Why April Marks The Ideal Time to Double Down on Diversity

By: Sarah Roberts
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April is Celebrate Diversity Month! It presents an ideal time to acknowledge the many differences that make our communities beautiful and dynamic. April also ushers in Deaf History Month, as well as the 15th annual World Autism Awareness Day, which occurs on April 2nd and helps raise awareness of neurodiversity. 

As an essential partner to businesses investing in greater diversity and inclusion efforts, Verbit’s specialized team members are challenging businesses to mark these events by boosting their policies to make professional, academic and community environments, events and content more accessible globally. 

Verbit’s team hopes you observe these days and let them serve as reminders of the ongoing journey your businesses can be on to foster more inclusive workplaces that reflect the diverse workforce you’ve assembled and the diverse audiences you interact with on a daily basis.

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The Origins and Importance of Celebrate Diversity Month

Celebrate Diversity Month started in 2004 and ensures we remember to learn and think about the value that diverse traditions, cultures and backgrounds create. While it’s important to celebrate diversity all year, designating a month to the topic makes for an essential reminder to set aside time in our busy schedules to acknowledge how differences enrich and strengthen communities. 

Businesses should be particularly mindful of diversity in today’s market, where diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts are increasingly vital for corporate success. As a result, companies should leverage this month as a way to communicate with their workforce about the value of inclusivity, and identify ways that employees can work together to improve their culture. 

Ways to Observe Celebrate Diversity Month at Work

Today’s businesses need to work toward building inclusive environments. In fact, 67% of job candidates view diversity as one of the most important factors when they assess new opportunities. Additionally, 64% consumers report that they are more likely to make purchases from companies that have an inclusive reputation. 

Given the benefits of an inclusive workplace, businesses can’t afford to ignore opportunities to promote and improve their diversity efforts. Fortunately, there are many engaging ways to serve as a champion for diversity. Here are a few ideas for campaigns and activities that allow everyone to participate in this important month of celebration.

  • Host a multicultural event that celebrates the diversity and talents of employees 
  • Create an opportunity for employees to share their cultural backgrounds and stories 
  • Attend a virtual art exhibit showcasing multicultural art

Although celebrating diversity is important, the corporate objective should be to build a culture of inclusivity and make meaningful and lasting improvements to workforce diversity.

Long Term Corporate Diversity Planning

Verbit recently hosted a webinar to get insights into building inclusive workplaces from experts with Walmart and Disability: In. Here are a few of their suggestions.

  • Create an employee resource group that gives people with disabilities or other underrepresented groups the power that comes with a collective voice
  • Make pathways for diverse candidates to move up within the organization to show a true commitment to inclusivity rather than hiring to meet a quota
  • Develop easy access to accommodations for employees who need them

Diversity is a wonderful asset for businesses, communities and individuals. Celebrating Diversity Month is a great chance to appreciate the value of an inclusive environment. It’s also a time to initiate conversations and programs that will help your business reach new levels of inclusivity.

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World Autism Awareness Day and Neurodiversity 

Fifteen years ago, the United Nations designated April 2nd Autism Awareness Day. Now the date serves as a reminder to recognize and increase acceptance and appreciation of people with autism. 

In recent years, corporations are also beginning to appreciate the value of neurodiversity. Currently, some top companies are creating initiatives that offer people with autism new career paths while enriching their workplaces. 

Why and How to Observe Autism Awareness Day at Work

Around 70% of people with autism are unemployed or underemployed. One of the best ways to acknowledge World Autism Awareness Day is to investigate programs aimed at employing these individuals and preparing many children with autism for a successful future career. 

Companies interested in hiring people with autism and others with neurodiversity can gain inspiration from some initiatives that are already underway at leading companies. For example, Microsoft and JP Morgan have both started initiatives that focus on hiring people with neurodiversity. Now, these companies are finding that the programs aren’t just good for the candidates they are hiring, but they’re also greatly beneficial for their businesses. 

One plus to these programs is that with competition for talent reaching record highs in today’s market, opening positions to a population that is underemployed can help fill the gap. Additionally, these initiatives are finding that people with neurodiversity are valuable assets to their companies. Not only do they perform their jobs skillfully, but these employees also think differently, and therefore bring a fresh perspective to their workplaces. 

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), people with autism often have skills that make them good at coding- which is a highly in-demand job in today’s market. Some potential candidates have degrees in relevant fields as well, but still struggle to find employment. Creating a more inclusive environment for people with autism may require some adaptations to hiring processes.

For instance, people with autism often face challenges with the social interactions that are important for the interview process. Training hiring managers to understand how to accommodate candidates may help. Alternatively, companies can follow Google’s lead and work with schools like Stanford, whose Neurodiversity Project is training students with autism to use their strengths to excel in the workplace. 

Fundraising and promoting acceptance 

While initiating a new hiring and mentoring program for people with autism is an intelligent plan, there are smaller steps companies can take to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day. For instance, participating in or orchestrating fundraisers that support groups like Autism Speaks will help spread awareness and create opportunities. Some programs provide scholarships and other educational resources to people with autism which can put them into a better position in the job market.

Even sharing people’s stories about their experiences with autism on social media helps spread awareness and promote acceptance. 

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Deaf History Month and Celebrating Progress

Deaf History Month celebrates the anniversary of the first school for the Deaf in the US, which was founded in April 1817. A few decades later, Gallaudet University became the nation’s first higher education institute for the Deaf. Gallaudet University also opened its doors in April. 

Just over 200 years after the first school for children who are Deaf opened, accommodations for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing are becoming standard in workplaces, media and schools. Laws have also evolved to protect the rights of people who are deaf, and today failing to offer services like captions can lead to legal consequences.

Despite the significant steps society has taken to make the world more inclusive for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing, this population still faces disproportionate rates of unemployment. 

Companies can combat the inequitable rate of employment among people who are Deaf or hard of hearing by offering accommodations, including captioning for conference calls, training videos, webinars and other professional events. It’s also critical to remember that the legal obligation to accommodate people with disabilities starts during the recruitment and interview process, even before offering the individual employment. Partnering with a captioning provider like Verbit can help corporations provide their employees with accommodations that allow them to thrive.

Verbit offers captioning, transcription, audio description and translation solutions that allow companies to build better workplaces and support people with disabilities. Contact us for more information about how Verbit serves as an essential partner to businesses that are fostering an inclusive corporate culture.