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Diversity and Inclusion in a global business environment


WU Executive Academy (Female Leadership Network) and STaR co-hosted WU Executive Insights: an evening event with Learning & Organization Behavior expert Josefine van Zanten...

Josefine van Zanten has a long, impressive list of leadership positions:Executive in Residence at IMD Business School, former Global Head of Learning and Organization Behavior at LafargeHolcim, former Global VP Diversity and Inclusion at Royal Dutch Shell, to name just a few. However, she opened the evening by talking about very different leadership titles, those we do not tend to hear listed as often in executive events: mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, risk-taker, team builder, passionate proponent of authentic leadership… As several attendees commented later that evening, this personal touch created space for an exceptionally engaging audience discussion, and it was also the perfect way to approach the topic of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in organizations.

The terms “diversity” and “inclusion” are often applied interchangeably. However, as discussed by Josefine van Zanten, they differ in important ways. The concept of inclusion means moving beyond the targets and measures of demographic representation associated with the notion of diversity. Inclusion is about providing fair access to resources (for example, sponsoring and not just mentoring women or ethnic minorities), decision-making and career opportunities. It engenders a personal sense of belonging reflected in perceptions of individuals. It is subjective – yet, very importantly, measurable. 

Global companies that seek to fully reap the benefits of diversity inevitably focus on inclusion. At the same time, however, it is a highly complex, sensitive topic. Not surprisingly, many of the questions from the audience were about the contradictions and dilemmas that characterize D&I programs across companies, industries and cultures. Key takeaway? Simple but powerful: creating an inclusive workplace is not a destination but a continuous journey.

Comments by event participants:

“Josefine gave a comprehensive overview of Inclusion and Diversity, starting from the clear differences of the terms. The session was not only insightful, but had exercises where groups of participants would be able to challenge their perceptions.” Mari Ono, WU Executive Academy, GEMBA 2018/2019

 “One of the best event during the GEMBA 2018/2019 program, very inspirational and insightful thanks to Josefine. Josefine is an excellent female leader, who empowers women and men, able to give them another perception and open door for exceptional inclusion and diversity topic discussion.” Karin Apjarova, WU Executive Academy, GEMBA 2018/2019

“Josefine van Zanten captured the audience with deep practical and easily translated key input of how diversity and inclusion matter to improve each organization's results in the bottom line. She managed to transfer highly complex insights in an exceptionally quick and personal way and gave clear advice how to successfully implement diversity and inclusion strategies in different surroundings.” Christa Gschweitl, Female Leadership Network of WU Executive Academy

An exclusive interview Josefine van Zanten gave the WU Executive Academy is available here.

Interested in continuing this journey with us? Mark your calendars for the next Female Leaders Network (FLN) event on Colorful Careers, which will take place September 5, 6:30pm, at the WU Executive Academy!

If you have additional comments, best practice examples, or ideas of how to move things forward please do not hesitate to email us at

Written by Milda Žilinskaitė, manager and senior scientist at STaR  

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