Hope, courage and pride!

Hope, courage and pride!

2023-09-15 Inclusive LeadershipMay 31, 2024

Despite progress made in recognising social injustice, we are not there yet and there is a role and responsibility for public leaders to take up. Pick it up with courage and realise hope and pride!

Almost a year ago finally came the long-awaited recognition! Recognition for the slavery past and the role the Netherlands played in it. How brave that King Willem Alexander had the guts and courage to offer his apologies. It gave me hope and it made me proud! This was the second time in a short time that a message had been sent from the royal family (Eloise, you go girl!) that injustice would no longer be tolerated. What courage! I love it! It inspired me and made me think about the leadership lessons I could draw from this.

At the same time, I noticed about myself that although I thought it was a special and hopeful event, I did not immediately feel like celebrating it extensively. That while, as an advocate for diversity and inclusiveness, I endorse the gesture and, in my opinion, we cannot do enough to fight this injustice. And yet I was left with that feeling! I didn't understand! I simply did not understand why I did not feel that sense of joy. That intrigued me immensely. Meanwhile, I have finally figured out where that feeling comes from: I simply still see too much injustice in society.

To me, this makes the above recognition of the King contradictory and unconvincing. Public leaders saying that the shackles are broken, while we see that (institutional) injustice is still happening everywhere and too often is still looked away from. Just think of the many reports: unprecedented injustice, discrimination within ministry (ministries?), unsafe work culture, etc. Not only that, we need algorithm lists to prevent our IT systems from being structurally biased. Not to mention the events we are currently seeing in society.

Injustice in society still taints us with the result that too many different forms of microaggressions still take place in organisations, even at high levels. People being skillfully excluded from meetings, powerful women being put down as (black) angry women when they make respectful but divergent arguments, suggestive jokes being made while nobody intervenes, or judgmental comments being made about people who happen to be just different from the person making the comments.

No, we can claim that the chains have been broken but it is precisely these things that make people realise that the sense of superiority that prevailed during slavery is still there every day. Allowing these things, however small, implicitly means participating in chaining people again.

This makes me think: Let's not just say that the chains are broken, but let's actually free people from the chains that may not always be visible yet are there.

This responsibility is especially owed to those in positions of influence. So to our public leaders, CEOs, CFOs, CIO or whatever capital letter your role starts with, I say: keep fighting against injustice every day as well. No matter how small this injustice is.

Think carefully along which moral compass you want to lead and act. For example, ask yourself whether you have not become blind to injustice within your own organisation. Reflect on yourself and dare to admit to yourself what degree of courage you show when you experience injustice or inequality. For example, are you guilty of favouring people who are similar to you. Do you shy away from conversations about diversity and inclusiveness? Do you do enough or just look away when things get tough? Do you really dare to look in the mirror and ask yourself: What am I doing to make the invisible shackles visible? And am I willing to then get rid of these chains once and for all?

That is why I urge: Really throw off those chains! Don't look away. Because it is precisely this courage that leads to a hopeful future where we can be proud of the strength of our diverse society!


Meryem El-Bouyahyaoui
Board member CIO Platform
Diversity and Inclusivity portfolio

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