At Rotary, we strive to create a society where every person is valued and respected for their individuality, irrespective of age, gender, disability, or other status. In this month’s issue, we continue our “Why DEI Matters?” Series, by discussing inclusion and the important role it plays in the creation of a peaceful and equitable society. 


World Day of Social Justice [20 February]

(An international day currently observed by the United Nations)

“An annual observance was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007 to raise awareness and promote action for creating a more just and equitable world, as well as addressing issues of poverty, inequality, and discrimination. The main goal is for everyone to reflect on social injustices and help create a more inclusive society. The theme for 2023 was ‘Overcoming Barriers and Unleashing Opportunities for Social Justice,’ with the focus of the day being to foster dialogue among Member States, youth, social partners, civil society, UN organizations, and other stakeholders on the actions needed to strengthen the social contract. This contract has been fractured by rising inequalities, conflicts, and weakened institutions that are meant to protect the rights of workers.”

Inclusion and Equity

The Oxford Dictionary defines inclusion as “the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized”. The United Nations (UN) explains further, “[to] improv[e] the terms of participation in society for people who are disadvantaged based on sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, economic, or other status, through enhanced opportunities, access to resources, voice and respect for rights.” Social inclusion and equity refers to fair, just and equitable policies and institutions that support ALL groups of people, giving them a sense of belonging, recognizing their value, and providing resources to achieve their full potential.

Inclusion in the Workplace

Organizations that can recognize and commit to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) financially outperform their competitors by up to 48%, according to McKinsey’s 2022 Diversity Report (examining over 1,000 large companies in 15 countries). In another study by the International Labour Organization (ILO), increased DEI in the workplace was associated with greater productivity, innovation and workforce well-being. Meanwhile, lack of inclusivity reduced morale, increased absenteeism, team conflicts and tension, and lowered productivity. Research published in Harvard Business Review reported that successfully implementing DEI policies and practices makes companies more adaptable and resilient to changes, resulting in better financial performance, stronger culture, leadership, and more productive employees.

Diversity is a FACT—inclusion in an ACT. Many organizations in the Asia-Pacific have begun to adopt innovative policies in the workplace to cope with the post-pandemic slump; among the most successful are marketing and advertising agency Dentsu Creative HK, recipient of the 2023 “Best Place to Work – Greater China” and “Bronze: HK Creative Agency of the Year” awards from Campaign Asia-Pacific. Dentsu Creative HK was praised for the “clear and practical vision and objectives” that integrate DEI into its ethos, resulting in 63% female senior staff and ZERO gender pay gap. They support LGBTQ+ events and offer internships & employment opportunities to neurodiverse and autistic youth. Employees also have unlimited work from home, 30 days of work from anywhere, and wellness activities. This people-centric atmosphere translates into high staff retention, doubling the industry and regional standards. Among their key clients are Manulife, BMW, Ocean Park, IFC, Pure Hong Kong Resort Company, etc., 80% of whom have been with the firm for over three years. Dentsu Creative HK’s inclusive workplace also yielded high returns, with sales, revenue, profit and profit margin growth for the second year.

Equal Protection in Legal Framework

The Basic Law (Art. 25) and the Bill of Rights Ordinance (Cap. 383) of Hong Kong recognise that all persons are equal before the law “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” Special protections are outlined in four anti-discrimination ordinances related explicitly to sex (Cap. 480), disability (Cap. 487), family status (Cap. 527) and race (Cap.602). An independent statutory body, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), was established in 1996 to implement, monitor, enforce, update and review these laws and manage inquiries and complaints. Unfortunately, these anti-discrimination protections do not encompass all activities or all groups of persons, such as ageism, linguicism, sexual orientation (LGBTQ+), immigration status, etc. Furthermore, the redress system can be treacherous for victims, requiring significant knowledge and resources and leaving many cases unreported. Hong Kong also has legal obligations as a signatory to many international human rights conventions, such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979), and the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1966).

Inclusion in the Community

Hong Kong hails itself as “Asia’s World City”, but beneath the glamour lies a paradoxical juxtaposition of traditional prejudices and global sophistication. Despite numerous legal protections and copious research showing the advantages of embracing DEI policies and practices, the community still has substantial inadequacies. Statistics, surveys and research reports from the Government & various NGOs provide a snapshot of the social inequalities, cultural bias, and microaggressions encountered by many marginalized groups in the community.

Inclusion means EQUAL participation in all areas of society.  We can see from the above that sex, gender, disability, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity are all significant barriers to equal access to resources (i.e. education, employment, public safety, housing, legal protection, etc.). Please refer to previous issues in which we discussed employment, education, and public policies about women and working mothers; people with deafness or hearing impairments; older persons; people with mental health conditions; people with visual impairments or blindness; and refugees and migrant workers.

Identity & Privilege

DEI is a globally developing topic that some people may need help understanding, accepting and implementing. The first step in one’s personal DEI journey is self-awareness. Start by examining your identity – age, sex, gender, race, socioeconomic status, education etc. These characteristics determine whether a person is included or excluded from participation in economic, political, cultural, and social activities. For example, Joe is a man from an upper-middle-class family who attended international schools and attained Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees abroad. At the same time, Maria is a woman from a single-parent class family who attended public schools up to Form Six and attained her secondary school diploma while working part-time to earn money to help support her family. Joe and Maria’s circumstances determined their access to different education opportunities, and most likely, this inequality will continue in the fields of employment, income and health in the future. Thus, we must acknowledge that Joe had a privileged background compared to Maria’s more disadvantaged situation. This does not imply that Joe experienced no hardship in his life but merely refers to certain advantages, benefits, prestige or respect that he has from his social identity group. This demonstrates why inclusive policies are vital to providing support and resources for those who may need them to fulfil their full potential.

Recommended Actions

Society norms and customs are still in the process of evolving, some faster than others. While progress can take time, we hope everyone here at Rotary can be an agent of change and be more mindful and aware of their actions and surroundings. Ask ourselves how to be more inclusive in our daily lives and how we can leverage our privilege to help those who are excluded from full and equal participation in economic, political, cultural and social activities due to their living conditions, status, identity or association with a particular group.

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