Diversity in the workplace

Geographical distance, low representation in higher education and gaps in formal education – can all be advantages when given an equal opportunity.

The Bnei Brak Employment Center (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Bnei Brak Employment Center
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Over a decade ago, employment diversity was a ghost term that made senior management uncomfortable. Any HR manager would cringe at the thought of having to reorganize their department to make room for anything other than what they were used to.
Change, induced by others and unnecessary for the survival of an organization, is costly. Organizational culture common to the hi-tech sector is not based on theory of social change, inclusion or responsibility. The cutthroat competition leaves no room for mistakes or doubts, only calculated risks. So when I started meeting with employers, speaking their lingo and understanding their employment needs, the road was paved for a major, industry-wide change.
I attribute this change of professional paradigms to the fundamental understanding that change occurs when it starts from the top and trickles down. This means CEOs understanding that diversity is good for business, and to optimize its added value it needs to be on the organization’s daily agenda.
Despite the progress in the Israeli market, it has mainly focused on “blue collar” positions. Too small a percentage of the skilled and management positions in the economy represent minorities and ethnic groups. Here is where change is mostly needed.
In light of the widespread belief that employment diversification contributes from a business standpoint, there is a need to develop in-depth implementation processes within companies.
For these reasons we founded ITWorks, and specifically our new initiative – Diversity Works.
Diversity Works is a joint initiative between ITWorks and the US Embassy’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). The program aims to create a change across Israeli hi-tech sector, a change that will create an inclusive work place, both in environment and in practices. Diversity Works holds annual CEO meet-ups, HR diversity workshops and organizational content aimed at changing the way the industry thinks and acts. It’s about broadly diversifying the industry so it includes all segments of Israeli society – Arab Israelis, Orthodox Jews, women and people with disabilities. The initiative also aims to harness additional CEOs and their companies so that aggregated pool of knowledge and experience will supply the fuel necessary for changing cross-industry policies, in-house regulations and common practices.
Diversity Works has three guiding principles: first, it is about heightening awareness and focus of general managers and top executives with regard to diversity. Second, it is about targets – just like every other business initiative, to be tracked and met. Finally, it is about partnership – hi-tech companies do not necessarily know how to apply diversity in their business model. The partnership and the experience will help the initiative to grow and succeed.
Geographical distance, low representation in higher education and gaps in formal education – can all be advantages when given an equal opportunity. It is a learning process – learning to recognize talent in different forms. This is how we can create diversity in the hi-tech world and carry out the change throughout the industry.
The author is the CEO of ITWorks, a non-profit organization that acts to promote diversity in the workforce and realize the employment potential of populations excluded from the labor market. At the end of the month, ITWorks, in cooperation with the US Embassy in Israel, is launching its Diversity Works Program in a festive event in Israel. The program is aimed to promote diversity in the workplace together with the Israeli business sector.