Why we need inclusion in a globally connected world

To support the needs of our members and clients, Global Inclusion is one of the strategic priorities for Inclusive Employers in 2022.

Matheus Carvalho, Head of Inclusion & Diversity Services (Global), shares his experience of growing up in Brazil and how this has influenced his views about importance of inclusion in an increasingly connected global world. He also highlights key considerations for employers working in our ever connected global world.

Read on to learn more.

In our increasingly connected world, where local events impact people and organisations and when connectivity and mobility have become a priority for many companies, it is clear that we need to be thinking of inclusion and diversity through a global lens. Even if your organisation is local, it is very likely that your workforce is international.

My introduction to a global world

Although I didn’t understand it at the time, the idea of ‘global’ has always had an influence on my life that I could not escape.

Picture this: 8-year-old me, growing up in Brazil, much to my frustration being dragged by my mom to English language classes because they “were essential to my future”.

She pitched it in those grand terms to me back then, she sold it to me by saying I would be able to “speak English and travel to Disney World and meet Mickey Mouse one day”.  

Even then, I understood the message clearly:  the middle-class dream was that of social ascent, and of educating their children to aspire for more, and eventually acquire more than, the generation that came before them. That message that was drilled into me: “either you learn English, or you learn English” (meaning, you do this, or you will have no professional career).

Had I not learned English as a second language, my life would have taken a completely different route, and I would probably still have done just fine. But I had no way of knowing then that my mom’s insistence on my learning a second language would be a game changer that would shape much of my adult life (I wouldn’t be here at Inclusive Employers writing this article to begin with!).

My journey to global inclusion

Reflecting on my upbringing and my global aspirations has led me to some key discussion points that all organisations can consider – whether you operate globally or have a UK based workforce with team members from around the globe.

Language, privilege and inclusion

It was a privilege for me to learn English as a second language. This is not something many people in Brazil and other emerging global countries can aspire to.

This is important to remember when the overwhelming majority of the inclusion narrative that we consume comes from the English-speaking world. The ‘global’ narrative is still controlled by the most universally understood language (in commercial terms, if not necessarily in terms of numbers).

For folks whose first language is English, and who have not had to learn a second or third language to get by, this privilege may go unnoticed. Global mobility is still linked to privilege or extreme necessity (leaving a country to find better opportunity elsewhere, or fleeing a country at war).

Key considerations from an organisational perspective:

  • How included do non-native speakers feel in your organisation?
  • Do they feel they have the means and platforms to contribute?
  • Do they feel they can be part of the conversation?
  • Do they feel a sense of belonging?

National identities in a global world

Many of us who grow up in an emerging country may be programmed with an inferiority complex that we have to shake off all our lives.

Back in my school days in Brazil, history lessons may have sounded like this: “this is how all these rich European countries came to exploit our land, take our natural resources and disrupt and/or kill our natives. We have been exploited from day one and have been working hard to catch up ever since.”

Not necessarily the best motivational speech to start one off, is it? Many of us in emerging countries in the West still grow up and believe that “the grass is always greener”, and that North America and Europe are a Shangri-la where no social problems exist and that everyone has access to a minimum level of respectable living standards persist. 

I feel a lot of empathy to all the international people I’ve met who spend their time and effort talking up their local culture and customs. It’s more than just a demonstration of national pride – for so many of us it can be a defence mechanism.  A way of saying “well, you know the stereotypes and warped narratives you’ve been exposed all your life? Well, this is other side of it.”

Key considerations from an organisational perspective:

  • Do people in my organisation have the opportunity to celebrate their culture, customs and faith?
  • Do they feel seen, heard and represented?
  • Are they being included in socials?
  • Could people feel ‘othered’ because they are different from the majority groups?

The ‘multiverse’ and the mental health

When moving abroad, a person’s sense of identity can become very fractured. A cliche, but it does feel like living in a multiverse of multiple timelines – where your life in your ‘new home’ exists in a parallel universe to the life ‘back home’. The folks you left behind carry on their personal day-to-day life, which most of the time is now completely disconnected from your own.

All the while, you are also trying to retain your personal national identity while working at adapting to local identities and norms. From a mental health and wellbeing perspective this can be an at-times discombobulating experience. And add that to the complexity of joining a new business or starting a new job in a brand new country, operating in a language that is not your own.

Key considerations from an organisational perspective:

  • Is mental health support available to all employees?
  • Are you finding ways to tackle loneliness?
  • Are staff networks offering any support to international employees?

Why your organisation should look at inclusion through a global lens

Some of my personal experiences may resonate with other international folks working in the UK, and some may be completely different. For example, I am completely aware that as a White person, I am a lot less likely to be asked evasive questions on ‘why I am here’, be stopped at immigration whenever I enter the country, and have easier access to work, housing and health than people of colour moving into the country.  

Even the concept of ‘being a migrant’ will mean very different things to different people – and it is essential that we always look at this conversation through the lens of intersectionality.

I hope that some of my personal experiences may encourage you to think about the experiences of other international colleagues in your organisation. Which leads me to the next point in this conversation: global inclusion in the workplace.

Many organisations now operate in a global environment or are seeking to expand internationally. This presents many challenges related to scale and complexity, but it also creates many opportunities to look at inclusion through a global lens.

If you do not operate globally or internationally yourself, it is likely that you will have international colleagues working for you in your organisation, so this applies to you as well.

Global Inclusion is about how organisations provide inclusive environments for their people to flourish it, regardless of where they are from.

It is also about acknowledging the interconnected nature of the world we live in, where events such as pandemics and conflicts have an impact on people and organisations worldwide, and where an organisation’s commitment to Inclusion & Diversity will have an impact on their brand not only at a regional or local level, but also at a global level.

How Inclusive Employers can help with your Global Inclusion work

We have a number of webinars coming up – Global strategies, Global staff networks and Understanding and inclusion and ex-pats and migrant colleagues – to support your work in this area.

Learn more about the benefits of Global Inclusion and the resources that we are designing to support you. Members please get in touch with your account manager for more information and non-members get in touch to find out how we can support you.