Education

Equality, Inclusion and Diversity

Well known to school children, parents and teachers in the Canton of Vaud, Switzerland – JOM day is the “Journee Oser les Métiers,” when people are encouraged bring their children to work with them. The idea is to allow young people to experience, first-hand, the life of their parents at work.  Allowing boys and girls to better understand their parents’ work life and careers is important. On this day, boys may accompany their mothers and girls go with their fathers to their workplaces-  a simple way to try to change the male/female stereotypes of career paths so common in many parts of the world, even here in Switzerland.

Switzerland, a competitive, business-oriented country full of small, medium-sized and huge multinationals and with people from every country on earth, is an ideal country to take on the challenge of equality, inclusion and diversity (EDI), particularly in the area of education.  A highly literate society with a strong education system, we should not hesitate to educate our children and ensure EDI in society at the same time.  It is a well-known fact (and there is plenty of research to prove it) that a diverse, equal, and inclusive society is good for countries, communities and for the overall gross domestic product (GDP) of countries.  And the education of women plays a huge part in this discussion.  A study I read recently in the Economic Times (2018) stated that “Gender parity could boost India’s GDP by 27%” – indeed not just this country but all countries everywhere would benefit from gender parity.

The University of St Gallen, Switzerland believes that “diversity and inclusion are key to corporate success and mixed teams perform better in innovation processes”. We believe that those ideas and those discussions about equality, diversity and inclusion must begin in school with young children.  So, in Champittet, a small team organised a special event for JOM day, this year. With the Vaud Bureau of Equality poster exhibition which relates the story of the Swiss road to equality; a series of short films on equal opportunities, salaries and diversity; and some key information from the Ecole de l’Egalite, we were all set to go. One of the films clearly showed how stereotyping begins at a very young age.

Here in Champittet, we want all our students to believe they can choose whatever career they wish to have, irrespective of whether they are boys or girls, so this was an important lesson. The second film simply proved that children understand at a very young age what fairness really is- unequal salaries for females because of their gender is quite simply unacceptable- ask your children!  Finally, a film made by the Swiss Foundation, Pacte, highlighted the importance of diversity -a lot of concepts to be understood by our young students.

Our grade 7 students, aged 10, enthusiastically took on the challenge to work in small teams on our JOM day. Their task was to understand, fact find, discuss, and reflect on the idea of equality, stereotypes, diversity, and inclusion. The great news is that, according to their teachers, the day was a great success, and a lot was learned.  We are eager to see where this learning and reflection will lead but know it will allow our students to follow their own star and find their own career paths, which they will choose because they know they can.

References

About the Author

Careers Counsellor Collège Champittet.

Experienced in matters of education, works in the area of student counselling, stakeholder relations and outreach, business development, organisation of internships.

Specialist in the area of Business and Human Rights, she has worked, lobbied and lectured in this area since 2005.

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