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  • Writer's pictureLiesbeth Switten

Unlocking Potential Through DEI: ESAE's Path to Inclusive Excellence for all Associations

In the latest issue of Headquarter magazine titled Where do we stand on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?, Liesbeth Switten, Secretary General of the Association of Issuing Bodies (AIB) and ESAE Vice-President, sheds light on ESAE's comprehensive DEI strategy. Highlighting the proactive steps being taken to promote inclusivity within the Association and the wider community, Switten's interview delves into ESAE's the ongoing efforts to cultivate a diverse and equitable environment.

What drove ESAE’s engagement with DEI and sparked the discussion?

As the leading organisation in Europe for bringing together association professionals, ESAE recognises the evolving global landscape and the importance of fostering an inclusive environment for associations. During the 2022 Board strategy meeting, we voiced the desire to align ESAE’s values with the diverse perspectives and needs of our members and stakeholders. ESAE’s engagement with DEI was also sparked by a panel session at IMEX Frankfurt and a subsequent joint webinar we organised with our colleagues at American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). They have made remarkable progress in this field over the past years. The webinar showcased their efforts and sparked meaningful discussions within our association, prompting us to explore DEI further.

Can you tell us about the process of developing the DEI strategy and who was involved?

The development of the DEI strategy primarily involved the board and a number of ESAE members, association executives who have been actively working on DEI in their own organisations. We also reached out to DEI experts within the association community. The strategy was drafted, discussed, and reviewed by the board to ensure its alignment with ESAE’s mission and values. Please provide an overview of the DEI strategy and its main components, as well as the next steps for ESAE. ESAE strongly believes that embracing and promoting diversity, equity and inclusion is essential in order to make associations thrive. Beyond being more inclusive, organisations who apply DEI perform better, grow their reputation and have a stronger employer’s brand.

Our DEI strategy aims to assist our members in their DEI efforts while leveraging ESAE’s resources effectively. The strategy includes several key components. Firstly, we have drafted an ESAE Board Charter on DEI, inspired by ASAE’s approach. We have also set up a Community of Practice for members on DEI. Furthermore, we plan to organise a series of events focused on DEI, establish collaborations with organisations like European Women on Boards and deepen the collaboration with ASAE. Further down the road, we will develop a DEI toolkit for international associations, which will provide assessment tools, template policies, and training resources. These initiatives will advance our DEI goals and contribute to the inclusivity of our association and the wider community. We will continue to review and refi ne the strategy as needed to ensure its relevance and effectiveness.

How does ESAE plan to influence the dialogue among European associations regarding DEI?

ESAE aims to lead by example and actively influence the dialogue among European associations when it comes to DEI. For example, we are happy that our board is gender balanced. We also recently presented the first ESAE award for DEI and our remuneration survey included questions on DEI. We intend to organise events around the theme and collaborate with other associations and industry stakeholders, sharing experiences, best practices, and lessons learned in implementing DEI initiatives. In our newly set up Governance and DEI Community for ESAE members, we can engage in constructive discussions and advocate for the importance of DEI within the association community. Through these collaborative eff orts, we can collectively drive positive change and create a more inclusive association landscape in Europe

Any final thoughts you would like to share?

I would like to emphasise that a comprehensive and sustained eff ort is required to achieve meaningful change. ESAE remains fully committed to continuously improving our DEI efforts and creating an inclusive environment where all members can thrive. We are excited about the next steps outlined in our strategy and we look forward to working closely with our members and partners to make a lasting impact. We hope that our commitment to driving positive change and our comprehensive strategy will inspire other associations to follow suit, ultimately creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive landscape for all.

ESAE strongly believes that embracing and promoting diversity, equity and inclusion is essential in order to make associations thrive. Beyond being more inclusive, organisations who apply DEI perform better, grow their reputation and have a stronger employer’s brand. ESAE aims to assist association leaders and executives, as well as associations themselves, in their eff orts to be inclusive and lead by example, by:

• promoting and practicing inclusion.

• providing assessment tools, template policies and training.

• offering a discussion forum.

ESAE especially wants to provide a safe environment for sharing experiences and shaping opinions on DEI, in order to develop guiding principles that are relevant for the framework of associations and their leaders and executives. In doing so, we advance ESAE’s mission while also providing added value to our members and the society as a whole.


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