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  • 5th December 2017 - 11:19 GMT

Discussing perspectives on diversity

Advancing a Europe of gender, age and cultural diversity

On 29 November, the European Movement International organised a panel debate in the context of the Women of Europe Awards 2017.

Find out more about the Women of Europe Awards 2017 here.

With the awards being handed over to the winners in the evening that day, this afternoon debate allowed for an in-depth discussion on the role of diversity in Europe’s future seen from different perspectives. While the discussion on Europe’s future is taking place all around the European Union, this event made the case for an inclusive debate, engaging all European citizens irrespective of their gender, age or cultural background.

Speakers included Lie Junius, Director EU Public Policy & Government Relations, Google, Hassan Al Hilou, Youngest diversity entrepreneur of Belgium and founder of AGE Consultancy, Fiona Carlin, Chair of Baker McKenzie’s Global Antitrust and Competition practice, Corinna Hörst, Deputy Director and Senior Fellow at The German Marshall Fund of the United States and co-author of the book ‘Women Leading the Way in Brussels’ and Veronika Pountcheva, Vice President of METRO AG. The panel debate was moderated by Joanna Maycock, Secretary General of the European Women’s Lobby.

In her opening remarks, Lie Junius pointed out how most companies with a lack of gender diversity run the risk of diminishing their competitiveness. She also stressed how there is still only a small number of women working in the tech industry and that Google itself, as a company that has adopted diversity as one of its missions, is still far from a balanced gender representation among engineers.

As a representative of the retail sector, Veronika Pountcheva said that companies’ workforce composition should reflect the composition of their consumers in order to be more competitive and that the pressure coming from investors as well as civil society is essential to bring about change.

According to Fiona Carlin, the gender gap can be traced back to so-called ‘unconscious bias’. Several studies have shown how the evaluation of people’s job performance changes according to whether their gender is revealed or not, with women scoring better than men when gender is kept secret, and worse when the gender is known. It is therefore an issue of changing mindsets.

The speakers all engage in different initiatives to push for diversity in working environments. Corinna Hörst, for instance, brought up the example of the recently launched ‘Brussels binder’, a new database gathering information on female experts from different sectors, which can be used to find speakers for panel discussions.

Hassan Al Hilou stressed how diversity is a broad concept which includes gender, as well as ethnicity and age. He said that although our societies are becoming increasingly diverse, companies and institutions still fail to reflect such diversity in their internal structure. Moreover, if companies were more diverse, they would better understand the needs and interests of their clients or of the people they represent, which would directly translate in to better performance.

Click on the image to see more photos of the event:

29.11.2017 - Panel debate: Perspectives on diversity

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