In the NOM section Diverse Questions, entrepreneurs talk about how they give space to diversity & inclusion in their companies. Those who want more internal dialogue about this can use the conversation cards developed by Jura Bakx and Mette Geerling. With their startup Included Cards they bring serious themes to the attention in an accessible way.
Ever discuss with colleagues whether all straight people are one hundred percent straight? Or how you would respond if a man in a dress came to apply for a job? And are topics such as a gender-neutral restroom or more inclusive language ever on the agenda? For most companies, these kinds of topics are still a bit uncomfortable, but if it were up to Jura and Mette, these topics are also part of an organization striving for diversity & inclusion. That is why they developed conversation cards for the game Included Cards, which is available in variants for schools, companies and the LGBTQ+ community.
'In this game, there are no right or wrong answers,' the entrepreneurs stress. 'It's about people engaging in open conversation and becoming aware of prejudice and stereotyping. Almost all generations in the workplace grew up with the heteronorm and it still prevails in the business world. If diversity is discussed at all, it is usually about m/f ratios - from pay gaps to women's quotas - while that focus on male-female thinking leaves little room for other variations and concerns when dealing with each other. That's why we think it's important to take a closer look at assumptions about what is 'normal' and discover how diverse we are as a society.
Culture and color are not an explicit theme at Included Cards, although that translation can be made within the conversations opened by the game. 'The focus for us is on gender, sexuality and identity,' say Jura (she/they) and Mette (who/they), who are partners in both business and daily life. 'Included Cards came about because in the beginning of our relationship we liked to play question games to get to know each other better. We noticed that many questions were formulated from the standard straight norm. Because we didn't recognize ourselves as much in that, we decided to create a question game ourselves that was indeed LGBTQ+ friendly.'
The game caught on with like-minded people, although the couple realized that they could only really make an impact outside the community. We want to change the traditional pigeonholing, so it is important to talk to each other. Schools and companies play a key role when it comes to a diverse & inclusive society, which is why we also developed conversation cards for these target groups. With this game we hope to contribute to more LGBTQ+ friendliness and acceptance. As long as gay is still used as a swear word and the expectation is that anyone who falls outside the accepted norm will come out of the closet, it makes sense to have open conversations with each other about diversity.'
Why a closet?
In retrospect, Jura thinks it's pretty weird that she had to come out of the closet because she discovered she fell for women. 'People who are straight don't have to explain anything, anyone who feels differently apparently does. Why the closet? Just discussing that can make it a little easier for people who deviate from the heterosexual norm.' That pigeonholing doesn't work anyway, Jura discovered when she fell in love three years ago with the non-binary Mette, who feels both female and male. Although Mette did like being able to eventually place herself. "Because everything is so focused on being male or female, I had no idea what to do with my feelings. Until I saw a movie in which a non-binary character played. Only then did I discover: that is also possible. And I would have liked to know that earlier in my life.
Therefore, what is especially "out of the closet" for both entrepreneurs are everyone's personal feelings about these important life themes. Even in the workplace. The couple understands that sexuality in particular is a somewhat uncomfortable subject at companies, although the developments around Me Too clearly show how much can grow awry as long as there are taboos. 'A safe work environment requires openness,' Jura and Mette believe. 'How do people experience sexual jokes? What about unwritten rules in behavior and dress at work? Our question game is full of openings for conversation and the more often we talk about these kinds of topics, the more visible the diversity among people becomes and also the easier we learn to deal with it.'
Questions are free
The Included Cards game contains both statements and questions and invites sharing, discussion and reflection. The cards are suitable for a good conversation over coffee or working lunch, but can also be used in a team meeting around diversity & inclusion. Moreover, Jura and Mette can be booked for an Included workshop. With their open and enthusiastic attitude they easily break the ice. 'For us there are no taboos anymore,' laughs the couple. We can explain everything about LGBTQ+ and we dare to ask questions. The condition for asking and talking freely is a safe setting, plus the willingness to listen openly to each other's answers. Then the best conversations and openings for more for diversity & inclusion arise.'
Included Cards was in the finals of the Frisian student startup competition Enterprijs this year, where Klaas Kooistra (he/he) from the FOM was on the jury. He was touched by Jura and Mette's story. 'Suddenly I realized how much my image of society was also shaped by the heteronorm,' says the investment manager, who is married with a wife and has two children.
He has already played the game several times with colleagues from FOM and NOM, and now the FOM team regularly wears a hoodie bearing the Included logo. 'That too is an approachable way to get into conversation with others about diversity and inclusion,' Klaas notes. 'Changes don't come overnight. It starts with getting you thinking and talking things through with each other. And then the Included conversation cards are a great tool.'