Guest Feature

How Ireland can become a global leader

By Business & Finance
13 January 2023

Given our rich history of emigration and more recently immigration, Ireland is becoming a global leader when it comes to measuring and benchmarking diversity and inclusion writes Sandra Healy, CEO and Co-Founder, inclusio.

Note: This piece was originally published in the December 2022 issue of Business & Finance magazine.

A multiculutral society

Over the last 30 years, our nation has become a melting pot of cultures, which led to the growth of a mono-cultural society and, consequently, a flourishing tech industry.

The economic boom experienced in the 1990s brought unprecedented levels of prosperity with the arrival of the Celtic Tiger and transformed Ireland into a country of net immigration; following which, we became a global tech hub that is now home to the European headquarters of multiple technology giants from around the world.  

Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Amazon, PayPal, Siemens, HP, Intel, Dell, Microsoft, Dropbox, Salesforce, and SAP are just some of them, in a tech industry that now boasts 80,000 employees nationwide, and saw Ireland ranked 19th out of 132 economies last year in  the Global Innovation Index. 

Despite this, we do not yet have the language we need to describe race and ethnicity in the workplace. Equality, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I) strategies are not just necessary in workforces.

That is why during my time in Higher Education at Dublin City University (DCU), I helped establish the Intersectionality Working Group which comprised of people from diverse backgrounds, including those with lived experience of being an ethnic minority in the Irish higher education sector to bring a better understanding and language to how we address race and ethnicity in Ireland.  

Making difference count

We have a beautiful and rich mixture of backgrounds, faiths, skin tones, languages, and accents, with more than 18% of people from migrant descent, many of whom are working hard and contributing to the Irish economy across multiple sectors.

And unlike the US and the UK, the absence of a painful legacy around slavery and colonisation gives Ireland the opportunity to be a successful, integrated multicultural society by taking an intersectional view of diversity. 

These factors are why Ireland can become a leader in the global effort to make workplaces more reflective of societies, and the very reason why I founded inclusio – to make difference count. 

In 2016, I set out to solve a problem. I wanted to bring a scientific-evidenced approach and develop a way for employers to listen to the collective voice of their people and to measure, track and act on diversity and inclusion (D&I).

Pictured: Sandra Healy, CEO and Co-Founder, inclusio (Conor McCabe Photography.)

After four years of research, inclusio spun out of Dublin City University (DCU) in 2020, backed by Enterprise Ireland and Irish venture capitalists. Now we work with organisations — both in the private and public sector — providing them with scientific, evidence-based data and inclusion insights linked to their business KPIs and ROI. 

Our software helps organisations pinpoint and focus D&I actions in a more strategic way. There is nothing else like it in the world. It has D&I at its core, and is built by D&I experts, and we are now beginning to create global and sector benchmarks — with a focus on leading the way globally in this space.  

For example, inclusio is also working with Ulster University and Stanford University in the US on a project around accommodations for neurodivergent staff; that is those with autism and conditions such as ADHD.

Neurodivergence has come to the fore in the past three to five years, and at inclusio we’ve seen an exceptional increase in the number of our client’s employees self-reporting as neurodivergent.

These employees generally stayed silent and didn’t look for accommodations in the past, but inclusio is tapping into the expertise at Ulster University and Stanford to provide support and help get the best out of neurodiverse people at work. 

Getting ED&I right

And so, the companies that do get diversity and inclusion (D&I) right also understand the need to create psychological safety, by providing employees who might otherwise have felt silenced or marginalised in the past, a safe and secure channel to give workplace feedback. This in turn sparks innovation and positive business outcomes. 

In my experience, D&I is contextual, and it must be authentic. It’s only through the voice of the people that organisations can really find out what’s going on and what needs to be prioritised.

It is also important to recognise that diversity and inclusion are specialist domains which require expert knowledge and understanding to get it right. And, although many organisations have made great strides in becoming more diverse and building inclusion, some companies are leading the way by making D&I a business priority. 

For example, diversity is not just a matter of regulatory compliance for insurance companies, it is a clear and present opportunity for positive cultural change. 

Developing ED&I

So, to support an industry-led approach for the financial services and insurance sectors, we formed a strategic partnership in 2020, with an overarching aim to develop a new framework and certification for equality, diversity, and inclusion in the industry.

The initiative was ignited by Ireland’s South East Financial Services Cluster, along with the Centre for Insurance, Risk, and Data Analytics Studies (CIRDAS) at Carlow IT, and inclusio, and it sits under the Government’s five-year Ireland for Finance Strategy and in its action plan for 2022.  

As part of this partnership, we recently launched an initiative called VOiCE – ‘Valuing Openness, inclusive Culture & Equity’ – with Seán Fleming, the Minister of State Department of Finance with responsibility for Financial Services, Credit Unions, and Insurance, at SETU Carlow.

It is the first of its kind, sector-led benchmark, which takes a scientific approach to gathering insights from employees in a confidential manner. The latter of which is key to getting a clearer picture of the diversity profile of your organisation.  

Leading the way with VOiCE are the founding insurance industry partners – FBD Insurance, IPB Insurance, Irish Life, New Ireland Assurance, and RSA Insurance Ireland,, and Intact Insurance – who have come together to deploy inclusio’s platform which combines technology, psychology, and AI to measure, track, and action D&I. 

The initiative was coordinated through the Faculty of Lifelong Learning at SETU Carlow, inclusio, CIRDAS, and ISEFSC, and this new DEI framework, which these companies are utilizing, will raise the overall performance of culture, D&I strategy across financial services and insurance sector. 

This sector-led approach will ensure progress is accelerated and that firms can achieve the common aim of driving diversity and inclusion good practice, while enhancing reputation, attracting talent, and continuing to build sustainable businesses.

This will all contribute to stronger, more sustainable, and successful organisations in the financial and insurances sectors, with better outcomes and higher performance for all. 

And ultimately, a better world for all.

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