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'Diversity is essential. Diversity is seeing someone working in a certain position and thinking: that person is just like me. I could end up doing that too. It allows us to dream and to realise our dreams, and that's why I work on diversity,' says Wike Been, Faculty Diversity Officer at the Amsterdam Law School. In this interview, she explains how she is working on diversity and inclusion at the Amsterdam Law School.
Photo Wike Been

Diversity and the coronavirus crisis

The coronavirus crisis has impacted the work of Wike as Faculty Diversity Officer. She explains: 'The coronavirus crisis is affecting all of us. It is quite conceivable that the crisis will exacerbate existing inequalities in the short and long term, or cause new inequalities to develop. I believe it is our job as Faculty Diversity Officers to pick up on this and bring it to everyone's attention.'

Diversity as part of the DNA

Wike has been the Faculty Diversity Officer at the Amsterdam Law School since 1 December 2019. She might be new to this position, but she has already clearly set her course: 'It's my aim to make diversity and inclusion into part of the DNA of the Amsterdam Law School, so that it's incorporated into existing processes. It needs to be a natural part of everything we do. For example, if someone is organising a symposium, they should be wondering how diverse their group of speakers is and which perspectives are voiced. Diversity and inclusion components should be a natural part of HR policy so equal opportunities are created. A broad range of perspectives should be included in our educational programmes and attention should be paid to inequalities and processes of exclusion in our society. And the end result should be that a Faculty Diversity Officer is no longer needed.' Since that stage has yet to come, so Wike is working on diversity in various ways.

It's my aim to make diversity part of the DNA of the Amsterdam Law School

A comprehensive approach

The Amsterdam Law School has an agenda for ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion’, with dozens of action points for a wide range of areas. Wike: 'My intention is for the entire agenda – and more – to be implemented and not remain a paper exercise. This is what I am striving towards.' The Amsterdam Law School has a Diversity Committee comprising staff and students. Together with the previous Faculty Diversity Officer, they have already addressed a number of points. Wike: 'For example, recommendations were issued on how to make the recruitment material more inclusive and to establish a contemplation room in the building of the Amsterdam Law School. The Diversity Committee and I are still hard at work ensuring that the agenda becomes reality. Since I have only been in this job briefly, it's all work in progress.' The areas that we aim at are diverse: 'For example, we are setting up a monitor for diversity and inclusion at the Amsterdam Law School, are we devising projects for first-generation students, looking into the consequences of the coronavirus crisis for equality and inclusion and taking another look at how diversity is incorporated into recruitment material, am I consulting with HR on the staff recruitment and retention policies, are we trying to generate internal conversations about changing the curriculum and are we organizing a meeting called ‘antiracism talks’ of which hopefully many more will follow.' Wike also finds it important that the value of working on diversity is appreciated: 'I'm trying to arrange for the students on the Diversity Committee to receive a reimbursement. Their time should be reimbursed, which will also acknowledge that this is an essential role with which they are contributing to the Amsterdam Law School.'

My job is to listen. Listening and being heard are key to diversity and inclusion.

Listening and being heard is key

The main themes in Wike's approach are appreciating others and listening properly: 'My job is to listen and to ensure that everyone is heard. That's why my student assistant Zohara Mahmoud and I are organising lunch sessions with small groups of students. This allows us to hear what's going on and which obstacles there are with regard to diversity. During our first lunch session, for example, it was an eye-opener for us that being a member of a student association or a study association was crucial to feeling included. If you are unable to find a student association that suits you, that has an impact on your sense of belonging to the university community. The conversations with students also made clear that for them a curriculum change is very important'.

It is very important that everything we do is informed by inclusion. Everyone needs to feel that there is a place for them.

Approaching diversity from an inclusion perspective

This feeling of belonging is essential. Wike: 'It is very important that everything we do is informed by inclusion. The University is a place for everyone and created by everyone, and is open in nature. Everyone needs to feel that there is a place for them. This involves more than just managing matters based on hard criteria and making the intake more diverse. We need to take it a step further. It's not just about diversity – inclusion is every bit as important.' An inclusive faculty where people are able to realise their dreams is Wike's aim as Faculty Diversity Officer.

A diverse university makes more progress. And diversity comes from working together. That’s why we are committed to ensuring that everyone at the UvA can develop to the full and be themselves. Whatever their cultural background, gender, beliefs, sexual orientation or disability. Every faculty has a Faculty Diversity Officer who, together with staff and students, sets out the diversity policy. Every faculty does have a different identity. Over the next few weeks we will be publishing interviews with all of the Faculty Diversity Officers. This interview was with Wike Been from the Amsterdam Law School (Faculteit der Rechtsgeleerdheid).

Wike Been, Sociologist, Labour Market Researcher

Has been working at the UvA: four years.
Lives in: Utrecht
Leisure activities: sports, young adult literature and preparing vegetarian meals from across the world with my daughters, aged 2, 4 and 6.
What do you enjoy most about your job? Being able to engage in critical thinking, the freedom and connecting people and groups.