Diversity is More than Just Numbers
by Inbar Ben-Menda
One cannot overemphasize the importance of diversity and inclusion to an organization’s professionalism. Diversity in decision-making makes policy better, more creative, efficient and relevant.
In Israel, valuing diversity is reflected in primary legislation. Israeli lawmakers ordered the government to ensure appropriate representation for the various populations that comprise Israel's diverse society. The law requires appropriate representation for both sexes, for people with disabilities, as well as for various minority groups: the Arab and ultra-Orthodox populations, Israelis of Ethiopian descent and new immigrants.
The legal concept of diversity focuses on "appropriate representation" (numbers and percentages) among government ministries. At the Civil Service Commission however, we know that the real story is about the creation of opportunities for inclusion and organizational affiliation for civil servants from diverse backgrounds.
During times of crisis, it seems easier to ignore diversity and focus all resources on saving lives. But it is precisely in the current pandemic that we have seen that diverse voices at the table are critical and can even save lives. We have seen that publishing guidelines in different media and languages is crucial for making emergency instructions accessible to different populations living in Israel. For example, using Yiddish leaflets on the streets of the ultra-Orthodox community; or publishing the Ministry of Health's directives in Amharic, Arabic, English and Russian. We have also seen that adapting solutions to various traditions and cultures makes it possible to save lives, such as permission to establish temporary tents for the Bedouin society in the Negev, so those who need to be quarantined can remain in a familiar environment.
Given the vitality of the diversity of voices, and as part of a broader view of inclusion and the creation of an enabling work environment that encourages a sense of belonging, the Civil Service Commissioner, Professor Daniel Hershkowitz, issued a groundbreaking directive calling for the integration of all existing voices in Israeli society even in an emergency, click here https://cutt.ly/0yUFxoF. The Corona virus crisis once again reminded us that we can succeed in overcoming national challenges only if we work together!
Inbar Ben-Menda is Head of the Labor Law and Diversity Team at the Legal Division of the Civil Service Commission in Israel. Ms. Ben-Menda holds a Masters Degree in Public Policy from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Masters of Law from Bar-Ilan University. She was a Fulbright Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program fellow at the University of Minnesota in 2018-2019. During her fellowship, Ms. Ben-Menda explored existing models of workforce integration in the United States.