Diversity and Inclusion in the Twente high-tech world were key topics during an event organised by Saxion with partners from the Workplace Pride Foundation. In a packed central hall, speakers from the world of education and business shared their experiences of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Last Tuesday at the Tech@Workplace Pride Event at our university, Anka Mulder, chairperson of Saxion executive board, opened the proceedings with the story of the time she left TU Delft when she received a postcard from an employee with the message that acceptance and support of LGBTers by management at the university in Delft was pretty good. “But the way it is here in Delft, is definitely not the same as it is elsewhere,” the gay colleague wrote to her.
For many professionals in the technical sector, it is not easy to take or be given the space you need when it comes to openness and equal opportunities for all. Anka Mulder has brought her Delft principles to the East of the country: “Here at Saxion, it is not about your gender or sexual orientation, but about who you are as a person, your talents and potential. We want everyone, employees and students, to feel happy here; to feel at home,” she said ushering in the event.
Those who can be themselves in the workplace do not have to waste energy 'surviving', but instead can develop as employees and actually provide the organisation with all that they have to offer, added Workplace Pride director David Pollard. In an impassioned plea for equal opportunities for men and women in academia, professor Ingrid Molema from RUG/UMCG highlighted the difficulties facing women in trying to obtain higher positions. “We lose a lot of smart women after they graduate. They must literally struggle to the top, along a path full of opposition, while many men almost automatically end up in higher academic positions,” Molema said. Thanks to the efforts of a small but active academic women's network, the deadlock has been broken to an extent in Groningen with the appointment of Cisca Wijmenga as the first female rector magnificus since 1614.
Janarthanan Sundaram, director of Enschede ICT company Bright Access, stressed how important it is to look further than the end of our nose when it comes to filling vacancies. “In Twente, people say they have problems filling vacancies, but there is actually another problem: we cling to what people have to offer based on their CV and are not willing to look further. Consciously or unconsciously, we choose people who look like us, talk like us and come from the same social and cultural network. We are missing out on a lot of talent by doing so.”
Saxion is the first University of Applied Sciencesin the Netherlands to organise a Workplace Pride event. Employees Marco Strijks, Cecille Plomp and Mark Schrooten were asked by the Executive Board and HRM to bring the event to Saxion. “Three years ago TU Delft took the leading role; last year TU Eindhoven; and now it was Saxion's turn,” says Marco Strijks.