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Jolanda Holwerda, oprichter Lof en expert in vrouwelijk leiderschap:

‘Unica recognises the strategic importance of diversity and inclusivity’

At Unica, people are the greatest asset. That is why Unica invests so heavily in employee development, year after year. Since 2020, diversity and inclusivity have been central elements of HR policy. Ambitious targets have been formulated and a strategic programme adopted. Over the next three years, Unica intends to double the number of female employees, and prevent employee turnover wherever possible.

Jolanda Holwerda, among others founder of Lof Magazine and the Lof Academy, is an expert in the field of diversity, inclusivity and female leadership. As a partner to Unica, she helps design the company’s diversity policy by providing workshops for female talent. “Unica aims to be an attractive employer for both men and women, and is working hard to achieve that goal. That kind of sound, strategic approach is almost a guarantee for success.”

Since 2007, Jolanda Holwerda and her company Lof have been working to bolster emancipation, diversity and inclusivity on the shop floor, in government and industry. Although her mission demands real perseverance, #MeToo and recent reports of abuse at a popular TV talent show and a major football club have helped accelerate the process. In the same way, the ‘war on talent’ according to which businesses are responding to the shortages on the labour market by ‘enlarging the pond’ in their search for new employees, can help bring about a more diverse labour market.

‘More diversity and inclusion make an organisation more successful, more attractive and more profitable’


“For some time now, there have been calls for equality between men and women, but such issues as the ‘work-life balance’ and the struggle between the head and the heart still demand urgent attention,” explained Jolanda. “Walking around in any random business, you will always find a male presence. Although women have working ambitions, too, they also want things to run smoothly on the home front. That is why many women opt for part-time employment, and are less likely to advance into managerial positions.”

In Jolanda’s opinion, the balance between men and women at work is also disrupted by our image of leadership, and the prevalent, often subconscious prejudices. “We in the Netherlands still have a very masculine idea of leadership. As a result, women who wish to move up are forced to adapt to the dominant group. Particularly in a typically male-dominated world, like engineering, women must be willing to stand up and be counted. They have to be tougher than average, be able to deal with the banter and above all, show no emotion. An emotional response is still often seen as unprofessional.”

Jolanda continued, “Women have just as much talent and leadership qualities as men. But being the only woman at a work meeting, having no ladies’ toilet in the site shed, and having to adapt and prove yourself every day requires a great deal of energy.”

Strategic diversity policy

According to Jolanda, what the Netherlands needs is a cultural change which makes combining work and family more self-evident, and that allows women to advance to senior positions more easily. “By creating a level playing field with more space for feminine or female leadership, the talents of both men and women will benefit. Imagine the power of being allowed to be yourself, both at home and at work! It is also a well-known fact that more diversity and inclusion make an organisation more successful, more attractive and more profitable. Diverse teams enjoy a completely different dynamic. They are smarter, more innovative, more creative and more human, and come up with better customer solutions.”

Jolanda is delighted that more companies wish to be a reflection of society and are working actively on their inclusivity and diversity policy. In Jolanda’s words, “For any such policy, if you are going to do it, make sure you do it right. The occasional workshop is simply not enough. What you need is a sound, strategic programme supported by the management and believed in by everyone.”

The Unique diversity platform

That is exactly the way that Unica is approaching its diversity, continued Jolanda. “In small, carefully considered steps, the company is working towards a cultural change and a healthy balance in the share of men and women. Unica wants to be an attractive employer for both men and women and be recognised as such. For the sector in which it operates, the organisation has formulated a number of ambitious KPIs, for example 22% female employees by 2025 - a doubling of the numbers in 2021 - and 20% women in managerial and directors positions.

The Unique diversity platform, in which gender equality is the first spearhead, was established for a number of reasons, including realising those goals. Female employees at Unica can meet together and spar on a whole raft of work-related issues within Unique. A mentoring programme has also been launched, in which young and senior female talent are brought together in a buddy system. In the course of the year, a series of activities are organised, aimed at inspiration, learning and creating bonds.

The strength of being different

At the start of 2021, the meetings of the Unique diversity platform were focused on awareness, under the heading ‘Meeting diversity’. As Jolanda continued, “We started with a workshop for female employees to make it clear there is no reason to choose between children and a career. We also offered a training course on female leadership during which we helped women understand and experience that you do not always have to adapt, and that authenticity is important in developing your own leadership style.”

The theme for 2022 is ‘Expanding diversity’. “Our plan is to organise a Blind Spot session,” said Jolanda. “The session will be attended by both male and female colleagues as a means of mapping out the current situation, and how we can work together to solve problems. The theme for year three will be ‘Embracing diversity’. It will consider how Unica approaches the differences between men and women - and people from a migration background, people with a work disability and older people - and uses those differences as a source of strength. It is clear to me that the issue is well received and that everyone at Unica is keen to improve. So we are definitely on the right track.”