From the language we use to the true meaning of inclusion, the small steps we can take, intersectionality and the questions we ask, you can use our conversation starters to have relaxed but substantive discussions on gender equality, equity and balance.

ECWO’s founder, Prof. Dianne Bevelander, never shied away from a conversation. In fact, making the kind of noise that would eventually move mountains is what she did from the moment ECWO’s doors opened in 2014 until she died in August last year. And the team, now lead by Prof. Hanneke Takkenberg, is continuing to have the conversations that keep diversity, equity and inclusion foregrounded, wherever possible

As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, we’ve gathered some of our favourite conversation starters that you can use to spark meaningful conversations in your organisations - about all aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion but most powerfully, about gender balance, gender equality and gender equity.

Below you will find ideas from our team and our RSM colleagues. Use them to have relaxed but substantive discussions, built around close listening and enabling everyone to share in a way that enhances their sense of belonging. Conversations can be a way of jointly imagining what a gender equal organisation – and world! – looks like. They can help build community, broaden our wordviews and provide insight into what is important to our colleagues, even beyond working hours.

Use these conversations to open or close a meeting. And think of your own that apply to your specific industry or organisation. Tag us on social media and share using #genderbalanceconversationstarters. We’d love to be part of your conversation!

On the language we use

“Why do we always ask why there are so few women in organisations instead of asking the more crucial question: why are there so many men?”. Prof. Hanneke Takkenberg, Executive Director, ECWO

On the questions we ask

''What would change if we all asked men how many days a week they plan to work after congratulating them on their impending fatherhood?" Dorothy Grandia, Associate Director, ECWO

On intersectionality

“Taking an intersectional approach means we see people for their individuality and the unique make-up of their social identities and while it is certainly messier and more challenging for leaders, the value of taking this intersectional approach is that it leads a more sustainable organisation.” Professor Wiley Davi, Professor of English and Media Studies at Bentley University and Programme Facilitator for ECWO

On not fixing women

“Steps that organisations take towards gender equality should not be aimed at ‘fixing’ women. They should be about taking the opportunity for your organisation to embrace gender diversity because it makes it better, more agile, and more innovative – and will drive sustainable change.” Prof. Hanneke Takkenberg, Executive Director, ECWO

On changing behaviour

''How would organisational and individual behaviour change if the father's organisation paid the government-mandated employer contribution to maternity leave?" Dorothy Grandia, Associate Director, ECWO

On the true meaning of inclusion

“The true value of  inclusion lies in being invited to the party, AND being invited to dance AND being invited to choose the music to dance to – feeling like you truly belong to optimally contribute to the organisation.” Professor Hanneke Takkenberg, Executive Director, ECWO

On leadership for gender equality

“Leadership is about helping reveal the talents that everyone is born with. As women, our talents are frequently ignored or overlooked. As a leader, and as colleagues and friends, you can help reveal these talents and give people the space, encouragement and courage to explore them.” Prof. Dianne Bevelander, Founder, EWCO

On the small steps

“Why wait for change to come from the top? Like the hummingbird, we can all model positive change. Stand up for women in your network! Amplify their voices, recommend them for leadership positions, encourage and coach them to reach out of their comfort zones. When we take small steps together, we create a wave of change.” Friedel Grant, Internal Communication Lead, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM).



More information

The Erasmus Centre for Women and Organisations (ECWO) is committed to women’s continued advancement into leadership positions across multiple sectors – from multinationals and start-ups to not-for-profit organisations. ECWO supports gender-balanced leadership through its management educationresearch and events about gender equality, and by coaching female business leaders. Its strong network leads to women empowerment and gender equality to the benefit of business and society.

EC for women and organisations