Diversity In The Workplace: Why Ireland Needs To Catch Up

Carol Lochab, Matrix Recruitment, discusses the importance of diversity in the workplace and why HR professionals and hiring managers need to catch up with our European counterparts.


I was recently reading a report by The Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) that stated, “The Irish workforce has changed vastly and rapidly over the last two decades. There has been an increase in the number of dual-career couples and in the participation of women at work, immigration of non-Irish nationals has increased and the workforce is ageing significantly”.  It got me thinking of a very hot topic that is set to impact recruitment and hiring policies across all organisations in Ireland over the next few years, that of diversity.


Diversity is based on a positive attitude to differences, which recognises that everyone is different and these differences should be respected and encouraged for the good of your business.  Diversity should not just be viewed as a topical subject for those in recruitment and HR, but one that ALL professionals should be embracing in the workplace and in society in general.


The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, empowered by the Employment Equality Act 1998, ‘outlaws direct, indirect discrimination at work and in all aspects of employment on the grounds of gender, civil and family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the travelling community’.


So why with all this progression, positivity and encouragement in Ireland around diversity can we still hear a proportion of individuals holding professional titles, still make inappropriate and discriminatory requests during the recruitment process?

We still lack diversity in Ireland.

Having relocated home to Ireland two years ago and then entering into the Irish recruitment industry, I found the biggest shock of all was the lack of diversity within some businesses and the discrimination when looking to recruit a new employee. From my experience this is particularly common when it comes to gender and age specifically.


My background is in HR and having worked in many business sectors over the years, with different nationalities, varying age groups and colleagues with different sexual orientations, it has been a real shock to me to see a proportion of employers openly requesting specific criteria when seeking to employ different candidates.   I stress some employers – thankfully not all!


Just a couple of recent request examples are a) females above a certain age category b) a graduate/young man.


We all know, especially those of us within the HR profession and recruitment sector, that we should be recruiting all types of individuals into our workplace. We should also be educating our Line Managers and Heads of Departments to move forward and do the same for the good of your company and for society in general.


As long as every candidate is qualified to do the job in question, be that a Marketing Manager, HR Officer, Administrator or Sales Representative – regardless of their age, gender, religion, family status or nationality etc. – they should all be considered on an equal level for the job opportunity on offer.


The benefits of diversification in the workplace

Most educated individuals and professionals in any business sector will realise the obvious benefits of inclusion is the fact that candidates of different age groups, experiences, backgrounds and attitudes bring different perspectives and ideas to the workplace.  This should be seen as a benefit to every organisation, as most of us understand that a diverse business can draw on the range of different experiences and skills of employees to meet the needs of its customers.


One example of potential discrimination in hiring practices is that of ageism. HR professionals and hiring managers are in danger of running the risk of missing out on top quality talent by dismissing candidates due to age. For example, a more senior aged employee can contribute to the company in a number of unique ways, i.e. more knowledge and experience, confidence in their own ability and the ability and knowhow to mentor and train less experienced or new employees. These are just a few of the positives we can draw from someone having worked for more years than let’s say a graduate or a middle manager.


As I say ageism is just one example of ethical and professional discrimination. However, gender discrimination is also evident in the recruitment world.  You may have read a recent article written by my colleague Michelle Hand in our Athlone office, where Michelle talks about the working mother and getting back into the workplace after maternity leave.  In this article Michelle discusses the numerous advantages of hiring mothers, which include increased efficiency, more focus and a greater level of productivity.


This too is an area where we should be vigilant that no discrimination takes place.  Just because you have had a baby, procreating for society, does not mean that your professional skills have dissolved.  We must also be very careful with the issue of parental leave as going forward Ireland, like the UK, may be set to embrace paternity leave as well as maternity leave.


Last but not least for all you professionals who keep up to date with CIPD People Management, you will know that the monthly magazines are constantly covering issues on Diversity in the Workplace. Mary Connaughton the director of CIPD Ireland has also stated that “We need to influence the business, not just be a functional pillar”. Here she is asking all professionals, HR Managers and Recruiters, for the good of both your company and for Irish businesses in the global market, to find the right talent and retain it!   The right talent is out there.   We just need to make sure we don’t miss out on it because of discrimination.

About the Uthor

Based in Matrix Recruitment’s Carlow office, Carol Lochab specialises in the temporary recruitment of HR, Sales & Marketing and Office Support & IT roles for the South East. If you would like to discuss your career options with Carol or have a role that you need assistance with please do not hesitate to give her a call on 059 9139070.