International Women’s Day 2020: taking the next step in diversity and inclusion

Team RGF Staffing IWD 2020
March 8 2020 marks International Women’s Day. A day to take a stand for a more diverse and inclusive workplace, and to take an honest look at how we can make an even more meaningful contribution towards a world in which every individual’s talent and perspective is respected and appreciated. What does it take to be a truly diverse and inclusive organization, for women and all other groups in society?

At RGF Staffing, we are determined to fully participate in this year’s International Women’s Day activities. It’s been on the radar of our operating companies for months, and many activities have been scheduled, across four continents. “It’s an excellent initiative, because it keeps us aware of the importance of gender equality in all kinds of professional and personal settings”, says Katty Scheerlinck, Country Director USG People Belgium. “Women have stood up for years to invest in equal rights all over the world, as business leaders, colleagues, mothers, wives…” And that fight is not over yet, she adds. “I’m looking forward to the day we no longer need an International Women’s Day, since that would mean that women have at last attained equal rights and opportunities all over the world.”

Of course, changing the world starts with changing yourself. RGF Staffing has built a track record in diversity and inclusiveness that we can be proud of. For example, last year three of our female leaders were included in SIA’s Global 150 Power Women in Staffing list, and RGF Staffing company Peoplebank was named Employer of Choice for Gender Equality for the 7th consecutive year. In the Netherlands, Unique delivered a focused effort to highlight and prevent unconscious bias in recruitment by its participation in the recent ‘Week of the Anonymous CV’.”

International Women's Day 2020 Katty Scheerlinck, Country Director USG People Belgium

Katty Scheerlinck

“Create and shape your own career”

Katty: “I can confirm that I have always been given plenty of opportunities to develop and grow as a colleague and leader. And that’s a message I want to pass on to all of my female colleagues. That it’s possible to create and shape your own career. It does require hard work, flexibility. You need to make yourself available and invest personally in both the people around you and the business, trying to find the right balance between work and family life.”

At the same time, gender equality cannot be seen as separate from a much wider ambition: to build a world and workplace which celebrates diversity in all its forms. It’s about not just tolerating but actively promoting and appreciating differences in gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, religious beliefs, age etc. “It’s those differences which enable us as a company to address business challenges in effective and creative ways”, says Emma Northway, Global HR Director RGF Staffing. “And yet we need to be aware that this is an ongoing concern, for every single company, including ours. No matter how well we feel we’re doing, this is no time to rest on our laurels, or to compare ourselves to others. We should use this day to reflect on how we can raise the bar for ourselves.”

International Women's Day 2020 - Emma Northway

Emma Northway

One important step RGF Staffing has already taken is by providing its international, multicultural workforce with a clear set of guiding principles. These include the principle that we ‘celebrate diversity and inclusion’, that we want to ‘close the opportunity gap’ and that we ‘respect human rights’ at all times. And these principles are meant to come to life in everyday practice. “Their purpose is to give each individual business and employee practical support and specific guidelines, to ensure that diversity and inclusion is fully integrated into every single business strategy and activity”, says Rob Zandbergen, CEO RGF Staffing. 

What really determines how inclusive we are, is our company culture

And of course that’s where the real difference is made, emphasizes Rob Zandbergen. “Clear guidelines are important, but what really determines how inclusive we are, is our company culture. It’s the mentality and personal convictions of the thousands of RGF Staffing professionals.” Emma Northway agrees: “Some organizations see inclusion as a ‘tick box’ exercise, they know they have to act upon inclusion but don't necessarily execute it with the right motivations. Therefore, the experience for colleagues and potential colleagues isn't as well thought-out as it could be. When an organization truly adopts the idea behind inclusion, we not only have a positive impact on the world and those around us, but at the same time can create a work environment that respects, values, celebrates and makes the most of peoples individual differences.”

International Women's Day 2020 Rob Zandbergen CEO RGF Staffing

Rob Zandbergen

In other words, the fight to overcome (unconscious) bias, prejudice and discrimination starts with a strong, heartfelt appreciation of the benefits of a more diverse environment. “And that’s not just something that lives in people’s minds, it’s an attitude that communicates itself to others, that other people will pick up on.” How? “It creates an atmosphere in which people sense that they are free to express their opinions and ideas, regardless of their background. And that their contributions are welcomed and appreciated by colleagues.” To nurture this company culture, RGF Staffing promotes the idea of ‘allyship’. “That describes the commitment that we feel towards each other, to support each other in achieving success. It also includes making your colleagues feel free to express different viewpoints.”

Building a better world needn’t be hard

Rob Zandbergen is convinced that this approach not only creates a happier, more welcoming working environment, but also benefits the company. “When we support one another, we thrive together. And when we thrive, we build better teams, products and companies.” Katty Scheerlinck agrees: “That’s why at USG People Belgium we make a conscious effort to create a healthy mix of people. When considering people for promotion and by encouraging job mobility, the key drivers are people’s competence, skills and motivation, but we also want to create a sound group of people. I am convinced that a diverse group benefits from the different point of views and more balanced decision-making.”

And that is a goal worth keeping in mind as we celebrate International Women’s Day today, concludes Rob Zandbergen. “What I like about it, is that it boils our company success down to the bare essentials: the thousands of choices that our employees make every single day. When you talk about creating a diverse, inclusive workplace, it may sound like a grand scheme. But as Nelson Mandela famously said, building a better world needn’t be hard. He said: ‘If you see something good, give a compliment. If you see something wrong, offer your help.’”