• Saturday, July 13, 2024
businessday logo


Equality, diversity and inclusion in the society

Gender inequality

Why would anyone, organisation or society embrace diversity? Diversity is recognising that we are different and have different contributions to make to improve our communities.

In any setting, be it family, organisation or society, the more diverse you are, the more the tendency to have solutions to problems giving the perspective of different people in the same team.

Let’s take the game of football as the primordial example of diversity. Many European football teams embrace the diversity of skills in different positions and use that to get the best for their teams in league and tournament competitions.

At the time, up to six national teams’ captains played for Chelsea Football Club under Jose Mourinho. The team having John Terry, Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, and a host of others were diverse in nationalities and skills, making them invincible and conquered Europe dramatically.

The benefits of being open to diversity are numerous and outlive the narrow-minded thinking of people who are too tribal or live with religious sentiments

Diversity is also within a family with the same blood flowing in their veins. Twin brothers or sisters are diverse in their emotions, approaches and values. Embracing diversity is, therefore, the first step to living in peace with one another and making the best of where one finds oneself.

A story was told of two brothers who turned out differently in life. One was a drunkard, poor and a nuisance to his family. The second was a millionaire with successful businesses, network of friends and family. Both brothers were products of the same drunkard as a father. One picked the habit and replicated it to ruin his life. The second resisted the drinking habit and vowed never to take alcohol in his life. The products of their diverse perspectives from the same experience reflected in the outcome they produced for themselves.

Organisations that embrace diversity are more collaborative, agile, responsive and competitive. They are acceptable to societies, representing spectrums of different diverse people along the lines of religion, ethnicity and culture. The world is becoming a global village, which is why diversity needs to be embraced at all levels of our society. Within the religion sub-set, there are diverse ways or philosophies around worshipping God.

The benefits of being open to diversity are numerous and outlive the narrow-minded thinking of people who are too tribal or live with religious sentiments. In those days, I remember a wealthy owner of one of the new-generation banks who despised skills and dominated his bank with people from his tribe. The bank later ran into troubled waters and succession problems because of manipulations, narrow-minded views, and beliefs of the management team who are from the same localities and think in similar ways. At the time he had the opportunity to salvage the bank, he chose a less competent person to be the managing director based on tribal connection rather than putting competence and the survival of the bank ahead of any consideration. At the end of the game, the bank was forced into liquidation, and his tribal people could not salvage his investments.

With diversity comes the added responsibility of the Siamese twins of Equality and Inclusion.

Equality is about fairness in how we treat people and preventing discrimination against people based on their age, sex, religion, gender, nationality, marriage and look. Equality is not about treating everyone equally but about giving fair opportunities to people to progress in life. A typical example of equality is an image that shows three people of different heights being provided with the same type and height supportive stool to stand on to have a better view across a wall. The shortest person among the three could not see anything, and his sight was blocked. Equality will entail considering his height and giving him the stool with the extended height to support him to see like others.

Migration has made it inevitable for governments worldwide to enact laws to promote equality, diversity and inclusion in their societies. This is to promote the peaceful co-existence of people and create a progressive community.

Inclusion is necessary to guarantee the peaceful co-existence of people and the building of egalitarian societies. Inclusion ensures that people with different identities, beliefs, and backgrounds can thrive and feel valued and included in the society’s scheme of things.

The Nigerian Federal Character concept aims to create inclusion and a positive environment where everyone is respected and can thrive and be productive. However, implementing the scheme needs to be revised as it has outlived its usefulness in some respect.

Some countries, like the United Kingdom, have laws that enforce Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. The UK Equality Act 2020 identified some protected characteristics for all employers to ensure reasonable protection against discrimination. Discrimination, Harassment and Victimisation are severe offences in the workplace, especially against the protected elements of age, sex, religion, disability, gender, marriage, pregnancy and race.

The advantages of having equality, diversity and inclusion in our societies are enormous. It is what private and public Organisations need to implement to benefit from human nature and their differences.

Government and private organisations in Nigeria need to start sensitisation of their staff to think about diversity, equality and inclusion. The starting point for business leaders and owners is to have an open mind and not be like the bank owner I described above.

People need to be given a fair opportunity to express themselves without being limited by the sex, race or the religion they choose to practice.

The recent clamour for ceding 20 percent of political offices to women ensures an inclusive society where the female gender is treated like people with the capacity to work and not in the ‘other rooms’ alone.

The phrase what men can do, women can do better has become the slogan for advocating for inclusion for women.

Read also: Women In Technology: Promoting gender equality in the digital age

Nigeria is a diverse country in terms of ethnicity and religion. The recent high handed by some people from the Emir of Ilorin’s place against some Osun worshippers in Kwara state is a red flag against an inclusive and equal society. No religion is superior to another, and no one religion can eliminate another one.

There are knowledge and acceptance gaps that exist in the building of a society where everyone feels belonged.

The work is to start raising awareness about the importance of treating one another with an inclusive mind-set, irrespective of our differences.

That is where education and re-learning come into play, and this needs to cut across the spectrum of society; be it government, religious and business organisations.