Incorporating people with disabilities into the company is not an impossible mission, when the change goes hand in hand with everyone.
“Dialogue is just a start, but we can already see our employees respecting differences, and raising questions” – Lorrany Candido, ICL HR Manager of South America, successfully summarizes the launch of the ICL Brazil Diversity Program – and it’s just the beginning.
Over the past decade, the world has seen a rise in awareness of the need to understand and include people from diverse backgrounds. In the business and industry worlds, companies have become more and more willing to make the effort to open their doors and accept the full spectrum of humanity, as well as to change their policies in a way that would make all of their employees feel welcome and more comfortable whatever their gender, skin color, disability, economic status, religion, etc.
ICL has been working on adapting itself in relation to these issues for years, trying to be as inclusive as possible. In its different sites, activities have been initiated in order to help employees and executives learn how to embrace diversity and make everyone feel at home. A special diversity and inclusion project was recently launched in ICL Brazil.
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Candido explained that since disabled employees work at ICL’s South American site, there was a need to open a conversation with employees in order to develop an inclusive environment. However, she said, “We didn’t want to open this channel for disabled individuals only, so we took this opportunity to talk about diversity in general.”
The opportunity she mentions came on September 17, 2019, when the ICL Brazil site in São Paulo marked its first Diversity Day with special activities for the site’s employees. There was a celebratory breakfast, during which the site’s HR Manager and Finance Director, Djalma de Paiva gave a presentation to kick off the day’s activities. The day began with a workshop, led by an external trainer, with the purpose of helping ICL Brazil’s employees understand and work with people who live with disabilities.
Next, ICL hosted a roundtable discussion in which 17 employees had the chance to express their ideas and opinions on LGBTQ issues such as homophobia criminalization (an issue that has recently grabbed the headlines in Brazil), acquired rights, bias, intervention and the ways education can help reduce prejudice and stigmas. The roundtable ended with the collective viewing of the Ad Council video, Love has no Labels. The message that was delivered was that employees could feel free and comfortable to speak about these and other issues openly. Employees were encouraged to give their suggestions on how ICL can improve on this topic and all matters related to diversity and inclusion.
After lunch, another roundtable was held concerning the issue of age diversity, in which employees discussed the hiring of young interns. The participants were shown the trailer to the movie, The Intern, so they could become more familiar with interns’ perspectives and feelings as young people new to the workplace. The participants commented on the need to hold more roundtables on this and similar issues in the future. They said that they would like more opportunities such as this one to talk about these topics to help them learn how to manage and work alongside diverse people. Regarding their request, Lorrany Candido said, “We want to keep the workshops and roundtables and extend these activities to the other ICL sites here in Brazil. We would like to promote social community events about diversity and ensure all of Brazil’s population is represented in ICL Brazil’s sites.”
Diversity Day concluded with the participants being shown data about diversity in ICL sites in South America which showed that some improvement was already taking place. There was a rise of 2% in women in different roles, as well as a rise of 2% in people of color employed in ICL sites all over the continent. There are currently five persons with disabilities employed by ICL, an improvement from one the previous year.
During the whole day, employees’ reactions were highly positive, and they seemed to enjoy taking part in the activities, sharing their own experiences and freely asking questions. At the end of the day, employees related how engaged they felt with the activities of the day and how much they would love to have Diversity Day celebrated again the next year.
Lorrany Candido concluded, “Dialogue is just a start, but we can already see our employees respecting differences and raising questions. We are pleased that the ICL employees with disabilities whom we hired in the beginning of 2019 are still working here. In the most recent Employer of Choice survey, the topic of Diversity and Inclusion experienced the second greatest improvement of all categories as compared to a previous survey. It shows that employees believe in in the importance of having a diverse and inclusive work environment.”