DEI & SEN Intertwine
DEI & SEN, Not the Time to DIY
Few global organizations operate today without some form of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policy or initiative. Even though the terminology and framework for this concept largely derive from the United States, it is now being applied by global employers and is becoming increasingly a requirement in competitive bidding and contract processes.
While the aim of DEI may be a universal concept—to ensure that all people can participate fully in the economic, political, and cultural life of a community—the application of a DEI policy must necessarily vary from country to country in order to address each country’s historical and cultural specificity. While the American approach seeks to address issues that are specific to the United States, other countries naturally seek to address issues of concern in their societies. DEI means something different in India from in Australia, for example, just as the US context differs from that of France. Simply put, one DEI size generally doesn’t fit all, and it is appropriate to remember the possible variations of how it applies, country to country, or region to region.
This said, there is one not-so-prominent element of DEI that is applicable in every culture and every geography: the inclusion of those with disabilities of all kinds, including children who face learning challenges for a range of reasons.
Historically, many children who presented with significant learning challenges such as autism were often segregated, and their education needs were frequently ignored. Over the years, however, laws have come into effect in different countries to protect the rights of students with disabilities. And even in instances when students are not considered intellectually “disabled,” there has been an acknowledgement that many youngsters learn differently from their peers and will benefit from individualized support in school. Learning differences vary enormously in nature and degree, and students who have a learning diagnosis of some kind (such as dyslexia or ADHD) are referred to as students with Special Education Needs (SEN). Sometimes the supports they require are minor, and sometimes they are extensive.
SEN students are not typically the first demographic that springs to mind when one thinks of DEI, but it’s one that Bennett is very familiar with and works to support on a daily basis. In the past couple of years, our requests from clients to support relocating children with a SEN diagnosis has doubled, and we are heartened and relieved to see this population of students receiving the acknowledgement and support they require. From a practical standpoint, it is always best when an assignee or potential assignee shares with their employer before an assignment that they have a child with SEN who will require specialized support, in order to determine if a student’s needs can be adequately met in the new location. Too often, when this component initially goes unmentioned, it emerges later to haunt the assignee and the employer once the assignment is underway.
While we are receiving more requests to support children with SEN, the policy survey that Bennett conducted last year indicates that a surprisingly small number of organizations actually devote resources to supporting families with SEN when considering a relocation. This may be because employers don’t necessarily know that an assignee has a child with SEN or simply because SEN doesn’t seem like a big deal if no one is making noise about it. This raises all kinds of questions about why employees may notreveal the needs of their children when they accept or decline an assignment, and it’s a shame to think that, in any given corporation, there’s likely a population of employees who quietly remove themselves from the pool of candidates who might accept assignments.
So, as we think about DEI and how it has no one definition—its focus will vary by country and culture—perhaps we should broaden our thinking about the target demographics of Inclusion. In virtually every country where there is a legal framework or public guidance on the matter, the inclusion of persons with disabilities is prominently positioned as one of the key goals of DEI (U.S. Department of Labor , GOV.UK ). And this would naturally extend to students with learning challenges.
In our work at Bennett, we are happy to have a client list that includes the many youngsters with SEN for whom our consultants find schools that will support them and enable them to thrive. Those of you who know us at Bennett also know that we are always beating the drum, calling attention to the needs of relocating (and repatriating) kids; so it will come as no surprise that we are advocating for them once again, encouraging employers to consider how a vigorous and comprehensive SEN policy, as part of a larger mobility program, represents a big step towards achieving the laudable goals of DEI, regardless of location.
Elizabeth Sawyer, CEO
Timothy Dwyer, President
Over the years, Bennett International Education Consultancy has worked with hundreds of corporations across the globe, many of them Fortune 500 companies, providing domestic and international school advisement & placement services - preschool through university - to the dependents of relocating employees. In addition to education placement, our team provides customized consulting for corporations with a range of education issues: education policy writing & benchmarking, tuition studies, group move advisement & planning, and remote education solutions.