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'Diversity Experience Conference' - Diversity & Inclusion at ABN AMRO

'Diversity Experience Conference'

"Diversity is an eternal theme"

The venue at the Experience Diversity Conference at ABN AMRO headquarters is bursting and it's no wonder. The January 15th program boasts top photographer Jimmy Nelson, Vatican-exiled priest Krzysztof Charamsa and journalist Diana Matroos, leading woman of the colorful top 100. A video begins the meeting and sets the tone. Six people in a pitch-dark room introduce themselves to each other and immediately their minds start to work out a mental picture of one another. Ah, a lawyer... he must look like this ... . Then the light goes on and reveals the lawyer with the Antwerp accent has a Mohawk and a prominent nose piercing. It's the classic lesson: Book, judge, cover. Our own bearer of diversity, Caroline Princen, is the first to be interviewed by chairman Harry Starren. "Diversity is an eternal theme," she says. "The temptation is great for anyone to fall into the convenience of the same kind of people." What does Caroline notice from the remarks about diversity she gets at ABN AMRO? "If you are not in the dominant group, then the problems across groups are pretty much the same." So what is the ideal image in terms of diversity at ABN AMRO? "If Diversity would succeed, the Management Group would look similar to the crowd that is gathered here today," she says, "But then a much smaller group."


Next we enter the exciting world of Jimmy Nelson photographing endangered native tribes. He wants to put these tribespeople on a pedestal, to show their culture, and how proud they are. Jimmy shows that when you actually make contact with these remote tribes, you can make very beautiful pictures. From his time with the native tribes, Jimmy recalls being submissive and admiring their culture and using universal gestures to establish trust. In the most primitive and desolate places, he was able to form a connection with them - be it the Huli of Papua New Guinea, the Tsaatan of Mongolia or the Himba of Namibia. Even after contact has been made, it takes weeks to get the perfect picture. Jimmy's message is clear: if you make real contact, mutual respect will come naturally. Though the differences are vast, this can be overcome by time, effort and the ability to empathize with another.

Blind in the city

The crowd disperses into a series of workshops and there is no shortage to choose from. As Jimmy Nelson delves deeper into working with indigenous tribes, other theaters come alive with filmmakers Abdelkarim el Fassi and Nasrin Dchar, presentation specialist Buffi Duberman and 'Ctaste' which challenges you to experience what a blind person goes through when navigating a busy city.

"Say who you are"

Participants leave the workshops and regroup at the plenary meeting. Krzysztof Charamsa urges them to express who they really are, just as he did when he was still working in the Vatican. It doesn't matter what you are - black, yellow, gay, straight, religious, non-religious. For him it was a healing process but he admits it is not an easy thing to do.

The white media stronghold

It's 2013 and journalist Diana Matroos unintentionally receives an email stating that two colored presenters cannot be in the same broadcast and suggesting that perhaps she should be removed from it. A year later in the newsroom, Pepernoten are placed on her table. "For the only zwarte piet in the department" said a note attached. Matroos did not let it rest when she realized that hard and good work is apparently not enough. Today, she stands against prejudice and the white media stronghold.

Irresistible fun

Nabil Ayad Aoulad (Waalwijk, half Moroccan, half angry) brings an airy note to the program. He tells the audience about how his coming out was that he was going to become a comedian. Mom: "So you like to imitate people and sounds? Why do not you imitate a job?" This man is irresistibly fun - he can even make singer James Blunt into a singing chicken.