Dominique Hermans, Managing Director of Randstad in the Netherlands, does not deny that International Women's Day has had any impact: "The attention and the debate have certainly created the necessary acceleration, but how can you pursue inclusion as an organisation? A conversation about diversity and inclusion, (too) male company cultures, female leadership and strong women.
inclusion as a lever for diversity
"Diversity is not a goal in itself", Dominique says. "I’d much rather talk about inclusion: being open to different people, opinions and perspectives. The more inclusive your company, the less important it is whether you are a man or a woman. The great danger lies in large, homogeneous groups. That can only lead to uniformity. Inclusion can certainly help to make companies diverse."
Embrace all opinions and perspectives and consider them an added value.
That requires a different kind of leadership, however: "More empathy, more vulnerability. Less assuming that you are right, but rather embracing all opinions and perspectives and seeing them as an added value. As a leader, you too are a link in what your team can achieve. You will never be omniscient. You have to allow that vulnerability because otherwise you will get a monoculture where female leadership has no chance at all."
female leadership is authentic leadership
"The core of female leadership?", Dominique wonders. "That is being yourself completely, not trying to conform or try to be someone else. My advice to female leaders: trust that your authentic self will be noticed. You don't have to knock on the table or copy macho behaviour to do that."
do not dismiss empathy
"Most companies have a number fetish. Direct results, that's what counts", says Dominique. "While soft, indirect factors can have a greater impact on the bottom line. Think about customer satisfaction, how colleagues treat each other and how candidates are treated. It's about empathy and dialogue. Those are factors in which you can put a lot more female characteristics."
Fortunately, Dominique sees companies evolving in the right direction: "Companies are increasingly concerned with their purpose, with their core, their raison d'être and their responsibility towards society and the planet."
more attention, more change
"I am convinced that the increasing attention to themes such as the glass ceiling and the gender distribution in top positions has been really useful", concludes Dominique. "This is precisely why a lot has changed in recent years."
I am just not a fan of quotas. Imagine being a man with the right qualities and ambitions these days
"I am just not a fan of concrete quotas. Imagine being a man with the right qualities and ambitions these days. Quotas are fundamentally unfair, perhaps in the same way that women were once treated unfairly. I do not think we should fight fire with fire. Everyone should be treated in a fair way. Someone who is suitable on the basis of ambitions and talents should be given opportunities, irrespective of any label."
making sense is getting sense
Helping people find a meaningful job has been my ultimate motivation for 20 years.
"I have been working for Randstad Group for 20 years now," says Dominique. "I have made a career, but it doesn't feel that way. You can only be a good leader if you are interested in every detail of what you do and of what you add with your work. At Randstad Group, that is fortunately crystal clear: our purpose is to help people find a meaningful job and companies find the right employee, today and tomorrow. And that has been my ultimate driving force for 20 years."
"I believe that it is especially important to develop a career that is meaningful to you, so that you do work you believe in," Dominique says. "You have to be intrinsically motivated to make a difference in every little action every day. That is better than mapping out an ambitious career path for yourself, because then you are too preoccupied with yourself and then you miss the point: adding value and building something that means something for the future."
explore the workplace as a detective
"I am very grateful that I started working at Randstad Group," recalls Dominique. "I was sitting in an office at the front and I could see everyone pass by. That way, I could absorb the atmosphere and, like a detective, investigate how candidates feel when they walk in, how clients are approached. And above all: how we can do it even better. Developing a strong empathy for the entire organisation automatically leads to better solutions."
Dominique has already had a good run: "Still, I never felt that my job has essentially changed. What it is ultimately about has always remained the same: helping people find their ideal job. There are of course bigger issues to be dealt with today, but I have always stayed true to that purpose. And to myself."
stay true to yourself, even in a different culture
"An important turning point in my career was the move from Belgium to the Netherlands," Dominique recalls. "The first six months were very hard. With my female leadership (being open to other visions) I was labelled a softy. Now I first give my own opinion and then I ask for other opinions. By turning it around, I come across stronger. Above all, I stay true to myself