A view on diversity from an international experienced leader

My name is Chantal Meeuwisse and I have been working as a Nordic & Baltic's CFO for an international pharmaceutical company.

I am Dutch by nationality but I have lived abroad for over 11 year, of which 7 years in Switzerland and the last 4 years in Sweden.

Before starting my international journey, I used to work for international companies in the Netherlands. Ever since I started my first job, the company's business language was English. This already helped me in creating my "international view". But it was only when I was offered the opportunity to move abroad that I realized the full potential of diversity.

Having international experience myself by working in 3 different countries, it exposed me a lot to the topic of diversity. I started to realize, while I was climbing the career ladder, that this brought an interesting dimension to day to day work and that I started to embrace more and more the differences.

Chantal Meeuwisse Undutchables

Different doesn't mean worse, it's just like the word says: different.

As a result people might have different point of views due to cultural background, education, work experience, religion etc.

As a leader we all need to deal with personal biases and prejudices that are out there. Therefore patience and listening to people is something that is key combined with dignity and respect.

Diversity is not only about different sexes or people from different cultures, it's also about different personalities and how to best let them collaborate together.

Me being an extroverted leader, had to learn that my introverted team members and staff have a different way of articulating their opinion. It's important that even though topics were discussed during overall meetings, to go back to certain employees to see what their thoughts were, if they didn't express it during a meeting.

Diversity is for me also about skill set and collaboration: some are extremely good in e.g. working with excel, while others on the team aren't. But by having profound people on the team that are willing to collaborate on passing on their knowledge, everybody is benefiting and motivation increases.

In addition it is also about different job responsibilities. Helping team members understand the variety of tasks everybody is doing on the team, is benefiting the whole team so people truly understand the impact of their activities and others. This to the grasp the bigger picture and let them understand how their work fits in. As a result the team is greater than the sum of its parts. Next to creating this, empowerment is extremely important for me as a leader as well. It means enabling my team to develop and excel, by actively looking for opportunities to use their competence, helping others and making decisions on their own.

Last but not least, diversity is also related to curiosity for me. What do others do or say? How do they structure their work or thinking? Why are we doing things in a certain way? Is there something that I have not looked at, that could be helpful? Because different ideas and experiences, lead to growth and innovation. Stimulating this curiosity in the day to day work of my team members is one of my key focus areas.

As mentioned, diversity for me as a leader is about embracing differences and being open for new, unexpected things. When recruiting for my team in Sweden, I have attracted a lot of diverse talents that helped to build the team. Undutchables has been an important stakeholder for me in order to find this diverse, international talent, by having personal interviews that look beyond people's resume and also focuses on a fit for the company and the team.

Therefore let's all stay curious together and embrace the fact that we are all different!

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