6.5 Diversity and Inclusion

Inclusion and social safety

Tilburg University assigns a great deal of importance to a safe environment based on openness, trust, and transparency. Diversity, inclusion, and a safe working and studying environment (social safety) are essential to our community. In an inclusive community, all current and future staff members come into their own, regardless of their age, stage of life, job tenure, gender, or origin. National and international movements and developments (e.g., #MeToo, Black Lives Matter) and the targets for women in top-level positions have also called for reflection, dialogue, and concrete steps. The Diversity and Inclusion policy within Tilburg University is based on four pillars.

Behavior and integrity

To improve a socially safe working environment, we have supplemented the social infrastructure of confidential advisors and other facilities with an ombudsperson and an integrity officer, to whom employees can turn for advice and mediation. The ombudsperson will start in early spring 2022. In addition, our integrity system is being analyzed. The analysis has been prepared and will be implemented in the first quarter of 2022. The Code of Conduct includes a roadmap for staff and students in search of support. It is extremely important to us to offer the proper support, but prevention is many times more important With Awareness Week and similar events, we are trying to create a culture change, although we are well aware that this poses quite a challenge.

Recruitment and selection

We facilitated several training courses again in 2021. For example, the Bias in Recruitment and Selection training helped to pursue equal treatment of candidates and optimal and fair decision-making. Participants learn to recognize their own and the group’s bias and are then made responsible for holding each other accountable. In this way, we are trying to counteract inequality of opportunity due to bias or stereotyping. Bias is nevertheless present in many ways and, because it is not always recognizable, we must continue to develop and challenge ourselves.

Inclusive organizational culture

We are working to build an inclusive organizational culture in which gender equality, diversity, and inclusion are natural. Together with the Deans, we have created a Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. This plan includes concrete actions in the areas of recruitment, selection, promotion, and exit that further help to increase the number of women in senior positions.

One way in which the inclusive organizational culture is expressed is by raising the rainbow flag at multiple locations on Coming Out Day. In cooperation with the municipality of Tilburg, we actively participated in this annual LGBTQIA+ awareness day. In addition, by becoming a member of Workplace Pride, we are propagating the message that Tilburg University supports a working and studying climate where LGBTQIA+ people can be themselves and are appreciated for who they are. In addition, various human rights and emancipation movements (e.g., International Women’s Day, World Refugee Day, and Coming Out Day) have been highlighted in the past year. We are well aware that these initiatives are not enough and that the most important thing is to have a culture in which people actually feel safe. Together with students and staff, we are committed to creating a climate in which all people can be themselves. We also try to make it possible for students and staff members with disabilities to have the facilities that will enable them to participate fully in campus life. 

Training courses

To increase employee awareness concerning inclusion and social safety, we developed an Inclusion Checklist that facilitates working with an inclusive mindset; taking into account different opinions, approaches, and perspectives; and training to make unconscious bias recognizable. In the area of inclusion, we provided training on topics including Active Bystander, Cultural Awareness, and Cross-Cultural Competences and Intercultural Communication.

Gender equality, diversity, and inclusion

The year-long Career Strategy Program for women scientists took place in 2021. Within a caring environment, participants have time for vision formation in the long term. The meetings, small group sessions, and individual coaching all involve working toward achieving the learning goals. The program is perceived as particularly valuable. The results are concrete (e.g., promotions, taking on strategic roles, and/or acquiring grants). The learning process nevertheless includes more: developing an authentic and strategic style of communication, increasing connection with colleagues during lockdowns, and helping each other move forward within an interdisciplinary environment.


As a University, we are committed to provide chances to staff members with differing working capacities. In 2021, the focus was on creating jobs for highly skilled candidates with disabilities to support academic staff. To this end, job analyses and job creation studies were conducted at TLS and Facility Services, with objectives including reducing the workload of academic staff.

In addition, investments were made in further encouraging and inspiring Schools and divisions to create jobs for the target group, to share knowledge, and to provide guidance/job coaching. As of 2021, two job coaches from the municipality are working for Tilburg University four days a week. They are physically present on campus to support the counseling of both candidates and the University.

Our efforts have resulted in more than 52 participation jobs. Although we are not growing as fast as we should in accordance with the job quota, we are proud that, in 2021, for the third consecutive year, we scored as one of the top three universities in terms of realizing the job quota. We are regarded as an example or other universities. Our ambition is to continue growing to 90 participation jobs by 2025, in accordance with the statutory job quota for government employers.


We are well aware that we have a long way to go with regard to diversity and inclusion. For example, the proportion of women professors is not yet nearly as high as we would like it to be. We are lagging behind several other universities in this regard, a development we are not proud of. We are committed to reducing this gap, but we recognize that it is not happening fast enough. We will continue to look critically for areas in which we can do more, and we will continue to challenge each other concerning this backlog.

Diversity nevertheless entails more than gender equality alone. We aim to guard against this becoming the only or most important measure. This could cause us to lose sight of other groups, thereby generating a plethora of additional diversity challenges. For example, international students and staff are always a vulnerable group. For example, even the ‘Dutch only” advertisements for rooms can make them feel as if they are not fully part of the community. We certainly have our own part to play in this as well: many emails, letters, and meetings are automatically in Dutch. As a result, international students and staff members are likely not to feel addressed and engaged. In addition, there are many other groups and individuals who may not have always felt heard. Examples include students and staff with different cultural backgrounds, particular religious beliefs, difficult financial situations, disabilities, or mental illness. Awareness leads to improvement, and we appreciate it when people speak up about this. We keep ourselves and each other alert in order to work toward a situation in which all perspectives are included from the outset.