The following is the full text of the interview:
Q: How are "diversity" and "inclusion" practiced in UNICEF? What is the role and efficiency that these two factors bring in the operation of businesses?
A: At UNICEF, we celebrate and values diversity. Diversity is about recognising the collective combination of differences among our personnel, including internal characteristics (e.g. gender), external characteristics (e.g. geographical location) and organisational characteristics (e.g. contract type). We all have multiple identities that intersect with each other and come together to impact our lived experiences both in and outside of work.
Diversity at UNICEF must go hand-in-hand with inclusion. We all want a workplace where everyone feels valued, safe, and respected; where our contributions matter. This enables us to perform to our full potential, no matter what our backgrounds, identities or circumstances are.
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is essential in business today. According to a 2020 McKinsey & Company report on diversity and inclusion, firms in the top quartile of gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability than peer companies in the fourth quartile. This is up from 21 percent in 2017 and 15 percent in 2014.
The same study also suggests that diverse and inclusive companies are likely to make better, bolder decisions in times of crisis – including the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, diverse teams have been shown to be more likely to radically innovate and anticipate shifts in consumer needs and consumption patterns — helping their companies to gain a competitive edge.
D&I not only contributes to better business performance but also makes companies better places to work, by attracting and retaining talent as well as empowering and motivating employees.
And it is not only big multi-national companies nor changes at management level where D&I matters. An ILO report completed in 2022 also shows that D&I initiatives are creating wins for smaller enterprises.
So, I would say, D&I not only contributes to better business performance but also makes companies better places to work, by attracting and retaining talent as well as empowering and motivating employees.
How can these be “installed” into the DNA of every business?
Promoting diversity and inclusion can be done through promoting family-friendly policies and programmes that acknowledge the special situation of parents and caregivers and how their life situation can be supported in the workplace. For example, the primary reason for poor breastfeeding practices among working mothers in the apparel and footwear industry in Vietnam is the lack of awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding, mixed feeding (feeding both breastmilk and formula milk) and the lack of opportunity to breastfeed. Should businesses consider the creation of breastfeeding stations inside business facilities to create a more inclusive environment for breastfeeding mothers? This would be a good measure.
With your experience working with many countries around the world, would you like to share some effective measures for Vietnamese enterprises to design a development roadmap to ensure "diversity" and "inclusion"?
Creating a regulatory framework and a mechanism for monitoring compliance for businesses to adopt family-friendly policies is an important step. For example, Decree 85, enacted in 2015, provides incentives for factories to provide on-site or near-site nursery schools and kindergartens by offering business tax incentives. However, the decree falls short of making this a requirement. As a result, nearly one year since the passing of this rule, few factories have established nursery schools or kindergartens. Typically, only the largest factories have the capacity and resources to provide childcare facilities. Could this situation be addressed by businesses in their efforts to promote the inclusion of women/mothers in the workforce?
Maternity protection has a direct impact on the well-being of female workers and their children. Special provisions for pregnant and nursing women, paid parental leave and the elimination of discrimination are important measures to ensure child health and better working conditions for working mothers. For pregnant and nursing workers, excessive hours contribute to poor pre- and post-natal health, which has consequences on the health and development of children. Vietnamese laws have progressive maternity protection, including six months of paid maternity leave; reduced hours and workloads for pregnant and nursing workers; and paid time off for pre-natal visits. Nevertheless, key gaps limit workers’ ability to provide an adequate standard of living for their children.
Could you please recommend some policies to support the Vietnamese business community to do inclusive business?
One of the most under-represented populations in the Vietnam workforce is young people. Despite a positive annual growth rate, Vietnamese youths (aged 15-24) demonstrate a decline in both labour force participation and employment rate. This can be partly attributed to falling birth rates and increasing enrolments in tertiary education.
The young group also experiences a downward trend in their total employment, decreasing from more than 8.5 million working people in 2010 to approximately 6.6 million in 2018. This downward trend is also reflected in a slight decrease in their employment rate, from 95 per cent to 93 per cent.
One of our key asks to address this issue is for businesses to provide more opportunities for young workers by supporting on-the-job technical and vocational skills training (TVET), and recognising the “new” skills brought about by a young workforce (i.e. digital literacy, etc.).
How can UNICEF support Vietnam in promoting inclusive business?
In 2014, Vietnam adopted the Children’s Rights and Business Principles (CRBP) framework for businesses to promote, respect and support CRBP in the workplace, marketplace and community.
UNICEF Vietnam and Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) partner with the Government of Vietnam on promoting Children’s Rights and Business Principles among enterprises in Vietnam aims to enhance the understanding, capacity and commitment of key businesses that have a great impact on children; as well as to increase the participation of many stakeholders to create an enabling environment for businesses to respect and support children's rights.
The partnership creates a platform for collaborations with technical agencies, consulting businesses, INGOs, NGOs, international organisations including UN agencies, International Financial Institutions, relevant industry associations, foreign business associations (such as EuroCham, Amcham, and AusCham) to mobilise resources, innovation, expertise, and networking to advance the agenda on CRBP.
UNICEF and VCCI invite you to join efforts to promote diversity and inclusion of parents/caregivers, young workers and children across the entire business spectrum.
Thank you so much for your sharing!