And each company should look for its own ways of maintaining diversity based on the common principles and values it brings.
With these words the Deputy Minister of Education and Science in Bulgaria Mrs. Denitsa Sacheva opened the second event of “Diversity pays off” initiative, organized by the Open Society Institute – Sofia, Listen Up Foundation, GLAS Foundation, the Bulgarian fund for women and Social Future Foundation.
The event took place on 28th of November and guest speakers were Ms. Iva Koleva – CSR Manager at Telus International Europe, Ms. Irina Lilova Relationship Manager & Talent Advocate at Enhancv and Dimitar Dimitrov – Program Director at the Open Society Institute – Sofia.
The idea of the event was to examine whether there is a cross point between what the people offer in their CVs versus what are the companies looking for when recruiting staff. The discussion has shown that there is a match between Enhancv and TELUS since both of them has stated that CVs are necessary but the perceptions of CVs are being changed in a way that they should show more information about the personality of the candidate and his/her soft skills rather technical data. In this regards, Ms. Irina Lilova said that based on observations on resumes developed via Enhancv, the section for experience in volunteering is still underused compared to the value that employers place on “informal” experience of the applicants. Modern business companies are ready to invest in staff without extensive experience but who share the same values and principles.
Iva Koleva shared examples from her experience as a CSR Manager in TELUS International Europe – a company that embraces diversity and social inclusion. Managing diversity is inevitable part of the daily tasks when their 3000 employees come from multiple nationalities and speak more than 35 languages. She also shared about the efforts of the company to invest in local communities and support socially significant projects, including diversity, illustrating the positive impact of the company on the environment where it operates. This is the focus of the Community Board of TELUS International in Bulgaria. She spoke about the accessible infrastructure of the office premises of TELUS International Europe, and highlighted that technicalities are not enough to encourage and maintain diversity. Management should be a role model for the entire staff and encourage each and everyone’s freedom of expression and self-identification, regardless of differences in people’s individual preferences and social background respecting company`s values. She said that to become part of TELUS International Europe, it is very important for a job candidate to have relevant skills and competences, but it is also important for them to share the company’s culture and values.
When you are in the “strong position” (e.g. belonging to a majority) it is not enough to support diversity but rather actively develop relevant policies, in order to spread diversity and inclusion, said Irina Lilova. She gave examples of companies’ practices that go beyond standard recruitment and reach out to job seekers in their communities – special portals for people from vulnerable groups, etc.
Dimitar Dimitrov from the OSI Sofia shared stories of some the young Roma who have participated in OSI’s “Bridge to business” program and managed to well integrate themselves into different professional fields in the country and abroad – medicine, solar energy, banks, retail industry, etc. He spoke about the importance of sensitizing the business sector in order to provide for better integration of vulnerable groups. He also presented cases where the lack of sensitivity among staff provided for negative outcomes and emphasized on the prominence of collaboration between NGOs and business in achieving better social and economic development. He also shared his observations that companies with multinational and diverse management boards are more likely to be active in diversity management and promotion of equality and stressed that business climate is different from the atmosphere in the country side and thus companies and NGOs should try to extend their efforts not just in Sofia where concentration of multinational companies is, but also towards the entire country since most people still live in country side.
A lively discussion took place after the short presentations, Ashod Derandonyan from Listen Up Foundation shared that 20% of the people with disabilities actually need social assistance and the rest 80% just demand for full inclusion as they feel themselves more socially oppressed instead of being just with a health issue. Nevena Taneva expressed added value of the cooperation between NGOs and companies – using the expertise of the NGOs to better understand the issues of the vulnerable groups and provoke empathy in the companies’ teams and thus develop working strategies and policies for diversity management. SAP Labs organizes regular campaigns to address aspects of the topic – lectures on stereotyping, awareness campaign on LGBT issues, tactile walks to “get in the shoes of blind people”, etc.
Representatives of Telenor, Good Boys Custom, Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum, Acibadem CityClinic, SoftUni, Ministry of Economy, SETERA Ltd, Ministry of Education and Science, Tell my story, Bilitis, Evergreen Talents, Embassy of the USA in Bulgaria and other companies and NGOs did not have enough time to get deeper into the topic, but some of them have expressed need of practical tips and advises on what they should and could do in certain situations.
Daniel Kiryakov, Communications manager at AmCham Bulgaria, who was also moderating the event, closed the meeting stating that such meetings should happen regularly since they work as catalyzer for community building, providing for positive change of the environment.
Dr. Slavina Lozanova, lecturer at NBU was very supportive providing sign language interpreting for the Deaf participants in the meeting and she actively participated in the networking part of the event.