency of the European Council for the first time and the country’s priorities are an open Europe with an innovative economy, an inclusive and long-lasting Europe. European diversity agreements are based on the same goals and that’s why the Estonian Human Rights Centre and the Ministry of Social Affairs have been trusted with organising this year’s high-level diversity and inclusiveness assembly and conference. And so, as a part of the presidency programme, Tallinn will be hosting a conference titled „Diversity and Leadership in a World in Flux“ on November 6 – 7, where we can expect to see executives from different companies all over the world, in addition to politicians, academics, and other notable people who are active in the field of diversity and leadership.
In addition to everything else at the Paris meeting, one of the discussion points was recruiting. How can we guarantee that prejudice won’t affect how organisations choose their employees? Many studies suggest that everyone has prejudices, it’s a part of being human. Over thousands of years, we have evolved to be able to make fast decisions in situations that require making a simple choice. The human brain has also evolved to make effective social evaluations. At the same time, simplified decision processes are no longer helpful in this day and age, since we need to make decisions based on a large amount of information.
Succesful companies compete with each other over the best employees, which is why a lot of companies and organisations spend a lot of time and resources to deal with prejudice in hiring and promoting. Dalia Turner, the director of human resources in Microsoft Portugal, introduced their approach to the subject. Diversity is one of the company’s three priorities for developing an organisational culture. They work on subconcious prejudice, being most focused on achieving gender balance and encouraging women to apply, and they contribute to developing the possibilities of flexible work conditions.
The French diversity agreement introduced a stereotypes study conducted in their member organisations, which caused a fair amount of controversy, because many participants found that studying stereotypes is at least partically responsible for internalising them. For example, French employers saw Eastern European workers as responsible and hard-working, but unfortunately associated also alcoholism and violence with said group. Dealing with stereotypes and prejudice is and always will be one of the central topics of diversity, and there are no good solutions. It is known that the effect of training programmes is moderate, but there’s also a shortage of innovative approaches. Through personal stories, emotions and experiences, progress has been made in many organisations. Diversity is a journey with its own dead ends, highways and deviations.
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It is important to protect everyone’s human rights, because it helps to keep stability and peace in the society. There are many challenges for protection of human rights in Estonia: intolerance has really come out of the closet. Bad things happen when good people are too passive, but together we can make a change.
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