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Disability Diversity Management: A Case Study of the Banking Sector in the KSA

Authors: Nada Azhar


This paper is drawn from a wider study of the management of gender, age and disability diversity in the banking sector in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), which aims to develop a framework for diversity management (DM) in this sector. The paper focuses on the management of disability diversity. The purpose of the paper is to assist in understanding disability DM in the banking sector in KSA and to make suggestions for its enhancement. Hence, it contributes to filling a research gap, as there is a dearth of literature on disability DM, in KSA in general, and in the banking sector specifically. Discrimination against people with disabilities is a social issue that has not been entirely overcome in any society. However, in KSA, Islam informs almost every aspect of daily life including work, and Islam is against discrimination. Hence, in KSA, there are regulations to accommodate people with disabilities; however, employers are still free not to hire job applicants with disabilities specifically because of their condition. Indeed, disabled people are almost entirely absent from the labour market. There are 12 Saudi-owned or part-Saudi-owned banks in KSA and two managers from each of these were interviewed, making a total of 24. The interviews aimed to investigate empirically the understanding of managers in the banking sector in KSA of diversity management, including disability DM, in the banking sector. The interview data were analysed using thematic analysis. Two interviewees stated that banks used the employment of people with disabilities to enhance their corporate image, while five expressed the opinion that disabled employees could contribute to the bank provided they did not have to deal with customers face-to-face. Nine of the interviewees perceived that disabled employees could be of value to the bank for their own sake, not only in ‘behind the scenes’ roles. Another two interviewees mentioned that employing disabled people could be part of the bank’s community service programme and one thought it would be part of the bank’s Saudisation efforts. The remaining five interviewees did not know how disabled people could contribute to the bank. The findings show that disability DM in the banking sector in KSA is a relatively new concept, and is not yet well understood. In the light of the findings, in order to achieve the purpose of the paper, the following suggestions were made for the enhancement of disability DM in the banking sector in KSA. A change in attitudes towards disabled people is necessary. Such a change in the workplace can only be achieved if a top-down approach is taken to the integration of disabled people. Hence, it is suggested that management and employees follow a course in disability awareness. Further, a diversity officer in the HR department could enhance the integration of disabled people into the banking workforce. It is also suggested that greater government support is required through closely monitored and enforced anti-discrimination legislation. Moreover, flexible working arrangements such as part-time work would facilitate the employment of disabled people and benefit other groups of employees.

Keywords: Banking, Disability, diversity management, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

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