Diversity is essential to business survival
  • Diversity

Diversity is essential to business survival

In our pursuit of greater diversity and equal opportunity in business, we still have a long way to go. Despite numerous studies showing that mixed teams perform better, there is still too little focus on diversity. This is also true in the world of startups and funders. For example, over the past twelve years, some ninety percent of the growth money spent in the Netherlands has gone to startups with only men at the helm. Fundright wants to improve that situation, NOM wants to help increase equality of opportunity, not only among women, but also other groups that receive too little attention.

She runs into it less and less, those typical prejudices about women. ''The more people know me from articles and top lists, the less I notice it.'' But Wies van 't Slot, owner of online employment agency 365Werk in Groningen, knows there is still a long way to go. ''Paving the way takes time, but it is very important so that it becomes normal that women, people of a different origin or culture, orientation or whatever, are also valued by banks, investors, other entrepreneurs, everyone.''

Indeed, that is far from the case now, she says. ,,That has a lot to do with culture. When I started making a career, I was regularly asked: boy, how do you do that with the children? Typical of a question men never ask. I felt guilty for all the misunderstanding - especially in my private contacts - that I encountered when I had to spend the night in a hotel for work. You have to be able to cope with that, even if you know you have it all sorted out at home. Because I persevered, I can now reap the benefits.''

Women themselves must want to

There are still far too few of them, women who choose that path. Too difficult? Well, you have to start somewhere. If you really want to, you can do it. But to be honest, women often lack that real will. They just as easily go along with the habit that the husband is making a career and that someone has to be at home more.

Now that the kids are a little bigger, those pesky questions quiet down. ,,Also since I've been popping up in one of those lists of most successful business women for a few years. Very strange. That changed overnight the way I was approached, when essentially nothing was different. Like: surely that girl can do something apparently.''

Incidentally, being a woman also has great advantages in the business world, she notes. ,,That has everything to do with scarcity. You just stand out more. People remember one of my lectures better than one of the men. It's the same at networking meetings. You also get asked for great positions and challenges a little faster, such as directorships. That also happens, because there is an effort to achieve diversity on boards. And if you are looking for a woman, the pool is not that big.

Playing game according to men's rules

Conversations with investors she barely has, except with the two men who believed in her and 365Werk from the very beginning. ,,That was different. They absolutely wanted me to do it. I do have regular meetings with banks. That also changes over time. For the people at the bank, I noticed that sitting around the table with a woman really took some getting used to. When the conversation became awkward and they apparently thought I was too businesslike, they called one of my investors behind my back. As if I probably couldn't decide something like that on my own. Now I can laugh about that, and so can he. But actually it's embarrassing of course.''

Áf we want to change this, it has to come from within, she believes. I think kicking against the way banks and investors work is nonsensical. You have to play the game according to the rules that are in place. And yes, they were devised by men, but so be it. It's a matter of time. As long as more women get a chance to raise investment money that way, it's good. Only when there is more diversity on the side of those investors as well, can the rules change.''

Wies van 't Slot realizes how difficult it can sometimes be for women, and also for other groups that do not fit into the average picture. On the other hand, she also knows how important diversity in the workplace is precisely. ,,Essential to survive in this fast-paced world. Your decisions get better, you don't stick to dead ends for as long. You cultivate understanding, adaptability, the crux of being able to grow your business in the long run.''

Cultivate the differences

Incorporating diversity has everything to do with the prevailing culture in a company. ''And vice versa. It's a bit of a chicken-and-egg story. You have to be open to diversity, and diversity creates more openness. That's something I think a lot of big corporates get stuck on. At lower levels it's often very diverse there, but the higher you get, the more white and male it becomes. The atmosphere is different there. It only changes once a certain section is no longer male and white.''

In her own company, she tries hard to get the workforce as diverse as possible. ,,That's not easy, I'll be honest. Our programmers are all men, the employees who have a lot of contact with customers and temps are mostly women. I would like to see that change, but it is difficult to find the people who will make that step first. I always do hammer home in my HR policy that differences matter. You should always avoid picking people who look like you, or who you like. It's not about that. It's about making sure your team is diverse, so that you bring together as many different qualities as possible. That doesn't happen automatically, especially those first few. You have to constantly keep your eye on it.''

Whitepaper Impact of Investors
The impact of investors on your business

In this white paper you will learn:

  • What you have to deal with when you start working with investors
  • Differences and similarities between bank funding, subordinated loan and equity capital
  • In what ways NOM as an investor can help you

    Please note that this whitepaper is only available in Dutch at the moment. We are in the process of translating this whitepaper.