Chilean society has evolved in recent decades, becoming more receptive to the ideals of diversity and inclusion. Beginning in the 1980s and 1990s, people with different abilities, those from sexual minorities and older persons were the subject of a range of distinct social campaigns, State-run initiatives and press and media reports outlining the importance of integration. Some of these approaches included examples of best practice from countries such as the United States.
As time has passed, the concepts of inclusion and diversity have become increasingly relevant to Chilean society in terms of the support they lend not only to people’s quality of life, but also to overall national development. Consequently, the State has implemented a series of public policies in this area, which is generally considered to be one of the essential components of a modern society.
This evolving trend has also been replicated in the private sector through policies designed to promote a productive and equitable life, regardless of the age, gender or sexual orientation of workers.
Although significant progress has been made in the country, there is still a long road ahead in several aspects. For example, figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development show that in Chile, women are 23% less likely to be in paid work than men. However, the 2015 Encuesta de Caracterización Socioeconómica Nacional (National Socio-economic Characterization Survey), or Casen, highlighted a degree of progress in this area over recent decades. In 1990, the labor force participation rates were 73.6% for men and 32.5% for women. Over the subsequent 25-year period, this had evolved to 71% and 47.4%, respectively, thereby demonstrating a gradual bridging of the gender gap. Similarly, employment rates have progressed in a similar direction, from 67.9% of men and 29.4% of women in 1990, to 66.2% and 43.4%, respectively, by 2015.
Confronting the challenge of inclusion in the country is of considerable interest to the Chilean American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham Chile). That is why discussion on these topics has been promoted across the Chamber, particularly via the Human Capital Committee, which is constituted by both private sector companies and social organizations. As a result, we have organized numerous roundtable meetings for our members, who herald from a diverse variety of sectors, in order to provide them with a space in which to openly discuss best practice in this area as well as to engage in related training opportunities. These encounters have looked in detail at a wide range of integration processes, including those related to working with sexual minorities and older persons. Consensus among roundtable participants has been that diversity and inclusion should not simply be manifested through isolated philanthropic actions; rather, they should lead enterprises to incorporate people from different groups and with distinct points of view into and across their organizations. In turn, this will have a positive impact on company productivity.
Many obstacles lie ahead and if the country is to fully embrace diversity and inclusion, it must understand and adopt best practices from countries such as the United States, where, for example, sexual diversity is regarded as a contributing factor to company development. To demonstrate this, the Corporate Equality Index produced by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation is relevant. The Index is the United States’ national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. As such, findings from the 2016 edition ranked a number of companies including Twitter, Uber, Apple and UPS as global leaders in terms of their policies, practices and codes of conduct related to the non-discrimination of employees who identify themselves as sexual minorities.
Overall, Chile is making progress towards becoming a more inclusive and diverse society and concrete changes are taking place. However, many challenges lie ahead and the ability to overcome these will, undoubtedly, define the Chile of the future; a Chile which is part of an increasingly globalized world in which dialogue, tolerance and the well-being of all are key priorities.