After 15 years working in Philips, Hans Meeske started his own company Holland Innovative, to help corporates and startups in product development and project management. Now in the team of 50 employees, they help corporates and startups to develop robust products and processes with a predictable lifetime. For Hans supporting startups means giving something back to society. There’s no direct business model but you need to support each other. As a true believer in diversity and driver for social innovation, Hans is honoured to be one of the first male role models for Female Tech Heroes.
The coming months we will introduce female and male role models who act upon increasing diversity in the tech industry. By telling their personal and career stories, we can inspire and learn from each other.
Why is it important to increase diversity in tech?
If you look at the process of open innovation, only 20% of it happens thanks to technical developments. 80% belongs to social innovation, which, on the contrast to technology, you cannot copy or buy. And the diversity comes as a leading part of social innovation. Even more, females have an intrinsic strength in social feeling and awareness.
What can tech companies do to keep females stay and grow?
Firstly, companies need to see that diversity is important. When you have a diverse team with people who are passionate about what they do, you can have a different conversation, fruitful with many different perspectives. The different perspectives will bring new insights and another view on challenges. Companies first need to see this benefit. What’s important is to have discussions about this topic of diversity, and about ways how the company can grow by diversity.
What companies can do to keep females stay and grow is to challenge them to come out of their comfort zone and offer opportunities to grow. Not only for the female colleagues by for all your professionals, they are your talents and the key to success of your company. Companies need to see that the right balance between female and male and in diversity as a whole will support them in being successful, and even more: improve their quality of life!
When you ask about talent development in general, the goal is always to find the right way for him or her to accelerate in the career. In finding the right projects, coaching, training, balance between activities to be able to grow.
But how do you do this at your company?
First, in our company we treat everyone as the same, inequality in growth or salary is a no-brainer, I always need to be able to explain to everyone what I’m doing and why, the so-called 'Same monks, same hats principle'. I’m totally accountable for that! What I try to do, is to give our talents in the company the positions, projects and right training, which can help them grow. The Female Tech Heroes initiative is a fantastic way to support and challenge our female talents to present, develop and show their strengths.
Even more, the executive business training we are joining is open not only for the already senior experts but also for the young professionals where one of our female professionals is making use of it, with big enthusiasm. We are a very flat organization, instead of line managers we have senior experts, and I like to have female experts also on the senior positions. But that is not different for men and women.
How do you encourage a healthy work life balance within your company, for both male and female?
From our mission I believe that quality of life is the most important. I am enthusiastic when I can support my employee in his or her private life in some way. Professionals are spending a significant part of their life at work, and what they do there should also be beneficial for private life. I have one example of an employee who was that stressed that he couldn’t sleep at night and started questioning what to do. He asked me to do something differently for the next project, and I told him: 'Let’s not wait, let’s do it now'. I offered him a kind of spiritual training. The breathing techniques gradually helped him to sleep again. The training as a whole helped to better understand his ‘why’, himself, and in consequence improved his private life and the life balance with his children. He was very happy about the opportunity, and I was very thankful that he took the training. That’s the company I like us to be.
We have a culture in which we support each other. If we see someone is doing too much, we ask if everything is going well and how that can be changed. We also previously had discussions with female colleagues who recently became mothers, or with colleagues that travel a lot for work. I initiate open discussions with them, first, asking about their ambitions, the personal ‘why’. And based on that we can come to a mutual decision on what to do in the work process or organisation, to be able to keep the right balance and have fun together.
What do you think of a quota policy as a mean to increase diverse representation in a company?
As a statement, I support it. I also talked with some women about it, and they believe that without such enforcement the shift to more equality will simply not happen or take far too long time. Personally, I don’t look differently on men or women, or on people of different culture. I look at them as a talent, and what the talent needs to make a step. Having said that, I asked HR to put diversity on the agenda. And one of the first things that we've brought up at the table is the language. In Brainport region where 50-60% companies are international, we have to question ourselves whether Dutch should be the leading language. Changing or being more flexible in the language will immediately open doors for more diversity.
Recently we conducted a survey with Female Tech Heroes Network and more than a half of the respondents acknowledged that a male-dominated work environment is a challenge in their career. Do you have an advice about it?
The first advice I would give is to stand up for yourself and believe that you are strong. I see a lot of women positioning themselves as being too modest. When they recognize themselves that they can do more, then the managers also will support them.
One of our employees led a session on a very technical subject with a group of fifty participants on the Female Tech Heroes conference last year. It was one of her first sessions in a big group. She liked it and grew from it and asked for more. After that she also did a special session in the university for an international delegation. So, what I want to encourage in women is to take the possibilities, own the floor and express themselves. And of course, you need to be motivated by the environment to do so, but you first need to believe in it yourself, get your shoulders wide and just do it with your vision and being proud!
And what about the men? What do you have to say to them?
Look at the diversity in your company, see where you are, and identify the possibilities to bring a better balance in terms of gender and cultures. I was invited to join Female Tech Heroes dinner with 100 females and only 3 males. It really was a strange experience for me and gave me the feeling of what women in tech go through almost every day. I like to evoke my male colleagues to really be aware of any disbalance and give attention to situations which need support. Difference in growth possibilities or salary, as said, is a no-brainer. So, my message to all companies and entrepreneurs is: check it, confront yourself and take the opportunity to develop your talents!
Learn more about the Female Tech Heroes movement and join us to create more diversity!