Ergin Özdemir is a social entrepreneur, diversity advocate, and one of Sweden’s foremost public speakers. His approach to increasing diversity literacy is two-pronged. By working with leaders, employers, and institutions, he increases their diversity IQ so they can build, preserve, and harness the power of diverse teams. At the same, Ergin helps individuals learn how to use their diversity to their advantage when entering the workforce.
Since moving to Sweden from Turkey in 1993, Ergin, a self-described “love immigrant”, has been consumed by questions of diversity and integration. His own experience with a system that makes it unintentionally “almost impossible for an immigrant with or without an education to integrate into Swedish society” compelled him to begin sharing the “perspective from our side”. Ergin re-trained in IT and finally got his first break in a Swedish workplace where he quickly worked up to management roles. This convinced him of the importance of enabling others to get a chance to show what they can do as well.
As luck would have it, Ergin’s definition of diversity was stretched further when his son, Hĺkan, was diagnosed with autism 18 years ago. Since then, Ergin has worked tirelessly towards creating dignified opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds to not only become part of, but also fundamentally transform workplaces. So far he has initiated around 50 internships in Sweden, made it possible for a number of students in Turkey to pursue tertiary education through scholarships, and founded the Diversity Achievement of the year.
Through his presentations and workshops, Ergin shows how having a son with autism has enabled him to become a calmer, more focused, better planned, and paradoxically more spontaneous person, with those benefits expanding far beyond his personal life. Backed by countless real-life examples and some serious research, Ergin has been able to show that rather than a burden, diversity in all its senses offers a competitive edge for every organisation. All that is required is that we widen our view of where our society’s superpowers reside.