Building tolerance and inclusivity

17 November 2021
Heriot-Watt Dubai's Ammar Kaka shares his insights on how workplaces and educational institutes can help bridge gaps in tolerance and inclusivity
This week, Expo 2020 presents its Tolerance & Inclusivity Week, discussing smart cities, sustainable urban development and innovative solutions. Learn more here.

As a nation in which 200 diverse nationalities reside, the UAE represents multiculturalism in all aspects of society. It is home to an expatriate population of 8.84 million, according to a report by Global Media Insight. The UAE is currently at its peak in ethnic diversity, reaffirming its position as a champion of tolerance and inclusivity.

Tolerance and inclusion mean accepting and being able to live harmoniously in the same environment as others. Both can seamlessly exist between races, nationalities, genders and individuals who have different characteristics. Tolerance and inclusion unify societies and should be built into the very fabric of a nation – its people.

Inter-faith harmony; inclusion of those who may suffer from disabilities; understanding those who hold different political views, and knowing that respectful dialogues can serve as platforms to varied views, are all attributes of tolerant and inclusive people who build better societies.

According to Payscale, adults spend nearly one-third of their lifetime at work, implying that tolerance and inclusivity in the workplace can play a significant role in positive outcomes towards inclusive societies.

Furthermore, educational institutions have a major role to play in fostering inclusivity, specifically in the UAE, where students from all over the world come to study.

Workplace tolerance and inclusivity
  • Zero-tolerance policy: It is imperative to employee and organisational well-being that a zero-tolerance policy is laid out towards workplace bullying, violence and deliberate actions that lead to mental trauma.
    In organisations, people from varied backgrounds, races, cultures and social and financial standings come together to build a successful and profitable company. The basis of a healthy work environment is to be respectful of each individual without obvious or embedded bias towards where they come from.
    To achieve a tolerant environment, an organisation-wide zero-tolerance policy needs to be mandated, with regular employee check-ins and encouragement for every employee to report actions that do not follow the policy.
  • Mentorship and surveys: Workplaces can support employees to address key issues and personal biases that can negatively impact their work performance, and their life in general.
    While in some organisations, a certain ethnicity or nationality may comprise most of the employee pool, it is still imperative to be inclusive and tolerant. Every human being possesses different qualities, ideals and ideas that others may not necessarily accept.
    Building a mentorship programme that pairs each employee with another employee who has exhibited well-developed levels of tolerance and inclusivity can help support mutual dialogue to address differences.
    Additionally, regular surveys tackling language barriers, intolerant or biased remarks, or lack of resources can help build a more inclusive workforce that feels heard and respected.
  • Exemplary leadership: Leaders often set the tone of an organisation. Management that showcases diversity by recognising talent, irrespective of background, clearly reflects the type of employer they are, and will be in the future.
    In the UAE, there are many expatriate-owned businesses showcasing the trust the country’s leadership and the government have put into those that call the UAE their home. Beginning with the executive level, being inclusive across every facet of an organisation fosters a highly unbiased and healthy workplace environment.
    In fact, it significantly supports organisational growth: a study by Gartner found that inclusive teams improve employee performance by up to 30 per cent.
    A McKinsey report arrived at a similar conclusion, stating that every 10 per cent increase in the racial and ethnic diversity of a business’ senior-executive team leads to a 0.8 per cent increase in earnings.
The role of educational institutions
  • Creating a culture of curiosity: Educational institutions foster a culture of curiosity among students. This is not only true of academic study, but also social development.
    The UAE is home to over 200 nationalities, many whom speak a language other than English as their first language. This can create a language barrier that can be frustrating for children or young adults.
    In many cases, schools and universities may be the first places for young minds to encounter ethnic diversity – be it those that speak another language, are of a different race or even individuals with a disability. Schools and universities can play an active role in creating a positive culture of curiosity, one where students learn to understand and support each other irrespective of their backgrounds.
  • A diverse teaching populace: A diversified academic workforce can significantly impact the educational lifecycle of a student.
    Students can sometimes lead a sheltered life devoid of extensive interactions with people outside their communities and societies. Universities can play a key role in providing that to the students. In addition, teachers from different cultures and backgrounds can help students understand the world through their experiences and world views.
    Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought the world even closer through digitisation and technology. Educational establishments can incorporate academics from across the globe who are willing to teach across time zones, or even relocate.
  • Including tolerance and inclusivity in the curriculum: To foster a deeper understanding of tolerance and inclusivity, educational institutes can include tolerance and inclusivity studies as part of the curriculum. This is especially crucial for universities, as they shape the minds of young adults before they move towards a corporate environment.
    Irrespective of the stream in which a student is studying, it can be incorporated as a non-elective subject. The class can teach students the significance of building a tolerant and inclusive outlook towards peers and society in general, understanding the success that open-mindedness can bring in a career, and more.
    In addition, a special tolerance and inclusivity committee can be set up at institutions that build academic materials, focusing on global cultural histories and movements. This, in turn, will provide students with a clear understanding of its significance.

Education builds the leaders of tomorrow, and if such humanity-based skills are taught to young minds, it will encourage inclusive future societies. In additional, with the tolerance and inclusivity theme at Expo 2020 this week, it is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the positive impact such practices can have on global communities and economies.

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