The state of diversity challenge in corporate Brussels

What is the state of diversity challenge and diagnostic in corporate Brussels? 

Yesterday, I attended a workshop “So-Divercity” organised by Bruxeo. Bruxeo is a federation of employers in Brussels, active in the not-for-profit sector.

The workshop was about having participants exchange on different tools for diversity and inclusion diagnostic available in Belgium, plus reviewing one tool being crafted by the So-Divercity project team and stakeholders.

It started with debating around questions like

  • What does #diversity mean for your organisation?
  • Why are you investing in this field?
  • Which is your objective?


My goal was to go with an open mind and learn from an industry I am not familiar with, about the experiences, worldviews, challenges, solutions these organisations and professionals in this non-profit sector are dealing with.

Oh by the way, keep in mind that I am biased. Discrimination, inclusion, corporate diversity challenge for me, in my approach equals

  • for profit sector;
  • international, big companies;
  • racism, race talk and origin.

So, yesterday was a good one. I discovered new people, new stories, we shared open, nice conversations.

My 7 key takeaways:

  1. The crowd: We were 19 participants, 15 women and 4 men, 16 Whites and 3 Blacks (for once, I was not the only one in a diversity workshop), I would say 7 aged more than 45 and 12 less than 45, and 1 person declared to be “disable(d)”, she was reading from the lips, without her saying it, I would have never guessed it.
  2. It was refreshing to hear from a Managing Director that inclusion and diversity means equality among all human beings no matter your origin, your degree, etc. The end goal is that everyone can fully participate in society.
  3. A Diversity and Inclusion Consultant shared that the reason to get busy with D&I is to tackle discrimination and to reflect the image of Brussels (as the second most cosmopolitan city in the world), it adds value to organisations but it is not easy, employers can think that it is simple to implement but it can also reveal itself to be a hard challenge.
  4. Diversity and Inclusion across the legal and usual target groups (gender, origin, age, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity / religion, etc) and across corporate ladders from teams at the bottom to the senior management included.
  5. The veil / hijab represents a taboo, a source of tension, stress and discrimination in a lot of organisations in Brussels. This relates to management teams refusing to discuss and implement a clear statement and position. Some of these professionals are active in a grey zone. In the same organisation, some managers hire professionals wearing a veil while others refuse to hire candidates because of their veil.
  6. It was repeated several times that people in senior management positions are White, men, above 50 years old.
  7. I was told there are still big companies, industries in Brussels where they have no clue about gender diversity and feminism. If they still have to act on gender, oh boy, when will they catch up on origin, racial equity and the other target groups in this field?

So, what does “neutrality” mean? And how do you motivate the reasons for not hiring skilled professionals because of their veil?

Two big obstacles and challenges:

  1. Recruiters and recruiting managers who hire people who look like themselves.
  2. People in senior management seats who consider this topic as a problem and not as a solution or opportunity. Therefore, they refuse to engage in by putting it on the agenda or corporate strategy on the contrary of topics such as work-life balance and happiness in the workplace.


Bottom-line for me, between the for and not for-profit sectors, it is the same ballgame with regards to the corporate diversity challenge in Brussels.

How does this article make you feel about the state of inclusion and diversity in corporate Brussels and Belgium?


“Talent has no race”


The author

Grégory Luaba Déome

Contributing to more inclusive workplaces

Follow: About.Me | Twitter @cvs_congo | Blogs: LinkedIn and Talent Has No Race

More from me on Ethnostratification and Talent Advancement:

People Analytics when the N is too small

Multiculturalism in Europe failed?

What makes a great team?

Delivering through diversity

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?


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