Miscellaneous questions
  • Diversity

Various questions for Cissy Gressmann

Scientific research shows that results improve in a diverse and inclusive organizational culture. What measures are companies taking to promote diversity & inclusiveness in their organizations? And does this affect leadership style? We are curious if and how entrepreneurs are picking up on this.

Diverse vragen aan Cissy GressmanCissy Gressmann
Project coordinator of Bittersweet Heritage, artist and creative entrepreneur

Bittersweet Heritage
Cultural event in which over forty institutions from the city and province pay attention to Groningen's slavery past. A mix of exhibitions, lectures, routes, performances and events.

What do diversity and inclusion mean to you?

'That differences are allowed to exist. No human being is equal, but we are equal. The challenge is to learn to work with diversity by being inclusive as organizations. And to me that means giving everyone a chance to have a say and taking every input seriously.'

Does that succeed at Bittersweet Heritage?

'Working with more than 40 partners is an intensive process. All those different organizations and interests require openness and dialogue. Especially with this theme. Bittersweet Heritage challenges not only the public in awareness, but also the parties involved themselves. How do the traces of the past affect the present? By delving into that, participating organizations discover that they are sometimes less diverse and inclusive than they thought. But the good thing is that they have all opened the door and through this event are also thinking about how they themselves can contribute to change in this area.'

What approach do you take as a coordinator?

'Above all, ask questions and connect. When people get to know each other, they open up more easily to other perspectives. Everyone is in the process from their own background, which is why it is necessary to think beyond the ego and empathize. In this project, I learn a lot about the dynamics within and between organizations. I also notice the differences in perception between people who themselves have the slavery past in their roots and those who only know it from the books. There are many good intentions, but also blind spots. That's when I open my mouth. Shaking things up is sometimes necessary and abrasion is okay, as long as we stay away from polarization. In that process, the nine-member steering committee forms a solid backbone, thanks in part to its diverse composition.

How do you organize diversity in this project?

'By involving people as broadly as possible. The theme of Bittersweet Heritage calls for attention to origin and color, but ultimately it is about diversity of perspectives. So we focus not only on different cultures, but also, for example, on combining various areas of expertise and industries. There are bubbles everywhere; I'm in them myself, from the museum bubble to the artist bubble. The challenge is to realize that and to be curious about other bubbles and networks so that you can connect with each other. Don't talk about each other, but with each other. So ask. And then also dare to listen to what someone has to say.'

Is that also what you want to pass along to entrepreneurs?

'Yes, because you can think for yourself that you are very diverse and inclusive as a company, but is that really the case? Are you looking broadly enough? And are you really listening? These questions are relevant to all forms in which people work together, because even the most colorful companies do not all think inclusively. Because many (pre)judgments are ingrained at a subconscious level, it can be difficult to put your finger on the sore spot. That is why it is important for companies that take this issue seriously to create a safe space for dialogue. So that even those with different views, experiences and perspectives feel invited to speak up. Even if that is uncomfortable or confrontational.'

To whom do you pass the baton on this topic?

'Charlotte Wekker. She teaches social studies at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences and works as a researcher and consultant in the field of equal opportunity.'

Toolkit D&I
Toolkit D&I

In this white paper you will learn:

  • How do you arrange more diversity and inclusion?
  • Top 5 tools and tips you can start using tomorrow
  • Special tips for entrepreneurs, investors, ecosystem developers, knowledge institutions and government

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