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Successful LGBTIQA+ event examines role of ERGs for more inclusion at NWO/NWO-I

On Wednesday, 22 May 2024, the NWO/NWO-I LGBTIQA+ network organised a meeting to examine the objectives and advantages of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) within NWO. The meeting took place in the auditorium of the NWO office in Utrecht and was streamed online for those who could not be physically present. The interest and attendance of a diverse group of colleagues emphasised the broad support for and commitment to this important theme. The event was a valuable opportunity to share experiences and best practices regarding ERGs and LGBTIQA+ inclusion. The insights and experiences of the three speakers provided an inspiring basis for further steps to advance an inclusive work environment within NWO/NWO-I.

Opening and welcome

Caroline Visser, member of the NWO Executive Board, opened the meeting. She emphasised the importance of these initiatives for NWO/NWO-I as an organisation. “We aim to be an inclusive organisation. We work towards this goal every day, but we’re not there yet.” Advancing diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) is vital for the welfare of all employees and the creation of a productive and innovative work environment. Caroline: “That is why groups and initiatives like these are important. So that we can try to do things better every day and continue to learn.” She commended the efforts of the LGBTIQA+ network and appealed to everybody to actively participate and contribute to the dialogue.

Afterwards, Léon Ouwerkerk, Head HR CWI and LGBTIQA+ coordinator NWO/NWO-I explained the programme to all attendees and briefly described what ERGs actually are: “Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary groups led by employees who strive to realise a diverse and inclusive workplace. They are led and attended by colleagues with shared identity characteristics, such as gender, orientation, ethnicity, religion or physical or mental aspects. ERGs provide support, help with personal and career development, raise awareness, and in so doing, create a safe space where employees can be themselves.”

The LGBTIQA+ network of NWO has existed for longer, but received a restart as an ERG during this event. With that also comes a new name: from now on, the network will be called PRISM. “That name is inspired by the connection that prisms have with the different research areas of the institutes and, of course, with the colours of the rainbow”, said Léon.

Speakers

After Léon’s introduction, three different speakers talked about their experiences with employee networks and the LGBTIQA+ community:

  • Ella Bosch (policy officer NWO-I) talked about how different aspects of her identity led, amongst other things, to the women’s network of the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour of Radboud University, where she did her PhD research. She emphasised which elements she thinks are important in running a successful ERG: a clear mission, target group and activities, cost compensation for volunteers, recognition as a useful resource for the organisation, collaboration with other networks, and a bit of guts too.
  • Julien van Campen (assistant professor at TU Delft) wants to be an LGBTIQA+ role model for students of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. He is chair of True U, the LGBTIQA+ organisation for employees of TU Delft. Julien talked about his experiences with setting up and leading a True U within TU Delft. He shared valuable do’s and don’ts, such as the importance of role models (which he lacked), good visibility, and the involvement of allies.
  • Kshitij Mor (PhD student Utrecht University) talked about the importance of ERGs for (potential) employees from minority groups: there where every person hopes to find a job and where the sphere and working conditions are good, people from the LGBTIQA+ community have an extra concern: will I be accepted for who I am? An ERG can alleviate that concern by, for example, rendering (other) LGBTIQA+ employees visible, providing support and contributing to changes in policy to advance inclusion.

Panel discussion

In the subsequent panel discussion led by Judith Kreukels (NWO-I), the subjects discussed included the role and responsibilities of the ERG as a whole and the members as individuals. Ella Bosch: “It is not our intention that all of the responsibility for inclusion comes to lie with the individuals who are members of the group that the ERG represents. It lies with everybody and, in this case, with the entire organisation.” However, as a member, it is possible for you to come forward and make an important difference, for example, by visibly being yourself. “As an assistant professor, I also find it important to be a role model for both students and employees”, said Julien van Kampen. “Because by doing this I show them it is safe to be yourself.”

He is aware that that is not the same for everybody. “I can imagine that for somebody with a bicultural background, it is or feels less safe to be yourself.” Intersectionality also plays a role here: for example, nobody is just homosexual. In addition, you can also be a woman, and/or neurodivergent or, for that matter, have a bicultural background. That also has an influence on your homosexual identity. “It is important to take into account this convergence of identities when organising ERGs, and in the case of overarching themes (for example, inclusive leadership) jointly organise these with other ERGS”, explained Kshitij Mor.

Conclusion and drinks

The meeting was concluded with a networking session in which participants had the opportunity to informally chat with each other and exchange experiences over a drink. The organisation would like to thank the participants for their valuable contributions and looks forward to more meetings and progress in the area of diversity, equality and inclusion, preferably together with other employee networks.

Read more about the ERG LGBTIQA+ on the NWO-I website. Do you have any questions, would you like to contribute, or would you like to register for an ERG? Please contact Anneke Bloemen (NWO-D) or Judith Kreukels (NWO-I).

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