Camiel Gielkens (CEO) and Marieke Schouten (Director) have an ongoing email conversation about the things they learn in everyday life. Marieke's son noticed that the top clubs of the Dutch national women’s football team were missing from his football picture book. That got her thinking. She asks Camiel if he has any blind spots when it comes to diversity and inclusion?
Photo by Fachry Zella Devandra on Unsplash
Read Camiel and Marieke's second blog here.
Are you familiar with the phenomenon 'Football cards'? They are stickers with well-known football players, provided by a large grocery chain, for kids to collect. My four-year old son is obsessed with it. He has passionately collected and completed his book. And this year, this football book contains something new. In addition to the men's teams including the national selection, the women's national selection is also included. This was the subject of in-depth discussions at our kitchen table. My son wondered where the girls play football, at which club. We said: at the top clubs, just like the men. We opened Google and looked up his favorite player, Victoria Pelova. The answer was: AJAX. My son looked up AJAX in his book..... “Mum, Victoria is not here, why is that?” And then I fell silent.
Because what is the reason for including our national women's team and not the underlying top clubs that these athletes play for? I should ask Brandloyalty (the agency that usually creates such campaigns in the NL). Nevertheless, even I have a blind spot when it comes to, in this case, Inclusion. A four-year-old thinks it is quite normal that women football players should get as much attention as boys. I caught myself stuck in a one-sided view when it comes to football teams. While I consider myself open-minded about inclusion and diversity. Also in our company and in the business world. So to dig into this theme.... How do you view diversity & inclusion? Do you have any blind spots? I am very curious!
It's great that your son has brought us on this subject, he has a keen eye. And yes, I too have quite a few blind spots. A blind spot that has haunted me for a long time is that the right strategy, or the right proposition will also get you the result you want. And that the knowledge and skills you bring to your work is what it’s all about. That is just not the case. Especially in the last twelve months, you can see the importance of resilience and the ability to deal with stress and uncertainty. And if you want to get out of a crisis strongly, you really need your whole organization to be on board. And then you don't want the 'right' answers to come from a few grey gentlemen at the top of the organization.
I have been saying for years that 'culture eats strategy for breakfast', but I have only recently begun to feel what that is really about. Resilience is part of a company’s culture. And it demands that everyone can and wants to participate. To have psychological safety and for everyone to feel really heard and seen. In my coaching practice, I often work with the concept of 'integrative awareness'; being very aware of what is happening around you and what it does to you. That helps enormously to stay calm under pressure and to really show yourself. And that, of course, stimulates that inclusive culture, where you can truly be yourself.
This, of course, means that the top of our organizations must, and will, become much more diverse. This is sometimes hard to realize for a white man like me, but in the end it is the best thing for everyone. And please pay more attention to the women football players. For balance, it would be good if they would get more attention than the boys for a while. So Victoria Pelova; Go Go!
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