Diversity and Inclusion in International Organizations: Are Diverse Organizations Inclusive?

In international organizations and agencies diversity is organic to the institutions. The selection of professional staff is subject to geographic representation with due consideration given to achieve gender parity. Local staff for administrative and operational positions are recruited from the host country. Professional international staff are composed of a geographically diverse representation of member states. However, diversity does not necessarily mean inclusion of staff.

Diversity is the range of difference between people, including, inter alia, national origin, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, age, and political beliefs. Inclusion is the deliberate action of creating a workplace environment whereby the diverse staff are given the same opportunities to express their views and the Organization respects the talents, beliefs, and cultural backgrounds of its staff.

Managers have recently recognized that a diverse workforce confers open dialog and a contribution from different perspectives. Management behavior must foster this capability and actually practice the inclusion of the opinions of its diverse staff. It’s easy to measure the diversity of staff based upon the requirements of geographical distribution and the mathematical count of male /female gender representation. Inclusion of staff must be created by consistent behavioral adjustments. Senior managers must ensure that its diverse staff members speak up and their opinions acknowledged; open the workplace environment to propose new ideas; empower staff members, both professional and administrative staff, to contribute to decision-making; and give feedback to acknowledge individual credit for team success.

International organizations should start from the fundamental understanding that there are different perspectives, each valuable, and identify the barriers holding staff back from participation. International organizations must take an honest look towards creating conditions that promote inclusion on a daily basis.

Senior management are ultimately responsible for prescribing and setting the workplace culture. For example, who is invited to meetings; who gets to speak at the meetings; who’s sitting at the table; and who is left out of the meetings? Managers can learn about the cultural backgrounds of the local staff, including the different ethnic cultures, to increase their understanding and foster trust. Managers can open communication by creating a workplace where a woman’s voice will be supported and new recruits can initiate new strategies without being told “it’s not the Organization’s way”.

Frustrated staff file complaints. It is financially costly and time consuming for the Organization to resolve individual complaints. Prior to the introduction of the informal or formal conflict resolution process, managers must make a more inclusive environment to create new ways to engage and collaborate with its staff.