• Diversity

Dina Boonstra: "We too have a way to go"

Dina Boonstra 2021 01 Dina Boonstra

Something is gaining momentum. Very slowly, but very surely, diversity and inclusion are creeping up the ladder of consciousness. Even within NOM. An interim review.

You don't get ingrained habits, unconscious manners and ingrained prejudices out of people just like that. But: when it comes to diversity and inclusion, you have to do everything you can. That is the opinion of NOM director Dina Boonstra, who realizes that her organization still has a long way to go.

NOM conforms with heart and soul to TechLeap's goals, which include promoting the number of investments in a diverse target group. ''It is shocking to see how little of the total investment money in the Netherlands goes to startups that are not white and or women. Of course we have to do something about that. For the health of society, but also because we are convinced that we are missing opportunities because we simply don't have many promising startups in the picture.''

It's a challenge with a capital U. ''What can we do? Keep hammering on about the pitfalls, but most of all the benefits of diversity. This is one of those topics that must not disappear from the agenda. It is not a problem that you just solve, put a check mark on, and move on. We know that. You have to change habits, the culture, processes. That's tricky, it takes time.''

Other cultures difficult to bring in

Some goals are easier to achieve than others. That one-third of investment managers should be women has long been achieved within NOM, for example. Two of the five members of the Supervisory Board are women. Also nice. Young people have been recruited to get more age diversity. Good steps on a long road.

''More difficult is bringing in other cultures, it turns out. We employ a few people from other backgrounds, but would love to have more. Apparently we have not yet found the right way to find them. Or the organization is not yet sufficiently set up. So we need to talk about it, especially with the people themselves. Listening to their wishes and needs. Being creative and finding new entrances. And that's what we do.''

What can the director himself do? ,,Encourage that we organize round tables, that there are webinars, a booklet, meetings. All to make and keep the subject important, but also to learn from it ourselves. We all suffer from blinders, in a sense. So you have to be open to tough questions and good ideas, from as wide an audience as possible. I am very happy with the active club within NOM that continuously draws attention to this subject. It has to.''

In her own career, she noticed how her own contribution to team diversity turned out positively. She wants to pass this on to her colleagues in the MT. She sees it as her role to create a challenging, inspiring and safe working environment for everyone. A diverse team starts with an inclusive leader. I think it's my job to always show the added value.''

For Dina Boonstra, the personal commitment is also and especially in tapping into new networks, in asking for advice, in trying to approach things from different angles. ,,We are always looking for promising startups that we can help move forward. But the proportion of white males is far too high. So we have to look for the talents in a different way. For example, I have asked around in the soccer world. Successful former pros sometimes invest in young companies, and these are usually entrepreneurs we don't have on our radar.''

The great benefits of diversity

Many start-up entrepreneurs do not naturally find NOM's funding options. So the investment managers themselves have to go out and investigate other recruitment channels, Dina Boonstra believes. ,,Via the national university, for example, I maintain contact with a refugee organization of students. Just to see if there is entrepreneurial talent that we do not yet know and can give a helping hand.''

Changing a culture is quite difficult. To get it done, you have to set sharp goals and regularly check whether everyone is still on the right track. So measure it. ,,It is in our annual plan. That is good. We check whether we have done what we promised. Internally, we have goals we want to achieve, but we go further. I think we have a responsibility to also get the companies we invest in on board. How do they view diversity and inclusion. How far along are they, can we help them? But also: if they don't want to, then we are not the right partner.''

A set of good examples. That is essentially NOM's main argument for getting on the D&I road internally and externally. ,,It makes sense that a diverse company in which people feel at home performs better. When everyone feels heard and in their place, the sense of happiness rises and so does productivity. Creativity is greatly enhanced because employees dare to say what they think. The customer base expands when the sales team is more diverse. And so there are many more benefits.''

NOM is on its way, the horizon is still a long way off. ,,It is important not to doze off, not to be quickly satisfied. We still have to go out and talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion. And we have to keep changing ourselves. You can only call others to account if you set a good example yourself.''

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