05 July 2022
The underlying idea of inclusion is that everyone's voice is heard. Diversity refers to all the ways we differ from one another as individuals. AutoBinck strives to provide a working environment in which everyone is welcome and where everyone can be fully themselves. To that end, diversity and inclusion is a current relevant theme to which ABG devotes ongoing attention and an area in which the Group continuously strives to develop and improve as an employer.
An awareness of every aspect that relates to D&I is helpful when working to achieve a truly inclusive and diverse playing field. One important part of this is learning to let go of your own frame of reference. On 29 June, Marita Bruning visited AutoBinck Group in Utrecht to share a guest lecture on Diversity & Inclusion. Marita is an anthropologist and social worker who has helped a variety of corporate and social institutions manage D&I-related issues. For the past four years, she worked at the ABN AMRO offices on the Zuidas in Amsterdam. Since then, she has gone into business for herself as a D&I trainer and adviser. Despite the wealth of experience she's amassed, part of her is still uneasy about communicating the message of D&I as a white woman. The inspiration session was initiated as part of AutoBinck Group's sustainability programme, GoBetter!, through which we hope to contribute to a better world and ensure we are and remain relevant.
Marita shared an introduction to the principles of Diversity & Inclusion with employees of AutoBinck Group. What exactly does D&I mean, and what examples can we connect to those principles? The eye-opening facts emerged one after another and, at some point, every participant was confronted with their own prejudices – because prejudice is something everyone has.
There's no getting around it: people differ from one another in terms of skin colour, social status, body type, gender, age, location, education level, family background and many other aspects. “But these things don't determine who we are. To a large extent, your first impression of another person is shaped by your own frame of reference. That context includes many stored prejudices and stereotypes. Those, in turn, are based on your past experiences, how and in what kind of environment you were raised, your cultural background, systems within our society, and so on. We use labels to put people in boxes, which eliminates the possibility of equal opportunities. Someone who developed a serious illness at an early age is labelled as ‘occupationally disabled'. Someone who was forced to flee their home country is labelled a ‘refugee’. On top of which, the average person takes more than 100,000 decisions each day, only 10 per cent of which are conscious choices. Those 90,000 unconscious decisions are informed by our individual frames of reference, prejudices and experiences.”
Equality and accessibility also play an important role in issues of Diversity and Inclusion. “The point of equality is making sure that every individual is given an equitable chance to make the most of their life and their talents. After all, the same conditions or advantages will not yield the same results for all individuals.” Marita has examples that clearly illustrate this. “There is more to accessibility than simply having a front entrance that works for wheelchair users. It is also about digital accessibility and providing lactation rooms – and time to use them – for women who have just given birth.” She mentions company uniforms as another example. “Employees who are non-binary yet have to choose between two sets, one for ‘women’ and one for ‘men’, are excluded in advance. Forcing them to dress as either a man or a woman prevents them from being themselves at work.”
Inclusion is also reflected in the words you use; it means taking people with disabilities into account and being open to those who are different than yourself. “It works wonders. In addition to which, focusing on D&I is the right thing to do, and the smartest. And while profit is not the primary goal, it turns out there are also many commercial advantages to broadening your perspective. Companies who focus on D&I have 30% better operating results and demonstrate more innovation. It also helps a company understand its target group, because that group is diverse as well. After all: society itself is diverse. It also makes you attractive as an employer. Younger generations in particular feel it's important to have an inclusive employer. In fact, it can be a make-or-break factor for them in choosing a job.”
Responsibility for the successful implementation of diversity and inclusion on the work floor is shared by everyone, not just those in HR or in the boardroom, Marita concludes. “The plans have to be incorporated into the strategy and philosophy of the organisation, so that everyone can make a difference.”