Diverse Solutions Conference: CORPORATE PRACTICES IN EUROPE

Diverse Reflections – a European funded partnership between Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom – is one of the successful projects funded by the EU’s EQUAL programme. It links the UK-based National development partners, Kirklees Metropolitan Council and twelve more, with their European counterparts. They established “Common Ground” with employers, promoting the principle that diversity pays and that by identifying and building on the latent skills of the population, it is possible to move towards a more productive local economy and a more inclusive society. At their major pan-European conference in September 2004, the partnership discussed innovative ways how to improve Diversity Management in their context. The first presentation setting the scene for the conference was delivered by European Diversity researcher and consultant, Michael Stuber. He gave a comprehensive overview of corporate Diversity practices in Europe based on his most recent research including 68 International companies, mostly from Europe and some with their Headquarters in the U.S. The ‘Second European Diversity Survey (EDS2)’ was carried out in the summer of 2004 and hence provided current results on the following areas: The Business Case for Diversity that companies have defined, ways how they anticipate upcoming legislation based on EU Anti-Discrimination Directives, how they start to address Age Diversity and what companies do to communicate Diversity externally, hence leverage their work in the area for image. On the latter aspects, Stuber outlined a number of consequences thus providing food for thought for the attendees of the conference. For Age Diversity, he concluded that the topic was still neglected as seen from the low level of activity and the very few programmes that specifically addressed age (as opposed to more general HR initiatives with some relevance for the age topic). Particularly, he showed how surprising it was that older customers were not in focus for most consumer companies. For External Communication, he reported that companies were still focusing on general corporate communication tool to include some Diversity information, but too few were consciously considering specific external stakeholders or dedicated Diversity communication tools. The conference attendees and project managers were enthusiastic about the possibilities to meet and work together during the conference. Heather Waddington, who provided the secretariat for the transnational partnership “DiverseReflections”, emphasised the added value of working across borders: “transnational activities will bring novel ideas and innovative approaches to help us break new ground in Kirklees”.