Mauritius turns 55: Ellgeo Re’s Hemlata Karooa makes the case for diversity and inclusion
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I recently met visitors from Togo, who were on a market visit to Mauritius. The West-African state had seen British and French colonisation – same as us in Mauritius. During our conversations, the visitors’ admiration for Mauritius struck me. He remarked that whilst Mauritius had been through the same colonisation process as a number of other countries, and economic hardship, we seemed to have been able to achieve well indeed, and in some respects better than other previously colonised nations. My counterpart was in admiration at the diversity that he witnessed at play in several situations during his visit. I obviously felt proud and convinced that “Enn sel lepep, enn sel nation” [one people, one nation] having been one of our main driving forces as a nation, should continue to guide us ahead as we face an increasing number of challenges.
Some historical and political precedents make a strong case for diversity…
“At a time when prejudice and oppression still exist in the shadows of our society, it is up to us to embrace the diversity that has always made us stronger as a people.” Barack Obama
On November 04th 2008, when Barack Hussein Obama II was elected the first non-white American as the 44th President Elect of the United States of America, the world witnessed a major change in the mindset of Americans, who, in a sense have been willing to bring a change and perhaps adopt D&I.
The Apartheid regime in South Africa (1948 to 1994)
After the elections of 1994 in South Africa, things changed and 29 years later SA is an international platform for the whole world. All major conglomerates use this country to diversify their business in Africa and other parts of the world.
Under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, D&I became a reality in SA.
The Mauritian Context
On 30th of September 2003, Paul Raymond Bérenger became the only non-Hindu Prime minister of Mauritius following a power sharing agreement with Sir Anerood Jugnauth.
This was a landmark in the political history of the island as the first three Prime Ministers were traditionally from the Hindu community.
With the above three situations we tend to believe that D&I are already part of our society, but sadly, not always the case and I believe we need to act to make it a pervasive reality.
Some have the habit of judging a person’s ability and capability through their social /ethnic/religious etc., background – it is an archaic view. We need to change our mindset and accept that given the right opportunities and coaching, and if we are able to match skills and capabilities with the requirements of the day, the path to social justice and prosperity for the country will most certainly be a smoother ride.
Social biases arise when we unintentionally or purposely make an opinion either positive or negative about certain individuals or group of persons based on our own culture and environment. These prejudices are usually harmful to the way we behave towards people, and the expectations we have of them may lead to discrimination. According to the United Nations, discrimination is one of the key drivers of social exclusion and can ignite social tension.
Corporates around the globe are conducting regular workshops to conscientize their employees on how to identify, accept, react, or overcome biases that they face every day – either consciously or unconsciously. Biases when mixed with power and privilege, can create discriminatory outcomes for society’s most vulnerable people. And sadly, these biases are often used as the basis for decision-making and the rationale behind actions that we take.
“Don’t believe everything you think”, says Colin Browne – an acclaimed coach, trainer, and writer on organisational culture. In the workplace, a leader must accompany each employee without any preference/bias regarding ethnicity, religion, gender, skin colour etc. “It’s not at all hard to understand a person; it’s only hard to listen without bias” Criss Jami. One of the most selfless acts as leader is to listen without bias.
Everyone deserves a chance. It is the duty of all stakeholders (all corporate entities, government and parastatal bodies, NGO’s, social groups and above all every citizen) to cater for the downtrodden. Unity in Diversity results in a more colourful life experience and we cannot deprive our future generations from the benefits of having a cultural diversity which is a must for individual growth and our country’s progress.
Diversity & Inclusion, the new workplace culture
Diverse may be labelled as being different. Every person is different from one another and unique in their traits, capabilities, physiological gender appearance, skin colour, age, physical ability, backgrounds, religion, ethnicities, beliefs, or cultures.
Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace is an initiative where the company aims to hire people across different backgrounds to complement each other and meet the company objectives in a SMART way, where everyone feels secure to suggest innovative ideas and challenge the norm to improve the company’s value proposition which in turn increases productivity.
A diverse and inclusive work culture creates a sense of belonging among employees as they feel supported, accepted, respected and safe at work. Recognizing each employee’s unique talent creates an inclusive company which boosts employee morale and performance, improves company’s reputation, and increases employee engagement and retention.
Workplace diversity and inclusion require more than a simple statement on the topic but should be actioned through specific initiatives.
Diversity without inclusion can result in a toxic work culture and inclusion without diversity can make a company stagnant, repetitive, and uncreative.
Marco BIZZARRI the CEO of GUCCI said, “Diversity and Inclusion, which are real grounds for creativity, must remain at the centre of what we do”.
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