16.02.2023 Human Resources ENAR Equality Farvest decrypt Kim Smouter

Advocating for equality

Writer Laura Campan

How to build structures based on equal distribution of power, privileges and rights in an increasingly divided world, where populism seems to be all the rage?  

European Network Against Racism (ENAR) Director, Kim Smouter, may have an idea. Let’s join him on the Web Summit Lisbon’s stage to understand the key role each entity must play in the fight against racism.

How could we talk about racial equality without mentioning the global explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement on Social Media – following George Floyd’s murder in May 2020?

Although we have seen an increasing interest from businesses in diversity and inclusion (D&I) ever since, there is still a long way to go – especially in tech, where 75% of the workforce is white, having an impact on the way we think about new products and services since there are missing voices at the table. So, how to change the narrative?

According to European Network Against Racism (ENAR) Director, Kim Smouter, the tech industry must ensure that people of color take part in those discussions, through inclusive recruitment and a well-crafted D&I policy. But what if beyond the “right thing to do” argument, embracing D&I internally could also be financially attractive? “Organisations which put diversity and inclusion at the heart of what they do perform much better when it comes to new products and services, but also on stock markets.”

Although D&I has often been associated with the “Black Lives Matter” movement, we should not forget what D&I is truly about: ALL lives matter – risking, otherwise, to get wishy-washy. “The experience of a black woman is very different from the experience a muslim gay person. So, if you have a diversity and inclusion program that only focuses on one part of the equation, then you’re completely forgetting what inclusion is about, which is to create a space where everybody can thrive and contribute to the benefit of the organisation.” 

But how could we possibly tackle discrimination without measuring and quantifying its extent? This is where equality data comes into play. Yet no European-wide data is available on how many persons experience unequal treatment because of their racial or ethnic origin. Hence the (crying) need of NGOs like ENAR to collect comparable sets of equality data – in respect of fundamental rights and data protection standards – so EU Member States can plan inclusive policies and monitor their implementation.

Once we have run inclusive recruitment campaigns and embraced D&I in the workplace, how do we turn it into global mobilization? For Kim Smouter, Social Media enables us to mobilise in ways we could never imagine: “we don’t need the same level of resources we used to have before to actually achieve social impact.” So, unlike what we may think, what if digital tech – if used wisely – had a key role to play in bringing us together?

For any NGO, company, public authority or academic willing to advocate for equality in the workplace alongside other partners, Kim Smouter reminded the dedicated platform ENRA created in 2009. Ever since, Equal@Work has been bringing together internationally-renowned entities – such as Sodexo, Pepsico and Inditex – to increase the recruitment, retention and career progression of ethnic and religious minorities, by sharing best practices and exploring innovative dimensions.