“More attention to diversity and inclusion? Listen to your coworkers”

Published on: 27 June 2023

This month is Pride Month, which focuses on the emancipation, empowerment and acceptance of people from the LGBT+ community. An important month for APG, which wants to be an organization where everyone, regardless of faith, orientation or gender, feels welcome and accepted. And where everyone has equal opportunities. As D&I officer at APG, Maikel Dullens contributes to precisely that goal.


The idea sounds simple, obvious and is by no means new: strive for a work environment where you feel safe and valued as a person. Where everyone gets equal opportunities. And where you can be who you want to be, regardless of what you look like, what you believe in or who you fall for.

And yet, it’s not really that obvious. There is still a wage gap between men and women in the Netherlands, relatively few women hold top positions and biases (whether unconsciously or not) frequently influence the hiring process of new employees. And there are countless other reasons that can make the workplace not (yet) the safe place it should be.


Full-time assignment

At the same time (for these very reasons), the topic has received much more attention worldwide in recent years. Including at APG. With diversity as the denominator for the visible and invisible characteristics by which we as human beings differ from one another, and inclusion as the denominator for the extent to which we recognize and value those differences - and make policy accordingly. In short, D&I. About five years ago, APG started actively drafting D&I policy. At that time it was still a sub-project of HR, but it resulted in a number of important milestones, the best known of which is the equalization of wages between men and women. Five years later, there is no longer any question of a sub-project. As D&I officer, Maikel Dullens has been working full-time since early 2023 to make APG an even more diverse and inclusive organization.


More than KPIs

Because there is still a world to be won, Maikel says: “APG is doing a lot in terms of D&I. And it is very valuable that there is full commitment from the executive board on this theme. It’s also great to see that Annette (Mosman, APG's CEO, ed.) is so committed to women’s financial independence. But there is still room for improvement in many areas. For instance, the gender ratio is still too skewed and we want to attract more people with a distance to the labor market. We also want to increase cultural diversity within APG. We have drawn up concrete KPIs for a number of these goals.”

But the inclusive organization APG strives to be goes beyond meeting KPIs. Maikel: “Our goal is for everyone to feel at home and safe within APG. That is only possible if colleagues are aware of their role in it. In that respect, D&I is a culture change. And my job is to see what actions are needed - and where there is a need - to increase that awareness among colleagues. So that everyone can contribute to that more inclusive work environment.”


Listen to coworkers

A task he very deliberately took on at APG. After eleven years in various roles (from HR officer to product owner) at clothing company H&M, the commercial aspect of his work started to gnaw at him. “Nothing wrong with H&M or selling clothes, but I wanted to do something with more social significance. My new position as D&I officer at APG offers plenty of that.”

Indeed, new, because for the first time D&I is not a task done on the side, but a full position. This also means that Maikel is sometimes still trying to figure out exactly where his responsibility starts and where it ends. But when asked about his approach, he paints a crystal-clear picture of his work. “The most important thing is listening to people. What do you run into when it comes to D&I? What is going well in the organization? Where is there room for improvement? And how can we work together better? I look at as many processes in the organization as possible and with the people, I ask: why do we do it this way or why not? This can involve major issues, such as closing the wage gap, but small steps are just as important. For example, we are currently working on the question of whether there are enough quiet rooms and rooms for pumping available.”


Reactions to Maikel’s work and how APG is giving D&I a prominent place vary. Although most colleagues are positive. Maikel: “Of course, there is also a group where there is some resistance. They wonder whether we are not going too far with this theme. And whether it is really necessary. I think it is essential to hear those voices and to enter into discussion with them. Because I am convinced that, with the right explanation, these people will also understand that D&I is not just about the group of people who ‘deviate’ from the norm, or who are in the minority. It is about a safe working environment for all of us. The reason the focus is sometimes precisely on the minority groups is because safety is not always a given for them. More attention helps to increase that safety. And everyone benefits from that

According to Maikel, it is usually the practical shortcomings that make D&I not top of mind with everyone. “The theme, just like sustainability, for example, is still often seen as something extra. A little project. Something for which there is no time or capacity. Whereas I would like attention to be paid to it as a matter of course, in amongst all the other priorities. And that people also want this, and know how to incorporate it into their day-to-day work. Indeed: if you want to actively work on this, as a colleague or as a team within APG, then money and agenda space must be made available for this. That is a challenge: how are we going to tackle that?”


Feeling at home
Maikel emphasizes that APG scores higher on average than many other organizations in employee engagement surveys when it comes to “feeling at home.” “Judging from those MBO results, things seem to be fine in that area. Yet it is difficult to draw that conclusion based on that alone. Because everyone has a different interpretation of feeling at home. And we don’t know exactly whether that applies to all groups. For reasons of privacy, which are understandable, we are not allowed to register many things, such as ethnicity and orientation. That does make it a bit difficult to see what we can do for people who are not yet feeling at home. Fortunately, we are now looking at how we can better chart that diversity, without violating privacy rules.”



APG encourages the formation of employee networks to promote diversity and inclusion. We currently have several networks: Global Women’s Forum, Young APG, Proud and Connecting Cultures. These networks all represent a specific target group and bring attention to related challenges, while promoting connection among employees.