European diversity: the strength of our union

As part of our ongoing series 'A Europe of Equals', European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli argues that building a Union of equality requires recognising people face discrimination
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By Helena Dalli

Helena Dalli is European Commissioner for Equality

23 May 2022

The EU is home to nearly 450 million people, with diverse histories, cultures, languages, and customs. In the year 2000, 80,000 young Europeans chose “United in Diversity” as the motto for our Union. Their message is clear: The recognition of our diversity is simply not enough. Instead, we must value it as our strength and foster the growth of our union without compromising who we are.

Building a Union of equality requires the recognition that some people face greater barriers in their lives, whether because of gender stereotypes, institutionalised racism, or any other form of discrimination. Discrimination withholds our ability to benefit from the same opportunities, and all too often, it can compromise our safety. We must actively promote inclusion and take steps to limit exclusion through policies and practice.

Only in inclusive societies will everyone – irrespective of gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, age, disability, or sexual orientation – be able to fully contribute to the best of our abilities

To achieve this goal, all organisations and individuals must do their part towards the building of an inclusive and equal society. European Diversity Month – which we are celebrating for the third year running during May – is an occasion to find inspiration from the 14,000 companies, NGOs, universities, and unions that have signed one of the national Diversity Charters and committed themselves to creating equal workplaces.

This year, I launched the first-ever European Capitals of Inclusion and Diversity Awards. This award displays the very best the Union has to offer and helps inspire change through your best practices. For this first edition, we had 82 applicants representing three quarters of the EU’s territory. The winners had discrimination-sensitive administrative language and city-wide action plans on diversity topics; a strategy to support people with disabilities; and a comprehensive plan for the inclusion of the Roma community.

Commissioner Dalli with winners of the gold award of Capitals of Inclusion and Diversity Awards in the ‘local authorities above 50,000 inhabitants' category

Women are disproportionately victims of sexist harassment, abuse, and violence. Furthermore, they still receive lower pay in comparison to the value that they generate and have fewer opportunities for career and business development. With a view to enabling them to be free, thrive and succeed in their private and public life, I presented initiatives on wage transparency, and combatting violence against women and domestic violence. Women are often victims of multiple discrimination and therefore work on gender equality must be intersectional in approach.

LGBTIQ and racialised individuals often experience difficulties in accessing and staying in the labour market because of discrimination at the recruitment stage and while in employment. Yet studies show diverse workplaces increase innovation revenue by 20%. It is therefore no wonder that several large corporations and growing medium-sized companies provide this sector its due attention, because there is a strong business case for diversity that goes beyond the moral argument. The European Commission continues to support member states in implementing the LGBTIQ Equality Strategy and the Anti-racism Action Plan at the national level, as well as the national Diversity Charters.   

Let us uphold our Union’s motto: ‘United in Diversity’. Only in inclusive societies will everyone – irrespective of gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, age, disability, or sexual orientation – be able to fully contribute to the best of our abilities. We all deserve peace of mind that freedom from discrimination provides.