What is Diversity?

Diversity within a workplace encompasses race, gender, ethnic groups, age, education, religion, sexual orientation, political beliefs, mental and physical conditions, as well as other distinct attributes and qualities among people.

Why is Diversity relevant to business?

Businesses throughout the world face the challenge of attracting and retaining the best possible teams of employees. Effectively harnessing the best possible mix of experience, skills, perspectives and strengths is critical for competitiveness, productivity and profitability, and is actively pursued by businesses throughout the world.

It is now increasingly recognised that:

  • A successful, diverse team builds a strong reputation for the company.
  • Businesses are enriched operationally and financially with the unique contributions made by different individuals.   
  • Successful workplace diversity is increasingly viewed as a critical part of organisational performance, and is an indicator of business leadership performance.
  • Fostering workplaces that respect and include differences increases employee morale and productivity.

What is the IOE’s position on Diversity?

The IOE recognises that workforce diversity increases business efficiency, productivity and sustainability, and therefore, positively impacts economic performance and society as a whole. The IOE works to support its members in all countries, at all stages of development, to promote a wider understanding of the benefits of workplace diversity and to equip them to engage with domestic law and regulation in drafting diversity policies and practices that are not only legally compliant, but fully realise the operational and productivity benefits.

With regard to the promotion of gender equality, in particular, it is generally in an employer's interest to promote workplaces that are free from discrimination against women (and others) and to ensure that decisions related to employment are based on an individual’s merit rather than other attributes. In this context, employers do not support the use of quotas to achieve equality, which can serve to undermine the credibility of women, but rather aim at the effective elimination of barriers to equal access to training and education, recruitment and career development opportunities.

How does the IOE’s work in Diversity advance the agenda for business?

The IOE recognises that, in general, individuals face unique challenges throughout various stages of employment. The specific nature of these challenges and the means to address them depend on the national, social, cultural and economic contexts in which they live and work.

The IOE’s field of work on diversity includes:

  • The IOE supports the adoption of ILO Convention on Discrimination (Employment and Occupation), No. 111, and promotes the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which includes non-discrimination with respect to employment and occupation and informs the labour principles of the UN Global Compact.
  • The IOE works in collaboration with the ILO Bureau for Employers' Activities (ACT/EMP) to provide first hand support and guidance on diversity and gender equality at the country level.
  • The IOE works cooperatively and participates in global policy framework discussions with the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD, BIAC, to jointly advance the business case for diversity and gender equality.