Diversity and inclusion: is the sector on the right track?

Are diversity and inclusion adequately addressed in the Swiss labour market of international cooperation? cinfo and BASS conducted a study focused on gender equality and the promotion of women’s careers, possible wage discrimination, age and cultural diversity, and the inclusion of people with disabilities. Study coordinator Irenka Krone Germann answers our questions.

Diversity and inclusion in the international cooperation labour market

Diversity in the labour market

Diversity in the international cooperation market refers to the integration of employees in organisations concerning gender, age, language, health ordisability, nationality, religion and sexual orientation. This topic is gaining momentum as it allows for the integration of different perspectives and expectations of international cooperation professionals.

Why did cinfo carry out a study on this subject?

Irenka Krone: Diversity and inclusion are major topics in all labour market studies, especially in the field of international cooperation, where the heterogeneity of people is particularly marked due to the mix of different cultures and working environments. In a professional world where the staff of organisations mainly work abroad, the issue of dual careers (the informal agreement between an expat couple of their chosen career paths) is crucial in order to include different career perspectives and to ensure gender equity which, at this stage, is not fully achieved.

Diversity and inclusion are all the more important in an environment as heterogeneous as that of international cooperation.

How far have organisations come with diversity management?

The survey results show that the measures put in place by organisations to promote diversity are mainly in the areas of gender and age (e. g. women's quotas, intergenerational teams, creation of gender and inclusion officer positions). In the areas of language, disability and nationality, only half of the organisations are active. Concrete implementation measures are still lacking.

In addition, only a minority of organisations deal with religion and sexual orientation issues. Apart from guidelines or codes of conduct or the appointment of a diversity officer, concrete measures and monitoring instruments to ensure staff diversity and inclusion are conspicuous by their absence.

Where is the greatest potential for improvement?

Discrimination related to religion and sexual orientation, followed by disability (lack of effective inclusion) or nationality, should be better addressed within organisations. This is where the potential for improvement is most significant. Other areas too, such as equal career opportunities for women and men, display definite potential for improvement.

Concrete measures and monitoring instruments are conspicuous by their absence.

cinfo also looked at flexible working arrangements and their application in the study. Why?

Flexible working is a major theme as it affects all generations – the younger "Gen Y" and "Gen Z" and older people looking to work differently with more flexible working hours and patterns.

The health crisis has shown how feasible it is to work differently. This includes working from home and flexible forms of work such as digital nomads, which are becoming increasingly popular as a way of reconciling private and professional life. cinfo has also looked at the concept of job and top sharing, which allows women and men to have a career while working part-time. This model also allows for the transfer of knowledge, which is particularly relevant in the international cooperation sector when considering intergenerational job sharing.

From digital nomads, job sharing and top sharing – there is a wealth of flexible working models that international cooperation organisations can exploit.

cinfo developed recommendations to encourage diversity and inclusion. How were they communicated?

The ten recommendations presented in the survey were systematically communicated to the international cooperation organisations with which cinfo has regular exchange. cinfo's member organisations were thus able to discuss the specifics and, above all, the feasibility of these recommendations. Through a brochure on best practices in this field, cinfo will soon present concrete tools for implementing these recommendations.

What has been the reception of these recommendations?

Organisations are well aware of the challenges in this area. However, they point out that diversity and inclusion measures adopted in Switzerland cannot be systematically applied in fragile working environments, where staff time commitment and flexibility must remain high, as is the case with humanitarian jobs. Therefore, it is important to take the contextual situation into account when considering the implementation of diversity measures such as the flexibilisation of workplaces.

It is more complex to implement diversity and inclusion measures in fragile work environments.

What does cinfo plan to do in the future to further promote diversity and inclusion in this labour market?

cinfo plans to encourage international cooperation organisations to analyse the implementation of flexible models in various contextual situations and develop new types of tailor-made jobs to support the transfer of the knowledge needed in the sector.

Compensation for the loss of knowledge due to the gradual departure of the "baby-boomer" generation could be resolved if retirees could work temporarily in job sharing positions with younger people. Another possibility would be to have Swiss and foreign experts work in pairs at the same level of responsibility. This would ensure greater gender, age and nationality diversity.

cinfo publishes best practices to present concrete cases of inclusion and diversity models that encourage international cooperation organisations still reluctant to apply them.
Flex work arrangements