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Diversity: use your minority position to your advantage!

During the Female Tech Heroes  event at High Tech Campus Eindhoven TMC gave a workshop entitled ‘How Diversity Works For You’. Noortje van Boxtel, director of the business cel Manufacturing Support and Employeneur Ignacio Vazquez cooperated in the workshop. Below they explain why diversity at the workplace is so important.

All her life Noortje van Boxtel has been working in a male dominated environment. She never realized she looked at things differently just because she’s a woman, until a male colleague of hers pointed it out to her. ‘He told me that I make decisions based on people and teams, and added how refreshing this was in a male oriented society. I had never given pause to the idea that my skills and experiences are also influenced by me being a woman.’

Noortje feels it’s important that TMC contributes to Female Tech Heroes to inspire other women in similar situations. ‘Diversity can really improve organisations. I don’t mean just the male-female ratio, but diversity based on background, culture, experience and education as well. It’s important that people realise the value and importance of different perspectives when working on a project. If you only have like-minded people, you get a very one-sided implementation of solutions.’

Colourful pants

Ignacio Vazquez, Employeneur Data Science at TMC Eindhoven, conducted the second part of the workshop. As a non-Dutch speaking Mexican he is often a minority at the companies he works for. During the workshop Ignacio told the story of how he once came to work at a department with sixty Dutch engineers. ‘Because I was the only international engineer, I did not feel welcome and integrated. I wasn’t comfortable speaking my mind, so my opinion as an engineer was not really a part of the conversation. But that’s what I was getting paid for.’ 

After speaking to his business coach at TMC he decided to turn his being different into his strength. ‘I realized that even if I tried to adapt, I was never really going to be part of the culture. So I decided to just be myself, but turn it up a notch.’ He noticed almost everyone in the department was wearing jeans and blue t-shirts. Ignacio started dressing radically different. ‘I started wearing colourful pants to work: pink, yellow, red. In that way I wasn’t able to hide anymore. I pushed myself to make people notice me and forced myself to be part of the conversation. My attitude changed and I became more authentic, which helped me to better transfer my knowledge.’

According to Ignacio you have to use your minority position to your advantage. ‘When you are the minority, you see things that the other people do not see, because they have a different perspective. My advice is to try and communicate them. Chances are that others will also see value in them and then it becomes a positive feedback loop.’

"It's important to also include men in this discussion."

It’s okay to feel uncomfortable

Women should be more aware of the fact that they bring other skills to the table than men, Noortje van Boxtel says. Especially in a predominantly male-driven environment like technology this can be a great asset. Noortje: ‘In my view, thinking about the group is one of the strongest qualities a woman has. In a men’s culture individual goals often receive priority, which can create problems. It would be nice if women can correct that, but you have to have the strength and courage to do so.’

Ignacio adds that a little discomfort is part of the deal. ‘In a diverse team, no one really feels super comfortable. You just have to accept the fact that it is like that. There will be a certain tension because people think differently than you and that’s okay. But that tension doesn’t have to be uncomfortable in a bad way. It’s more about differences of ideas, not about excluding people from the team.’

Ignacio feels that it’s important to also include men in this discussion. ‘If you cannot talk about this process with the guys in your team, it’s not going anywhere. Everyone should talk about how we can solve the issue of diversity together.’ 


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TMC is partner of the Female Tech Heroes Network.

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