Representative Advisory Councils

Diversity and inclusion

7 Dec 2021 10:52 | Representative Advisory Councils

Recently on LinkedIn I saw a vacancy at the AUAS for a programme manager with a photo of a young white man next to the text. I couldn't believe my eyes. Let me say, however, that there’s nothing wrong with white men! Indeed, they are most welcome here. But if we want to appeal to a broader target audience, I sincerely hope that, as a faculty or as the AUAS, we would choose a different way of communicating this. As a lecturer on the HRM programme I have often supervised students who were doing research on how to attract multicultural talent when recruiting staff. This photo would not invite them to continue reading, let alone to apply for the position.

I asked myself who made this choice, and what the rationale behind it was. Clearly, we want suitable white men to apply too, and a photo of a woman wearing a headscarf would not not appeal to them. So, why not include both, or a photo of our first-year students, who couldn’t be more diverse – this would appeal to anyone who wants to help provide hem with a good education. But you need more than just the right picture to achieve representation – what level of ambition does our faculty have? How quickly does the AUAS want to achieve a diverse workforce?

Among the vacancies shared with our employees in the email there is an invitation to give tips on how recruitment could be more inclusive. I sent an email containing the contents of the above paragraph. In the meantime, I received an invitation from Recruitment to arrange a meeting.

In September 2020 Amsterdam’s universities signed a pioneering agreement on diverse, inclusive and socially engaged education. In this agreement the higher education institutions concerned commit to working on five priority areas. The programme pathways Diversity and Inclusion and the success factors as recently presented include four priority areas – the second priority area is missing.

I would like to address this priority area here. Representation: students, management, lecturers,

personnel, supervisory boards.

‘There is a lack of representation – diversity and inclusion in the broadest sense of the word – within higher education. We want to ensure that we reflect the city and our environment (far) more effectively, with every (prospective) student and employee being adequately recognised and acknowledged’.

In 2009 (, as part of the Differentiated HRM research group, I took part in a study by the precursor of our faculty into how lecturers learn to engage with a society and student population that is increasingly multicultural. The dominant view at that time was that taking diversity into account meant making concessions in terms of quality and lowering the bar.

Luckily, nowadays many AUAS employees have a completely different view on this - I can see this from my own programme and from policy documents and job adverts. AUAS puts it like this: ‘diversity as a strength and inclusiveness as our responsibility’.

10 years ago, organisations in Amsterdam, including the AUAS, which did not succeed in achieving a diverse workforce, blamed this on the level of education of the multicultural population in the city. Since that time the AUAS has educated so much talent that everyone knows that ‘they’re there’ and the question now is far more ‘How do you encourage this talent to come and work in your organisation and what do you have to do to keep them?’ Does the AUAS see diversity in its workforce as its responsibility too?

In my view, there is still more to be done. There are still students who don’t feel safe or who don’t feel at home, there are still students who drop out due to inequality of opportunities or the lack of an inclusive learning environment, there are still too few role models for certain groups to identify with. Lots of programmes and lecturers are already working on this on a daily basis – they haven’t waited for the plans from above, they’ve already made a start. And a workforce that reflects the student population in all areas of the organisation is crucial in this regard.

In 2017 the AUAS set itself the target of a workforce where 20% of people are from a non-Western migration background by 2020. So far, this stands at 11%. I therefore urge the AUAS to include representation as a success factor too in the Diversity and Inclusion programme. To set targets and monitor whether we are on track or whether more effort is required. Because, if we regard diversity as a strength and inclusiveness as our responsibility that is the least we can do!

Jeanine Spierings, lecturer HRM and former member of the representative advisory council FBE