As we all grow accustomed to life in isolation and everything that accompanies it — from Netflix binges to DIY-ing — we are faced with an imminent reality in our professional lives: remote work (or at least many aspects of it) is here to stay. With only necessary workers leaving their homes to attend daily work activities, businesses from start-ups to Fortune 500s have had to adapt to the ‘new normal’ of working and operating a business from the comfort of our own homes.
And with this ‘new normal’ has emerged a growing prioritisation of diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace. Corporations and publications globally have stressed that diversity and inclusion is more important than ever, and the global pandemic has offered opportunities to increase and encourage workplace diversity, from offering closed captioning on meetings to flexible work opportunities. Many studies have shown that diverse companies financially outperform less diverse companies; however, the pandemic has also shed a light on our definition of workplace diversity.
Last summer, DINT was joined by Zahra Shah, founder of non-profit Iraqi Innovators, who spoke on the importance of international hiring, specifically on the impact that it has on conflict-affected countries. Zahra introduced a new viewpoint on diversity and inclusion: ‘To say that a workplace is diverse means that anything not white, straight or male is something out of the ordinary. And we need to change this meaning. The colour of your skin, your sexual orientation, and your gender are not what contribute to diversity — it is your thoughts, your life experiences, your ideas and your knowledge, skills, culture and traditions which contributes to a diverse exchange of ideas in any workplace.’
During her speech, Zahra explained that while workplace D&I has made leaps and bounds in the last decade, it is often a limited, box-ticking approach. In order to promote D&I fully, we should not limit hiring to our local communities, cities, or even in the same country. She suggested that a more global approach is needed in order for true diversity to flourish. Luckily, with the onslaught of remote work options, international hiring has become easier — and more important — than ever before. International hiring from countries not usually seen as talent hubs creates a breadth of opportunity for both the employer and the employee.
As we’ve seen with the refugee crisis, war and conflict result in thousands of people being displaced and put into poverty. In the context of the tech industry, this leads to less-matured markets where the tech and start-up sectors are built through bottom-up approaches and the non-profit sector, causing them to underperform. When an economy is diminished, and there are minimal opportunities, entrepreneurship is disincentivised and people are forced to look for jobs.
In a climate where remote work is widely accepted and workers no longer need to travel to the office every day, we have an opportunity to improve the productivity of our companies and support the rebuilding of conflict-affected countries through international hiring. Not only does this offer companies true diversity by bringing in global talent, it also reduces the strain on countries recovering from conflict, contributes to their economic growth, and can create a generation of digitally-savvy remote workers who will train and share their skills with future generations.
Companies that have already adopted work-from-home practices can turn these places into remote work hubs. There are Palestinians, Iraqis, Syrians, Afghans, and more that can lead the way when it comes to being adaptive in uncertain, challenging, and unpredictable circumstances. International hiring creates an amazing ripple effect: when job markets become saturated with skilled workers, they can begin to launch businesses and employ others in their communities, leading to more job creation, thus boosting their local economy further. By considering international hiring, we can create more space for true diversity whilst paving the way for conflict-affected developers, designers, copywriters, product managers, etc. to build promising futures for themselves and their communities.
Work with head-hunting services, NGOs, and networks on the ground to find the best talent for the right jobs, increasing your organisation’s diversity and promoting the economies of conflict-affected countries.
In addition to providing highly-skilled, adaptable talent to companies and increased opportunities for international candidates, international hiring produces a secondary, yet crucial, result. International hiring will also help in changing the humanitarian aid sector from a system based on dependency and handouts to that of empowerment and fair opportunity. While most humanitarian aid is based on charity and volunteering, international hiring will provide equal opportunity and outcomes for both the hiring and the hired. Through such opportunities, we can take a huge step closer to level the playing field across the world by offering fair opportunities that will lead to reduced worldwide inequalities.
Footer: This talk was a part of a monthly event series run by DINT, a free online community created to enable connections and increase conversations about diversity and inclusion in tech. It took place inside the virtual reality Teooh application. If you’re interested in joining the DINT community, click here.