Refugee Status as a Dimension of Diversity and Inclusion

In face of recent conflicts triggering massive numbers of refugees from places like Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine, organizations should consider how well their diversity and inclusion policies address refugee status.

Diversity and inclusion are often thought about through a very narrow lens focused largely on race, with gender a close second. But this largely two-dimensional lens for diversity and inclusion is not, well… diverse and inclusive of the various dimensions in which people can be different from one another (diversity) and how organizations can accommodate those differences and make everyone feel welcome and appreciated (inclusion).

Immigrants and Inclusion

Immigrants generally have a different worldview and experiences than native-born residents of a locale, regardless of the host country or the immigrant’s place of origin. The experience of being an immigrant is, perhaps, more common than many realize.

Globally, around 3.6 percent of all humans on the planet are immigrants, residing in a country other than their native country. In the U.S., that figure climbs to roughly 14 percent. Within that 14 percent figure is a sizeable proportion of refugees and asylum seekers.

Don’t Overlook the Value of Refugees to Your Workforce

Often refugees are overlooked or disfavored by recruiters. Unlike immigrants for whom migrating to the U.S. was a long-time plan, refugees are often uprooted suddenly and unexpectedly. They may be able to bring few if any possessions or assets with them, they may not speak English or speak it well, and they are unlikely to have a job lined up for them upon arrival.

At the same time, refugees are often very resourceful and resilient and have the same global perspective and regional knowledge of their home country and region common to most immigrants, at least those who immigrated as adults or older children.

Some countries are already tuned into the potential benefits of refugees in padding their labor forces. Germany made headlines a few years ago for its somewhat surprising embrace of Syrian refugees fleeing that country’s civil war. But Germany also hoped to benefit from the impact of an influx of skilled labor into its labor-strapped economy.

In the United States, the same potential exists to integrate refugees into the tight labor market, helping refugees, employers, and the nation.

Be inclusive!

Related: Refugees and Positive Action for Ukraine