Vive la Différence!

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The theme for this newsletter is diversity. Diversity is the dichotomy between celebrating the uniqueness of individuals and embracing the collectiveness of community. It is about diverse people coming together and achieving wondrous feats, and as a result making a real difference in the community.

We live in a globalized world. The propagation of technology enables us to connect with people from every corner of the world in a blink, giving the word community an expanded meaning and making boundaries less relevant.  Trying to keep diversity out by building walls, whether they are metaphoric or material, is both futile and ludicrous.

Globalization means that business leaders face increased competitiveness. Smart leaders understand this and they invite diversity in their organization.  Creating an inclusive work environment allows admission to a greater talent pool of skilled, productive and loyal employees who, by virtue of their diversity, can make connections with a wide variety of stakeholders, thereby securing a larger market share and ensuring sustained economic equilibrium.

The greatest barrier for diversity groups to access employment is discrimination. This is particularly true for people who have disabilities. Semiahmoo House Society’s Customized Employment Services break through these barriers by connecting potential employers and employees together. The results have been tremendous with many inclusive employers reporting that hiring a person with a disability was the best decision they ever made and underlining that their new employees, were courteous, took directions well, were conscientious, contributed to the bottom line and promoted comradery in the workplace.

Providing employment to people with disabilities benefits the individual, the organization and society as a whole. Many people with disabilities keenly desire to earn a living and become productive members of society and they should be given every opportunity to fulfill these aspirations. Inclusive employers have an important role because sufficient evidence supports that productive, gainfully employed and independent people with disabilities contribute to the growth of the economy. Conversely, excluding people with disabilities from full citizenship, not only exhausts scarce social resources, it results in an opportunity cost to the overall economy, exponentially year after year.

That being said, creating an inclusive workplace is not as simple as to say, “We’re an inclusive employer because we’ve set some diversity objectives.”  People naturally resist change and discriminate. For successful integration, leaders need to create an inclusive culture by expressing their strong commitment to a diverse workforce and ensuring that this commitment percolates through the hierarchy.

In my next two blogs, I will talk about the origin of discrimination and how it can be overcome and the role of leadership in creating an inclusive culture.

In conclusion, I would like to leave you with the words of Lao Tzu, author of the Tao Te Ching circa 600 BC:

The sage does not hoard. The more he helps others, the more he benefits himself. The more he gives to others, the more he gets himself. The Way of Heaven does one good but never does one harm. The Way of the sage is to act but not to compete.

Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. The Semiahmoo Foundation exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.

By Louise Tremblay, The Semiahmoo Foundation

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