By Marcus Leach

With tickets now on sale for the London 2012 Paralympics, a survey commissioned by Cisco, official network provider to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, has revealed that the sport is set to play a key part in highlighting diversity in Britain.

Recent events, including the triumph of South African ‘blade runner’ Oscar Pistorius, who became the first ever Paralympian to win an able-bodied Championship medal at the World Athletics Championships 2011 in South Korea, has helped raise awareness of the London 2012 Paralympics and the benefits it can bring to the UK.

77% of those surveyed believe that hosting the 2012 Paralympics in London will help increase the level of understanding around physical disability in sport. A high majority also saw the Paralympics as playing an important role in shaping the UK’s understanding of all types of diversity in the future.

79% agreed that the Paralympics could play an important role in championing diversity of all types including age, race, gender, background, disability, religion and sexuality. Additionally, half the respondents (49%) agreed that more could be done in their community and workplace to promote diversity.

Diversity in the workforce

When looking at the current levels of understanding of diversity — specifically in the workforce - 69% of people said they were not aware of any strategy by their employer to promote diversity in the workplace. Unsurprisingly therefore, 44% agreed that their place of work was not currently representative of a diverse workforce of any type.

“The Paralympics is a real opportunity to open people’s minds and change perceptions of what people with disabilities are able to do. It’s a platform that employers can use to communicate the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace, enabling more people to live, work and play together," Nikki Walker, senior director of Inclusion, Diversity and Sustainability at Cisco said.

Tips for building an Inclusive and diverse workforce

· Talent - It’s not just about creating a gender, age or race balance; it is about having the best talent. Embrace the different skills, backgrounds and personalities of a diverse workforce and watch your company grow

· Innovation is key - With an inclusive culture, businesses can tap into a diversity of perspectives and differentiate itself in the market by truly understanding its customers

· Engage the majority - Focus on cultural change and ‘engaging the majority’ in building an inclusive organisation, rather than just concentrating resources on minorities, employee groups or gender in isolation

· Open communication and leadership — Encourage all employees to have a voice and reap the rewards of multiple ideas and viewpoints

· Embrace technology — Link different geographical cultures together by making the best use of technology like Cisco TelePresence®, allowing life-size, real-time interaction with people who may be located thousands of miles away

The London 2012 Paralympic Games will see more athletes than ever competing. 4,200 competitors from 150 countries, including 300 from Great Britain will take part and activity is already underway to help build excitement across the country.

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