Reflecting on the social and economical changes this year, we’ve seen that diversity isn’t just a buzzword for the 21st century, but rather a necessity and a true issue that needs to be tackled. People are protesting and risking their lives all around the world to show their dissatisfaction and their need to be heard and included. The oppression of minorities is almost always a systematic problem that has been in development for centuries. Therefore, we need to look into each aspect of society and break down the norms that suffocate oppressed groups. Admittedly, tackling these issues is extremely complex and difficult and can’t be done in a day, but we need to start working on our problems step-by-step.
Why is diversity in the workplace important?
One thing to consider is the working environment and recruitment. A homogenous working environment in a country leads to all major economic decisions being made by the majority group, oftentimes completely disregarding the needs of minorities and pushing them aside. Moreover, aiming for more diversity in the workplace gives necessary chances to disadvantaged groups to change their own lives and start fresh and gives minorities a shot at having power and being able to make significant changes they need, therefore, building up large communities and societies.
The new Austrian way
But this isn’t a topic that only applies to far away countries and places, it is also important to discuss diversity in Austria, especially concerning international workers. According to Statistik Austria, there are currently around 1.4 million non-Austrian citizens living in Austria, which is equal to 16.7% of the entire population. This means that Austria is relatively diverse, especially in Vienna, where the percentage of foreigners or citizens with a foreign background exceeds 30%. Even if we don’t compare the number of foreigners in Austria to the rest of the world, this is a large number of people living here. These people need to be represented in all parts of the Austrian economy to create a more stable environment. A company that sees the value of hiring diversely is sure to profit, since foreigners bring a new outlook and fresh strategies. This makes it easier for a company to understand the changing demographic of Austria and adjust their strategies and efforts to adapt. Since almost a million employed people in the country are foreigners, they do have considerable buying power on the market and companies should do well to regard them as valuable potential customers. Long gone are the times of foreigners being seen as construction workers or cashiers – almost 30% of students in Austria are foreign-born and many of those highly-qualified people will be staying in Austria to build their careers and future.
Competing in a globalized world
But Austria doesn’t exist by itself – the world is so globalized, that no company in the world can solely rely on considering the environment within the borders of the country it operates in. Austrian companies have to compete with the world in order to get a market share even in their own country. If you were to decide to produce and sell a chocolate bar, you would have to learn to compete with multi-billion international corporations, such as Mondelez or Mars. This is also where hiring internationally comes into play. Whether you’re setting up a chocolate-bar business or a sophisticated tech start-up, you’re competing with the world right now, and you’re sure to benefit from having people from all over the world helping you. Maybe an intern from India has already done an extensive internship in a company overseas and can help you figure out how the market there works and what your competitors are thinking. It can open up your own perspective to see new ways of running your business and promoting your products and services that can completely revolutionize the business. But numbers speak, and studies led by McKinsey and company in 2015 showed that companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns. This shows clearly that diversity is extremely important to companies and employers, not just employees and that it exceeds the boundaries of a classic “buzzword”.
AIESEC’s role in diversity
That’s where AIESEC comes in. We have a global network in countries all over the world and we work tirelessly with our international partners to connect companies and NGOs to the best interns and volunteers. We make being global and international achievable and easy, giving you the opportunity to reap the benefits of international hiring with little to no fuss. In the end, everyone wins.
Written by Nadja Jevitc