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Social media encourages workplace diversity

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Social media users are a diversity asset to businesses, according to Nareen Young, CEO of Diversity Council Australia (DCA). She said that while there were risks in allowing social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter in the workplace, with sensible risk management policies this connectivity could be beneficial.

Young said social media acted as a channel to attract and retain diverse people of talent. “Access can be open to anyone with a computer and an account regardless of age, gender, marital status, race, ethnicity et cetera.”

She added: “It’s also a great way for people working in non-traditional arrangements and outside traditional career structures to engage in networking.”

Young spoke at a Diversity Leadership Briefing in Sydney, which featured an address by Senator Kate Lundy, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. Lundy’s advocacy of internet use and digital technology won her the title of most influential person changing the world of internet and politics, which she accepted at the World eDemocracy Forum in France.

Data supplied by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that Australian internet usage has grown almost 10 percent in the last six months to 10.4 million internet subscriptions. Figures from US-based Edison Research revealed that the number of people with a personal profile on a social media platform grew almost 50 percent in 2010 in the USA.

“Social media can also remove physical barriers so perceptions of the ability or disability of others are removed, and has a ‘levelling’ tendency for people so that different levels of seniority and backgrounds can interact, and formal barriers and cultural issues that can prevent participation are removed,” said Young.

Risks can be managed through enforcement of policies that encourage appropriate use and respectful behaviour by employees using social media, she added. Limits on the amount of time spent on social media at work could also be included.

DCA is conducting an online poll of how its members manage social media and diversity. See www.dca.org.au for further details.

How does your business use social media?