Blog: Your responsibility as a CIO reaches beyond IT!

Blog: Your responsibility as a CIO reaches beyond IT!


As a CIO/IT director you spend most of your time on the digital transition of your company or organization. Legacy must be addressed, technical debt must be reduced, and innovations must be leveraged and woven into the existing application landscape to make it as robust, reliable and agile as possible.

Many of us are working on the digital transition for more than 40 hours a week and the room for improvements seems endless.  Some colleagues think that it is the CIO's sole responsibility to ensure that the entire organization is cyber resilient. Anno 2023, there are still organizations that see information management as a cost centre, even though it will be hard to come up with a primary process that can flow without using some form of IT. To make things worse, you have too few employees with the right knowledge and skills to do all this work. Your agenda is a work of art of overlapping colored time blocks, so you certainly aren't going to bother with buzzwords like 'diversity' and 'inclusion' (D&I). Let HR deal with that. And to you everyone is equal anyways, as long as he/she/they does the job! So you will pass on a poll in the CIO app, because you will respond when something important comes up again.

People make organisations
That's where something goes wrong. People make organizations. People have different backgrounds, talents and motivations. To deliver the right products and services to a wide range of customers in rapidly developing, often global, markets it is important to create those products and services with a diverse group of employees. They can help make the right choices and avoid giant fails. In addition, in a labour market with severe shortages, it is even more important to appeal to the broadest possible group of potential employees and to take good care of the people already working for you. So it is necessary to pay attention to the diversity of your workforce and have an open culture within the organization, so that everyone feels like they belong. Therefore, as a CIO, you should be very involved in increasing diversity, equality and inclusion in your organisation.

It starts with being aware of the fact that you are in the position to change something on this issue. You are at the top of (part of) the organizational pyramid and the tone at the top trickles down to the rest of the club. ''Culture eats strategy for breakfast'' (Peter Drucker), so if the work culture is not right, that IV strategy you are working on with your team won't come to life either. In these times of having to fight for talent, it is hard enough to find people who want to come and work for you and it is another challenge to keep them interested and committed for a few years. Paying attention to D&I can help with the latter issue, because by taking deliberate actions on these matters, you show employees that you stand out as an employer and actively contribute to tolerance and resilience in our society.

What can you do?
At the Social Insurance Bank, a big step towards inclusion and equality was already taken in the previous collective agreement by creating 'holiday leave'. Employees are no longer standard/mandatory off from work on Christian holidays such as Easter Monday and Pentecost, but everyone is allowed to specifically choose to take off time for the holidays they actually want to celebrate. At Schiphol Group, two out of ten trainees explicitly indicated that they chose Schiphol's offer over other ones, because of its diversity policy. Within CIO Platform Nederland, a new CIO Committee (CC) has started that focuses entirely on D&I. Hopefully, this can be an example for other organizations with a diverse population that consider inclusion and equality important values. 

If the topic of diversity, equality and inclusion does not present challenges to you personally or to your inner circle, that doesn’t mean it is something that shouldn’t matter to you. This is a societal theme that also causes suboptimalism within your organization. Don't be naive: acknowledge it, recognise it and act accordingly!

Britt van den Berg
Chair CIO Committee Diversity & Inclusion CIO Platform Nederland

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