The topics of diversity and inclusion (D&I) are nothing new to The Zubin Foundation, a Hong Kong-based social policy think-tank and charity that works to improve the lives of the city’s marginalised ethnic minorities. Founded in 2014, The Zubin Foundation has been working extensively towards boosting representation of ethnic minorities in senior government advisory and policy making; empowering ethnic minority women and girls; and providing mental health counseling, education, scholarships and training opportunities for Hong Kong’s marginalised ethnic minority community.
Within the years of engaging different stakeholders to shed light on and remove chronic barriers to fairness and opportunity in Hong Kong, The Zubin Foundation has witnessed a changing landscape of Hong Kong’s D&I scene. To the mission-driven charity, D&I agendas were mainly pushed by different non-governmental organisations like Equal Opportunity Council and CareER in Hong Kong previously, but now the local government and multinational companies have also started the journey and became more involved in the conversations. While multinational companies usually have lots of resources, their D&I strategies were usually globally devised and led by top management.
“The initiatives are great, however the localisation and adaptation may not be as effective in terms of really reaching its local end-service users. We have seen a lot of large companies providing comprehensive internal D&I trainings, but no concrete next steps for hiring and follow-up actions.” Matthew Yu, Project Manager at The Zubin Foundation, says. “Up to now, we have seen little efforts in SMEs unfortunately. Most provide little to no D&I training to its employees. Without proper education, it is very difficult to push the agenda forward.”
Group photo: (left) Molly Yeung – summer intern, (right) Matthew Yu – Project Manager at The Zubin Foundation
In summer 2021, The Zubin Foundation crossed paths with CareER, thanks to Jockey Club Collaborative Project for Inclusive Employment – CareER Thriving Grass Career Development Program, and the charity received its very-first intern with physical disabilities at its office for a short, but meaningful 15 days. Through years of experience working with interns from the ethnic minority community, Yu sums up the differences of working alongside an ethnic minority intern and an intern with disabilities.
“It would require certain adjustments when it comes to working together. For instance, we must speak English to people in the ethnic minority community as we are dealing with different races; and we need to adjust our office chairs and purchase accessibility tools for the intern with physical disability. Other than that, the intern with disabilities acts no different than others. You just need to communicate these changes to your teammates.”
And for similarities? “Both groups are equally difficult to find a job unfortunately.” Yu adds, “Hong Kong people tend to react very differently to ethnic minorities and people with disabilities. Employers are either not ready to accept them, do not understand their abilities, or have not tried hard enough to hire them.”
Although it may be easy to follow the mainstream and play it safe, it is important for employers to hold a can-do attitude and take a first step towards inclusion to remove institutional and social barriers to success and fulfillment for all, no matter the race, background or abilities.
“Each person has its own respectable qualities and it is up to the employers to discover their abilities. Diversity and differences will only enable your organisation to learn and develop further, and reach an untapped customer base. It will bring new insights to your business for sure.”