An impassioned plea to embrace diversity in the workplace has been made at the first national conference in Scotland on providing equal opportunities for people regardless of gender, age, ethnic background, disability or orientation.
Pheona Matovu, co-founder of Radiant and Brighter, social enterprise in Glasgow, told the conference of the challenges she and her family faced for five years after they arrived from Uganda before they were granted permanent residency and were able to work. The enterprise she founded with her husband Michael provides diversity training on culture and ethnicity for businesses and organisations and supports migrants seeking employment.
Mrs Matovu challenged decision makers to define what they meant by diversity and how to promote it. Each of us had a duty to bring about the desired change, she told The Herald and GenAnalytics Diversity Conference in association with Standard Life. “If you think you are too small to make a difference then you have not spent a night with a mosquito,” she said, borrowing an idiom from her homeland.
Delegates heard about the pay gap that still faced women and disabled and ethnic groups in the workplace while 5,500 women would face pregnancy or maternity discrimination this year.
“We need to raise our game and concentrate on the future,” John Wilkes, head of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission in Scotland, said.
He suggested that companies should make a commitment on how they intended to diversify their workforce when bidding for contracts. The conference also heard of the vital role diversity had in driving business performance, delivering economic growth, nurturing and retaining talent and building success teams of staff.
Outlining a range of Scottish Government policies, Jeane Freeman, Social Security Minister, said that ensuring everyone had the opportunity to reach their potential was the right thing to do.
Organisations that embraced diversity performed better than those that did not, she said. The new leader of Glasgow City Council, Councillor Susan Aitken, said much work still needed to be done to promote the benefits of diversity and equality.
Lynne Connolly, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Standard Life, said a collaborative effort involving employers, government, education, the third sector, individuals and families was essential to open up equal access to jobs.