Bridge to the top

bridge to the top Bridge to the top

Yesterday I chaired the ‘bridge to the top’  meeting organised by and at De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek lawyers in cooperation with the Council for the Judiciary and the Public Prosecution Service. 200 visitors were present, both juridical professionals and a great diversity of students from different universities.

It is very good to see how succesful diversity initiatives can be. One of the reasons for success was the fact that not the cultural background of the visitors was in the center of everybody’s attention, but the career opportunities of the students. Some thought their cultural background would make it more difficult to get entrance into big, important organisations, others thought it would make no difference and others again saw it as an opportunity (‘we are cultural pioneers’).

During this meeting, mutual perceptions were tested and maybe changed, perceptions about:

  • the car a judge would drive in
  • the identity of students, professionals seeing them as ‘diverse’ while they see themselves as ‘normal’
  • the uncertainty of ‘belonging’ (being part of the group and being valued) shared by all and not just by students or professionals who are ‘different’
  • the identity of professionals, students finding out that prosecutors are not just ‘grey men doing a grey job’

The meeting matched students with professionals. During the coming months they will meet again on a one-to-one basis to learn more and maybe find common career paths in the future: ‘bridge to the top’ is a great initiative!

Other blogs you may like:
Social skills of Gen Y
Social safety at work for gays and lesbians
High gifted people at work

Business case for diversity?

business case Business case for diversity

Hereby a case from chapter 1 of my book, describing managers’ struggle to see diversity as a business case:
I do have a Moroccan secretary myself, the business manager said to the project leader of diversity. They had an appointment to talk about the development of a diversity vision for the organisation. It had been quite difficult for the project leader to get this appointment as the business manager was very busy. Of course the top of the organisation wanted to have a clear vision regarding diversity, but they also wanted the business manager to meet his targets. Thus the business manager had cancelled the appointment already twice due to other priorities. Now that they finally sat together, the conversation was complicated. Instead of talking diversity and strategic development for this business managers part of the organisation that employed hundreds of people, the business manager kept talking about his personal experiences and contacts with migrants. The key of the message seemed to be: look, I don’t discriminate, I am open to all kinds of people: I am OK! Only 30 minutes were given to the project leader and that was not enough time for him to (re)turn diversity into a business issue. It was clear that this business manager, responsible for services in a increasingly diverse region of the country, saw no relationship at all between the services his employees worked on for many customers every day and the region becoming more and more diverse. The simple fact that he had to talk to a project leader about a vision regarding diversity meant for him that he felt involved as a person. Therefore he tried to convince the project leader that his  intercultural attitude was OK… The implicit assumption was: when the moral attitude of managers and employees is OK, then diversity in the organisation will automatically go well.”

This case is not an exception, it is a symptom of a more common trend that diversity managers and consultants often meet with. Diversity is so far away for business managers that it won’t play any role in their business considerations. Their first association when confronted with diversity initiatives in the organisation lies on a personal, moral level. They usually think that it is an interesting discussion from a societal point of view but it has no relation whatsoever with their aims or results.

> The challenge is to match diversity with what managers see as their ambition. It is of vital importance that (top)managers have a clear and unequivocal vision on diversity policy concerning their business goals. Diversity policy is usually a long term strategy and moreover demands a certain investment. Probably this subject will disappear from the agenda slowly and unnoticed, or it will be overshadowed by other priorities.

Therefore organisations need a clear phrasing of the need for a diversity policy. To develop a vision for your own organisation you must be fully aware what interests are related to diversity initiatives and what reactions, like the one in our case above, will be met with. If you want to start a discussion in your organisation to develop a vision for diversity that can be implemented, you better know what are the trends in the way organisations deal with diversity, including the consequences. That will save you a lot of time, because you can lay your finger more easily on the different assumptions that lie underneath the discussions. Is it about justice or about business interests?

Chapter 1 of my book elaborates these different approaches of diversity worldwide while showing concrete examples from different countries. It gives tools how to handle a case like above and a format for the steps to be taken to turn diversity into a business case. Good luck while reading it and if you have any comments: they are welcome, let me know!

Other interesting blogs for you:
Diversity management – progress?
Diversity in hotels: it exists in Stockholm!
Seba culture and diversity workshops in Malawi
Palmpasen in Jordanië – daar waar je invloed hebt…

Making the difference

making the difference Making the difference

How does a Dutch author sell an English book? Last week I asked this question to quite a few of my linkedin contacts. In november 2007 my book Verschil moet er zijn about the critical success factors for diversity management was published in the Netherlands and almost immediately succesful. Recently it was published in English under the title Making the Difference. You can find it at the publisher’s bookshop and in bookstores like Amazon and Ingram. My experience is that publishers’ efforts to sell a book are limited – and I want my book to sell!

For the Dutch version of the book, it was more easy for us (‘us’ is my company Seba): we helt lunch meetings in different cities, I gave presentations, spoke on BNR, we had many customers interested in the book etc.

Now we are facing a new challenge, since Seba is based in the Netherlands and almost all our customers are Dutch speaking persons. So I asked for creative ways, ideas and advices to promote the new book Making the difference. The amount of tips coming in was heart warming, it is great to experience in practice that linkedin connections are willing to read your message and spent some time on thinking about it! What I liked most was the idea to have the book ‘leaked’ via Wikileaks 🙂

Many others adviced me to start a blog and twitter more so that the world can find out more about my ideas. Thus, by the end of 2010, this new blog is born…

PS A YouTube-film was made about my book Making the Difference. Read about it in this blog.

Read more that might be interesting for you:
It’s nice to be creative
Refugees at work: best practices
Women entrepreneurship: trademission to Turkey (3)
Seba culture and diversity workshops in Malawi