Companies are obliged to reinvent themselves on a daily basis, not only because of technological changes, but also because of sociological and demographic ones. For this reason, many companies are already working on social and labor inclusion as a basic pillar of their strategy. Banco Santander is one of them. Today is the International Day of People with Disabilities.

The integration of employees of different ages, genders, profiles and conditions implies a positive impact for enterprises, according to experts and figures. In line with the International Monetary Fund, a diverse corporate culture improves the labor market, provides different points of view, promotes commitment to the company, and increases productivity.

According to the study “Global Management of the Cultural Diversity” carried out by Fundación para la Diversidad (Foundation For Diversity), half of Spanish companies consider diversity a “priority,” in comparison to 35% of the companies surveyed in the polls, which believe that these policies have “little to no priority”.

This data is clear evidence that enterprises are increasingly more aware of this issue and many of them have policies aimed at promoting diversity amongst their employees.

“If we want to understand the world we live in, we need diverse teams that serve as a mirror of society”

Why is employment important for social inclusion?

Social inclusion is a process whereby people at risk of poverty and social exclusion have the necessary opportunities and resources to participate equally in economic, social and cultural life, enjoying a standard of living and well-being considered normal in the society in which they live.

People who belong to socially-excluded groups still face many difficulties in accessing the labor market. Language barriers, lack of training or experience, the complicated process of validating degrees and academic titles, lack of awareness and the problem of conciliation are some of the barriers that immigrants, people with disabilities, young people or women have to face.

Labor inclusion is one of the keys to pave the way for full integration and participation in community life. For this reason, promoting a diverse corporate culture is a task to be prioritized by enterprises.

What is an inclusive enterprise?

An inclusive company is one which values differences, believes in diversity and promotes the participation of all types of people, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, nationality or socio-economic status.

The research of the Fundación para la Diversidad Científica (Foundation for Scientific Diversity) identifies the types of diversity that different companies manage within their organizations:

  • Gender Diversity (86%)
  • Cultural Diversity (67%)
  • Functional Diversity (64%)
  • Generational Diversity (53%)

Guaranteeing equal opportunities is both a benefit and an obligation for companies, because the lack of real labor opportunities represents one of the main problems that people with disabilities face. It is a reality to be fought against in various parts of society, but especially by companies by promoting diversity and inclusion through daily specific actions such as:

  • Creating inclusive recruitment policies.
  • Striving for balance in staff training…
  • Adapting the workspace for those with physical or motor disabilities.
  • Signing agreements with organizations that promote labor inclusion.
  • Creating types of flexible or remote work.
  • Equal pay for equal work.

The end goal is creating diverse labor spaces that guarantee equality of opportunity, promote empathy among employees and increase productivity.

Social and employment inclusion of people with disabilities

Experts agree and research shows that, unfortunately, there is still a long way to go with regard to the employment inclusion of people with disabilities. However, it seems that awareness projects and measures launched by public entities and companies are offering positive and fruitful results. According to the last report “El Empleo de las Personas con Discapacidad” (The Employment of People with Disabilities) carried out by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE) (National Institute of Statistics)”, in 2017, unemployment rates among people belonging to this collective was 26.2%, a drop of 2.4 points compared to last year.

In 2018, Banco Santander counted 1.7% of employees with disabilities among its total staff, not including subsidiary companies in the United States and Mexico. Many of them were recruited through a significant number of initiatives launched by the Group and headed by Ana Botín, aimed at promoting the recruitment of people included in this collective.

A very good example of these projects is Santander Incluye, a practicum program for university students with disabilities, launched by the company with the support of the Fundación Universia, which aims to boost the participation of this group in society, and in so doing, promote the inclusive education and work opportunities through the development of their talent.

Belén Humanes has been one of the beneficiaries of this program. When she found out about it, she had no doubt about sending her CV, and a few days later, she passed her first interview with Banco Santander via Skype, “because she lived in the UK at that moment”.

This young woman from Madrid, with a Business Administration and Management degree from the Universidad Juan Carlos de Madrid, had never taken part in any project similar to Santander Incluye. Taking advantage of this great opportunity, acquiring experience and learning as much as possible were her goals from the beginning. I never thought I’d stay”, Belén said. However, her effort has been recently awarded and she has been recruited by Banco Santander to go on developing her professional career in the Working & Capital Solutions area, the department where she carried out the practicum. “I am still dreaming”, she states.

From the beginning, Belén Humanes felt herself as “one of the team”. A team she defines as very young, really prepared and with lots of motivation. “From the beginning they trusted me, which made me feel much more motivated”, explains this employee already recruited by the Bank.

For this young 24 year-old woman from Madrid with a disability of 33%, there has been a shift in mindset with regard to these kinds of initiatives, where the most important thing is the visibility provided to the minority collectives. Some time ago people used to refuse these kinds of grants because they didn’t want to be stigmatized as a person or employee with a disability“.

For this reason, she inspires young people in a similar situation to follow her steps: “We have to take advantage of opportunities because, even with this type of problem, we are equal to everyone else”.