Dr Jackie Blue's speech at the Muslims at work in New Zealand Summit

Dr Jackie Blue's speech at the Muslims at work in New Zealand Summit

April 1, 2015

Greetings, Kia ora, As-salamu Alaykum

I’m very pleased to be here with you today as we celebrate and focus on Muslim New Zealanders and work.

My colleague Dame Susan Devoy sends her apologies and very best wishes for a successful forum.

Last year the Human Rights Commission hosted New Zealand’s twentieth Diversity Forum and we heard from business leaders across the Asia Pacific region.

Our theme was business and diversity and those business leaders told us that in a growing global economy:

Evidence shows a diverse workforce significantly enhances business performance. Instead of a single, standardised perspective, diversity gives you a different perspective – diversity can give you that edge that no one else has.

Diversity isn’t just good for human rights – Diversity is good for business.

Diversity goes hand in hand with innovation because a diverse workforce will tackle problems in different ways: you are less likely to get the ‘one size fits all’ response.

Diversity in the workforce leads to a wider talent pool to draw on; greater adaptability by companies to adapt to changing markets and attracts a broader consumer base.

Inevitably diversity brings enhanced customer branding and company reputation.

There is increased employee engagement & productivity, improved staff retention and customer service.

The global economy is multilingual – it’s not, and never has been monolingual. For many Kiwis this is a huge barrier to get used to: the more languages, the better!

Finally, our business leaders at the Diversity Forum were clear: A diverse workforce reflects the world we live in and the reality is that the world we live in is changing rapidly.

The changing face of New Zealand is younger than ever before.

Young Maori and Pacific Kiwis are a growing demographic, speaking their own languages and studying in tertiary institutions more than ever before.

Last year’s Census for the first time recorded more than one million people living in New Zealand were born overseas, three hundred thousand more than the 2001 Census.

Around one quarter of our population identify as not being of European Pakeha heritage but have our workplaces adapted to recognise this?

One in ten Kiwis are Asian Kiwis: here in Auckland one in four of us are Asian.

One in four Kiwis were born overseas.

Pakeha New Zealanders currently make up 2/3rds of our 4.5 million population but by 2050 this will drop to half or 3 million out of our 6 million population.

My portfolio is equal employment opportunity or EEO. EEO is about human rights at work and achieving equality at work.

It means that people are treated fairly at all stages of the employment process – whether it is applying for a job, equal pay, conditions, training, and promotion.

Discrimination of any type is unlawful in the workplace and EEO is supported by a number of laws.

There is indisputable proof that EEO is good for business. Many large corporates understand this and are instituting EEO and diversity practices.

EEO principles are part of the recently established United Nations forum on business and Human Rights.

It’s recognised that businesses can help advance human rights by offering access to decent work and higher living standards.

Businesses have a responsibility to beyond legal requirements to move from “doing no harm” to “doing good”.

While businesses can generate economic opportunities and services vital to human dignity and the enjoyment of human rights: businesses can also hinder human rights through unsafe working conditions, migrant worker exploitation and damage to community environments.

Businesses are also responsible for human rights violations in their supply chains: subcontracting work no longer means subcontracting responsibility for the human rights of workers.

By putting diversity and fairness at the heart of business, we can take a real step forward in creating a world that future generations can be proud to be a part of. But change is unfortunately slow.

We need to embrace the diversity challenge on an emotional level.

Our ingrained beliefs are clashing with the case for change.

Unless we actively and intentionally include diverse workers, the system will unintentionally exclude them.

In New Zealand many businesses have a diversity manager or Human Resources manager with this responsibility.

Of course what we should be aiming for is to make these roles redundant and we can do that when diversity simply becomes part of our DNA.

But It’s is almost too late to make this change at the level of the workplace.

What we need to do is to start teaching children about the importance of diversity and equality at a very young age.

Ultimately we also need to reach that point and stop talking about diversity and start talking about inclusion.

It’s about the inherent value of each person and an organisation must be flexible to draw that out.

I would like to wish you all the very best for a successful forum.

Thank you.

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EEO Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue is currently at AUT University's 'Muslims at work in New Zealand' Summit speaking about...

Posted by New Zealand Human Rights Commission on Tuesday, 31 March 2015

EEO Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue

Dr Blue is committed to progressing human rights and issues of equity, particularly those that affect equal employment opportunities.

Dr Blue also has a strong commitment to advancing the participation of women in society and is the Commission's lead on stopping violence against women.

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