'People only perform at their best when they feel they are respected'

Working on diversity and inclusion

Isabel Hoving is Leiden University's first Diversity Officer. In fact, she was the first Diversity Officer at a Dutch university. After almost two years of working on diversity and inclusion, this is what she has to say.

Why is diversity and inclusion such an important issue for the university?

“Almost all the major international universities have adopted a diversity and inclusion policy, because they know that in an inclusive academic community scholars will perform better, students will perform better, the research will be better and the teaching will be better. People only perform at their best when they feel they are being respected and if they don’t have to hide who they are.”

What are the results of the work you have been doing as Diversity Officer?

“For the last two years we have been preparing the ground to get everyone involved. A diversity and inclusion policy can only be successful when you engage not just the leadership, but also the faculties and the students. This year all the faculties have created, or are currently working on, their own diversity and inclusion action plan. We have appointed seven diversity coordinators, one for each faculty, who are responsible for coordinating the action plan. The Science Faculty is one of our most enthusiastic and active diversity champions: they have already succeeded in appointing more female professors and have also created a women’s network. Other milestones include our collaborations and the sharing of good practices with national and international universities, for example practices that improve the support given to students with a migrant background, and the fact that we raised the Rainbow flag at different university buildings to celebrate Coming Out Day.”

What about the next two years?

“We will of course continue with the different measures and actions we have already implemented such as organising training courses for intercultural teaching and workshops about the need to take diversity, including gender diversity, into account in research. We also want to improve the whole system of measuring and monitoring so we can keep better track of the results and determine whether we are succeeding in making people feel included. A very important notion in this process is the concept of implicit bias. We need to be aware of the effects of implicit bias on our decision-making processes and start to improve our procedures and behaviour accordingly.”