During the networking part, I shared a conversation with an entrepreneur, female, who worked eight years in London, back to Brussels and motivated to tackle discrimination, Muslim, of African / Moroccan origin, wearing a veil / hijab.
So, I asked “how is corporate Belgium treating you?”
Her answer: “Difficult“.
In essence, she shared that after graduating, got a job directly, she left to London, worked there for eight years and she really enjoyed working in multicultural workplaces where diversity was present everywhere. Inclusiveness also at lunch breaks “there was always something to talk about, it was fun“.
Back to Belgium and the experience is totally different. Working for two companies where diversity is absent, making it really difficult for her to connect and feel inclusion.
She flirted with the idea of going back to London, then decided to stay here. Why? “Because I have my family here and I was fortunate to have a support system, to graduate and have a career. Others without support struggle. It will be a long journey but we need to close the gap and connect people beyond their skin colour, religion, class status, etc.”
She wants to bridge across communities, connecting on the one hand, those who only experienced building relationships with people from minority groups (for example in school) and on the other hand, people from the majority group who grew up isolated from folks with a non-European migration background. The latter get a cultural shock when having to face non-white colleagues in the workplace.
In professional settings in corporate Belgium, she also mentioned how white colleagues and contacts just ‘freeze’ when they see her for the first time; “they have images in their head and don’t know how to react towards me. There is ignorance. And one can reflect on stereotypes only thanks to meeting and exchanging with people who are ‘different’.”
She is working on a mentoring programme. This could be the topic of a future post.
To be continued…
Grégory Luaba Déome
Contributing to more inclusive workplaces
More from me on Ethnostratification and Talent Advancement:
People Analytics when the N is too small
Born in Congo, I am committed to developing more inclusive workplaces. My passion is to enable others to achieve their potential and to advance equity in corporate Brussels.
About eight years ago, a friend told me something like “in my company, they consider me as a high potential. I participated to the annual event of our industry, 500 people – la crème de la crème – and I was the only non-white in the room. A journalist even came to me and discreetly asked “what about upward mobility”? The problem is that in our industry, the majority of the workers at the bottom of the pyramid are non-whites. The higher you go in the hierarchy, the whiter it becomes.”
How to increase racial diversity at the top of corporate Brussels?
What is the diverse makeup or diversity demographics of your team overall? And of your management and board teams?