Miscellaneous questions
  • Diversity

Various questions for Charlotte Wekker

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 Charlotte WekkerCharlotte Wekker

Charlotte Wekker is a trainer, coach and teacher in complex innovations within the social domain and a researcher in the field of equal opportunities. She is affiliated with the Hanzehogeschool and as a PhD student at the University of Groningen.




How do you view diversity and inclusion at Hanze University?

'Within Hanze University, the motto is 'movement through dialogue' when it comes to promoting equal opportunities. I am therefore an informal advisor, not a manager or official. We have to talk to each other and shape it together, where everyone can feel ownership of the process. If there is a single point of contact, there is a good chance that people will refer to the official who has it in his or her remit, instead of getting to work themselves or together. It is precisely when you start talking to each other, you also explore each other's intrinsic motivation, you start to understand each other better and you also find out more quickly where the enrichment is or how diversity and inclusion can also serve your interests. So we are really committed to a culture change where students and staff form a clear vision and then see what they can do from that vision.'

How do you organize this dialogue?

The Executive Board has formed a Diversity & Inclusion Working Group with faculty and staff members from the Hanze University. We advise the Executive Board and the Schools. From that working group, we entered into discussions with all parts of Hanze University. What is going on? What ideas are already there? Deans of the college are actively challenged to think about this, in the annual plans of all departments, according to the Strategic Plan for the coming years of Hanze University, something must be included about diversity and inclusion. We have since seen that happen. We are also working with teacher ambassadors. We need a lot of shoulders to carry this with 30,000 students and 3,000 employees. So it really is an ongoing process of watching, listening, talking and doing. And emphatically from an interactionist point of view, we are looking at the whole spectrum. Not only color is important, but also, for example, gender, sexual orientation, health and socioeconomic conditions. Our slogan is 'Share your talent, move the world' Then we also have to recognize that not everyone has the same opportunities to do so. That we are still thinking too much from the picture about 'the normal student' once painted by earlier generations.

What do you mean by "the picture about the normal student"?

'One of the issues that I am talking a lot about within the Hanze University, but also outside, is our notion of what quality is. This has traditionally been defined by the view of white, cis-hetero, middle-class men. Then I like to explore whether this is actually true and whether we can start looking at it differently, at that quality. So it's also about realizing that there are different people and starting to look at it differently. Because, especially in a professional setting, it is more than normal that people want to monitor quality, but that goes much better if you take a good look at what that quality is according to you. Looking differently, in other words. And daring to acknowledge that we really are all full of prejudices.'

Do you still encounter a lot of resistance when you have these conversations?

'I think it is important in this dialogue to be able to switch perspectives, to pay attention to where someone is coming from in terms of personal history and to enter into the conversation with empathy. Fortunately, most people are not in full resistance, they just don't have a good idea of where they stand or how things are. It is striking, however, that Dutch people quickly shoot into resistance when the conversation turns to color and racism. So striking that I am currently doing research on it. Why do people feel attacked so quickly? We often talk about equal treatment for people who are equal and the Dutch are quick to say that they are colorblind, but in doing so they ignore the fact that not everyone is equal. And that we are full of prejudices and generalizations that are therefore very difficult to name. It is a kind of taboo subject. That complicates the dialogue.

Will we succeed in breaking through this resistance?

'It makes sense somewhere that this resistance is there, or I prefer to speak of concerns and being stuck in power structures. We are stuck with a history from which 400 years of colonialism produced our culture and norm bearers. Power has been invested from there and now we want to re-structure it, so to speak. That feels unsafe. If we also acknowledge that piece, and I then ask: but what do we need in order to arrive at something common, then we get into more common ground and we can move forward. We also need to recognize that we are in an awareness phase that precedes eventual change. We need to give each other time and space to recapture and reclaim ourselves in order to build an anti-racist vision. Reciprocity is only possible if everyone feels equally empowered. If we articulate well what we feel and if we listen very carefully to each other, we will take the right steps toward greater inclusion, toward places where everyone can feel at home."

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.