Celebrated annually on March 8th, International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It brings deeper reflection on the role of women in the job market and the value of diversity in the broadest sense in the work environment.

The professionals at Holland Innovative work in the tech industry that is by tradition male-oriented. However, with 33% of all employees at Holland Innovative being female, it is fair to say that we are well on our way to being an inclusive employer.

“We see diversity as an asset. It is important to be able to serve as many clients as possible and learn from one another. For us here at Holland Innovative it is not just about the role women have in our organisation, but also about gender, age and competencies,” explains Eefke van Daal, HR Manager at Holland Innovative.

But, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Reason to ask three female professionals working at Holland Innovative to talk about their experiences and achievements.

As a professional in an industry still dominated by men, how do you perceive the role of women in this sector?

International Women's Day – Elly

Elly van den Bliek, Senior Reliability & Functional Safety specialist works for leading tech companies on behalf of Holland Innovative – “My work as reliability specialist is all about supporting people to accept change and give them confidence. I believe that women, generally speaking, are better able to connect with the other. In this sense, we have a valuable and value-adding role to play: in bridging differences and defining our common cause.”

With her roots in Mexico, Karina Garcia del Real, MSc is High Tech Plaza Community Manager – “I do notice that diversity is becoming a priority for tech companies, but it is very common to see men only in management boards. I believe diversity should run though a company both ways, top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top. There is still a lot of work to do to address that disparity.”

Diversity – Karina
Anna Ezerskaia

Russian-born Dr. Anna Ezerskaia works as Project Manager for Holland Innovative – “I’ve been working in a predominantly male populated environment for over 14 years already. Quite honestly, I usually don’t even notice this.”

What is your experience as a woman in the tech industry?

Karina – “In my work as community manager, I’ve engaged in conversations with female start-up founders who struggle to receive the recognition, support and funding that male founders do receive easily. Unfortunately, ‘Are you planning to get pregnant?’ or ‘How do you deal with emotions?’ are questions that are still asked to women during investor meetings. Not to men.”

Elly – “Yes, I encounter the same kind of preconceptions sometimes at work. Opiniated women easily get considered as being bitchy. Opiniated men are considered resolute and steadfast. It’s high time we move away from such implicit ideas and judgements and realize that each person – and I’m not only talking about the man/woman divide – has a unique role to play.”

Anna – “I’d say: it doesn’t matter what field or market you work in, as long as it’s interesting, and gives you energy.”

Have you ever faced or witnessed any situation of discrimination against women in the workplace?

AnnaYes, but I have also seen discrimination against men, as well as against people of colour or different race. I once encountered an opposite type of discrimination: a recruiter  commented that, being a woman, it would be easier for me to get a job.”

Karina – “We live in a country that offers some of the best opportunities for women. But there are a lot of examples which underline that we still have a long way to go. Sexually tinted jokes, getting fired because a woman is too opiniated, exclusion from meetings and the list goes on.”

Elly – “I regularly see discrimination in the sense of stereotyping and implicit assumptions. Not only between men and women, but wherever there is a diversity of people. We definitely should shake off any concept of typical men-like and women-like behaviours. Embrace diversity and differences to foster new insights.”

How can diversity enrich the work environment?

Elly – “I believe people deliver their best in a stimulating and happy work environment. By embracing diversity, you immediately create a safe environment in which you can learn from each other and grow.”

Anna – “I’ve noticed that diverse teams have healthier dynamics, team members are more attentive to each other’s needs and more responsive. People are simply too different to compare with each other. Much less to compete in a narrow framework where they need to prove they are better than the other, according to some creative metric of success.”

Karina – “Diversity at work is not a magic solution. What we need is an approach that celebrates each other’s uniqueness. We need to stop making categories that put people in boxes, and we should engage in dialogue with colleagues with different experiences, backgrounds, or who speak a different language. It’s all about building a strong work environment that truly accepts and respects diversity.”

International Women’s Day – Diversity in the tech industry

What do you think is the most challenging aspect of ensuring diversity at work?

Anna – “Creating awareness. Often, people are simply unaware of existing differences. And when they do learn about diversity, it can cost considerable effort to embrace change and let go of prejudices.”

Karina – “As humans, we’re wired to like people who look like us. The challenge lies in leaving our comfort zones. A company has the responsibility to provide the opportunities for people to get to know each other, exchange ideas and find commonalities despite their differences.”

“The benefits of a diverse team are endless. Internally, it is a huge asset to have people with new perspectives and ideas. This drives innovation and creativity, and it can lead to faster problem-solving and better decision-making. It also boosts employee satisfaction and retention.”

Elly – “Communication! A diverse team of people forces you to communicate, simply because it is unlikely that the other person speaks your language (not only in the literal sense). But, it can cost time and effort to learn and understand what the other wants or needs. Nevertheless, the rewards are huge.”

What about the future of women in tech?

Elly – “The way students – and girls – are taught in higher education institutions is key. Tech needs top-down thinkers. As long as our education system continues to stimulate bottom-up thinking, they’re misguiding future tech talents.”

Karina – “We need to have more women taking on leadership roles. Besides, women in these positions are also responsible for paving the way for younger generations.”

Anna – “Quite frankly, I don’t see the need for gender separation in any industry. There are no benefits, so why should the phenomenon survive at all?”

Eefke – “Here at Holland Innovative, diversity is not a goal in itself. It is one of the ways in which we fulfil our goals: serving our clients to the best of our capabilities. As our clients are diverse, our team has to be so as well. It is a step-by-step process that has been evolving over the years.”

“Most recently, the requirement to speak Dutch is no longer a prerequisite for job candidates. We have since welcomed aboard more colleagues with different cultural backgrounds. But, bottom line, what matters is that people bring the know-how and insights that our clients need, as well as an eagerness to learn, something which is part-and-parcel of our organizational culture.”, explains Eefke.

“In fact, when it comes to equality often people only think that it concerns issues regarding women or minorities. However, we all have a fundamental role in this process as agents of change. But true change will come from management willing to transform organizations into a more diverse and inclusive environment”, concludes Eefke.

Eefke van Daal

Diversity at HI

Management at Holland Innovative regards diversity and inclusivity as being key to creating a winning team. They are the very foundation of our strategy to have in place a ‘one team, one family’ organization. We invite you to submit any suggestions or if you would like to contribute to the discussion, do not hesitate to contact us.