Nienke Vergeer is convinced that teams with a greater diversity of skills and backgrounds can solve digitalisation challenges more quickly and efficiently.
"If you want to make an impact, the industry is a great place to do it."
Diversity and inclusion are not topics that are discussed daily in manufacturing companies. However, it is indeed important for production companies to become more diverse, for several reasons, says Nienke Vergeer of Siemens Netherlands. Not least because otherwise employability in manufacturing companies will come under further pressure. We also see the limited level of diversity reflected in the numbers of users of our Tech2B platform. According to Sjors Hooijen, CEO of Tech2B, 96% are identified as men, while only 4% are women or identify differently.
Nienke Vergeer works as a Digital Innovation Manager at Siemens Netherlands. In her LinkedIn profile, she describes herself as a Transformation Innovator 4.0. She doesn't shy away from challenges. After completing her secondary education, she chose to study Technical Business Administration at the Hogeschool Utrecht, despite being discouraged from pursuing another technical study. She was one of the few women in her class. With her diploma - cum laude - she could have just as easily entered the world of banking, but after a master's degree at TUe, she chose the manufacturing industry. It was a deliberate choice. "The industry may not seem sexy from the sidelines, but it is the backbone upon which the world relies. If you want to make an impact in areas like sustainability, then the manufacturing industry is a great place to do it," she says. And she wants to make that impact. Throughout her studies and internships, she discovered how various aspects intersect and realised that there are significant challenges in the industry for someone who wants to contribute to the world's transitions. The macro challenges in the world intersect with the business and economic aspects of a manufacturing company. You really have to find the balance."
The manufacturing industry is still predominantly a male-dominated world. Diversity and inclusion generally do not have high priority in most companies, which doesn't entirely surprise her. She has personally experienced some turning points in her (school) career where she had to consciously say "yes" to enter the industry. "Humans are herd animals. If your group isn't there, you have to stand stronger, especially in technical companies." She believes that changing this starts with upbringing. Show children how cool technology is. The stereotypical image in education needs to change. Better position the industry, instead of portraying it as a smoky, dirty factory. "There are so many technical jobs where you don't get dirty," she laughs.
You're Not Just One of Many
Although she works in a male-dominated world, Nienke Vergeer has always felt at home. She has felt the acceptance as natural. "And certainly, if you're different, you stand out. That's human behaviour. Negative aspects often lurk beneath the surface, and they pop up at unexpected moments. But you also experience positive aspects. You're different, so the things you do are more visible. You're not just one of the many."
Diversity as a Driver for Innovation in the Industry
Change in the business world in the manufacturing industry is slow, although it varies by country. Using a concrete example, she explains why diversity and inclusion are important for the industry. Production companies often use simulation programs to determine the layout of a new production line. There are software solutions on the market that have a certain degree of gender bias in their representations. When there is a higher diversity of production workers, the results are inaccurate. Ergonomics is another point: you have to consider diversity and inclusion. "Now, you see software emerging that includes people in all variations." The same applies to a machine builder: If the ergonomics/UX of the machine doesn't match the person operating it, you won't sell machines in the long term.
Diversity and inclusion should also be on the management agenda in the manufacturing industry. It's not that you'll go bankrupt if you don't address it, but it has been scientifically proven that teams perform better when they are diverse. And practically speaking, companies that prioritise diversity and inclusion are more attractive to the new generation of workers. "Diversity is essential for maintaining employability." Nienke Vergeer doesn't focus on diversity and inclusion every day, but she is aware that she is a role model for other women and girls. "Everyone makes their own choice, but a woman in technology cannot ignore diversity." She gladly takes on this role by, among other things, creating a different image of the industry. "It's in the back of my mind, and occasionally, I can combine it nicely with digitalisation. Because that's where my passion lies."
Diversity and Inclusion at Siemens
Diversity and inclusion are two concepts that are currently very popular. Nienke Vergeer also likes to add equity to that." At Siemens, there is global attention on increasing the percentage of women in management and technical positions. The gender pay gap has been completely eliminated. And HR pays a lot of attention to female leadership. Cultural aspects, such as how to balance work and family, are also being discussed these days. Nienke applauds this. Because there is still an imbalance between men and women in the workforce.