The Bulgarian Diversity Charter held a panel discussion titled Neutral and Inclusive Communication in the Workplace with representatives from business and civil society organisations on 7 November 2023 at Shell Bulgaria.
The event was organised within the framework of the NICE programme (Neutral and Inclusive Communication in Corporate Environments). The main objective was to discuss at expert level existing and new approaches to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) management in work environments related to the introduction and use of neutral and inclusive language.
Participants agreed on the need for inclusive communication because it is essentially effective communication: accessible to every employee and respective of every one of them.
The event brought together DEI practitioners from the private sector and NGOs working with vulnerable groups. More than 15 representatives of Charter members attended the event that was moderated by Kamelia Slaveykova, Chair of the Board of Directors of Shell Bulgaria, member of the Board of the Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum (BBLF) and member of the Advisory Board of the Bulgarian Diversity Charter.
The event was kindly hosted by Shell Bulgaria.
Speakers and presentations
BBLF Chair Levon Hampartzoumian noted the significance of diversity values in successful and sustainable business development and in building a spirit of respect and tolerance in society. Dimitar Markov, Law Programme Director with the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD), highlighted the key role of businesses and NGOs in implementing equality and inclusion best practice thus preventing unequal treatment and discrimination in the work environment.
Maria Stoyanova, Analyst at CSD and project manager of the Bulgarian Diversity Charter, introduced the NICE programme, a united effort of Diversity Charters in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Lithuania and Romania that aims to develop and produce new and innovative training and capacity building programmes in the field of inclusive communication. The project is co-funded by the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV) programme of the European Union.
Maria Stoyanova also presented the two NICE reports she authored. The publication Inclusive Communication in the Workplace: Bulgaria 2023 is the first in-depth review of the use of neutral and inclusive language in the Bulgarian context. It examines national legislation, policies and initiatives implemented by companies and NGOs in the country and points to existing good examples. The analysis highlights the need to incorporate communication techniques that take into account the specific needs and identities of employees.
The second report, From Words to Action: Promoting Inclusive Communication in the Workplace, an intriguing comparative report on Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Lithuania and Romania, which analyses how the public and private sectors in the five countries approach inclusive communication and integrate it into their organisational processes. Among the main findings of the study is the level of commitment of businesses with the topic and the need for specialised resources.
The event continued with presentations by civil society organisations and activists. Sofia Lyateva, Project Manager at GLAS Foundation, presented effective approaches for the inclusion of LGBTI+ employees and focused on creating an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding in the workplace as a guarantee for successful business development. Rayna Sokolova, psychologist, psychotherapist and trainer, highlighted the communication needs of people with visual and other impairments pointing out some best practice implemented in different companies. Blagovest Iliev, communication manager of the World without Borders Association and TV journalist and producer, spoke about the challenges the Roma community is facing and ways to overcome existing bias and stereotypes.
In the following discussion, participants explored in depth the relevant needs for inclusive communication, including specific aspects and categories, identified corporate processes and operations where specialised training is applicable, and formulated KPIs and benchmarks while sharing their experience and best practice. Guests included HR, communications, marketing and diversity specialists from Lidl, HPE, Shell, CATRO, Sensata Technologies, Vivacom, Maria’s World Foundation.
We would like to thank all those who joined the conversation and provided their professional experience and expertise for the development of specialised training resources on neutral and inclusive communication. The materials will be produced in the framework of the NICE programme in 2024 and will be provided free of charge to Bulgarian Diversity Charter signatories. Their contribution was honoured with official certificates.
Stay tuned for the next discussion within the NICE programme!