Diversity in the workplace – where are the opportunities for graduates?Posted: December 18, 2012
The Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD) hosted an interesting and wide-ranging Diversity conference in Dublin on 12 December. Many topics were covered, including issues around mental health problems in the workplace , difficulties faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in the application process or their workplace; and problems confronted by students with disabilities in key issues such as access to jobs, applications, disclosure and employee support networks.
The conference was notable in that it brought together employers and careers professionals alongside NGOs such as Headstrong and GLEN to meet and discuss issues around creating a diverse working environment that is truly inclusive. Ann Heelan from AHEAD told us that there are over 7,000 students with disabilities within Irish higher education institutions; Davin Roche from GLEN observed that approximately 8 per cent of the Irish workforce is LGBT. Employers who do not seek to create a diverse workforce are needlessly cutting themselves off from a talent pool of potentially brilliant candidates. A key theme of the discussions was set by Dr Tony Bates from Headstrong when he commented ‘it’s not about what’s wrong in people, but what’s strong in people’.
Several employers who take part in AHEAD’s Willing, Able and Mentoring (WAM) programme discussed their work in actively seeking to create a diverse and inclusive working environment, and their recruitment strategies in this area. Nearly all of the companies raised as an issue the difficulty faced by students and graduates in identifying companies that actively seek to recruit talented individuals who may, for example, have a disability of have suffered mental illness. Equally, they found that it was difficult as a recruiter to effectively promote themselves as an employer with opportunities for disabled students.
These employers, listed below, are all actively seeking to recruit a diverse workforce, and have systems and processes in place to support both this activity and their employees.
Dell Ireland employs approximately 2,500 staff in Ireland (totalling 65 nationalities), roughly 15 per cent of whom are disabled or directly impacted by disability (eg of a close family member). The company has partnered with the WAM programme to ensure that graduates with disabilities hear that Dell is an open, inclusive and welcoming place to start their careers. You can find out more about their diversity policy on their careers website.
Abbott Ireland is the current holders of the gradireland Diversity Recruitment Award and has set up successful employee networks to ensure that ability is recognised throughout their organisation. These networks remind people with disabilities, specific learning difficulties and mental health conditions that they are listened to, feel valued and feel successful. Again, there is more information on their own website.
Citi has between 75 and 100 vacancies open at any one time and actively seeks to give opportunities to students and graduates from all backgrounds. The company positions itself as an organisation that offers opportunities to candidates with disabilities; it recognises diversity as a source of strength and is developing (with WAM) inclusive recruitment practices for students with disabilities.
Electric Ireland is championing an emerging trend: the creation of internal disability networks with forums for employees to share knowledge.
Most of these employers commented that they struggle to drive applications from graduates with disabilities. Maybe this blog will help encourage some of you to identify and approach companies who have supports in place to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, and build great careers in companies where ability is the only issue.