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'I want to make more people aware of the importance of cultural diversity. To let them know that it’s nothing to be afraid of. I’ve noticed that people sometimes shy away from the subject or sometimes don’t really know how they should behave. Equally, more and more colleagues are showing a real interest in diversity', says Inge van der Stap, Faculty Diversity Officer at the Faculty of Dentistry (ACTA). This interview looks in more detail at ACTA’s work on diversity.

Inge van der Stap
I want to make people aware of the importance of diversity. It’s nothing to be afraid of.

Events to increase cultural sensitivity

ACTA mainly approaches diversity from a patient care perspective, because there is a great deal of support for the issue in that area. Inge: 'One event that was scheduled, for example, but which unfortunately can’t go ahead due to the coronavirus, has the following theme: "How do you deal with patients who celebrate Ramadan, and how do you take this into account in your treatment?" If these patients don’t want to swallow water or blood during the day, for example, you could use more suction. Or you could treat them in the evenings. And there are other things to consider, such as medication. The changes in the treatment are fairly straightforward.' It’s important to raise awareness of these issues because, as yet, not everyone is aware of them. 'These types of events are designed to foster cultural sensitivity, to enable the health care provider to suggest alternatives. So, if you can’t postpone an appointment, you know how to treat the patient in the best possible way. Because treating the patient effectively is at the heart of what we do.' Inge has now managed to organize the event for lecturers and students online: 'Because, clearly, these issues don’t just disappear.'

A highly diverse faculty

Not only does Inge work on diversity from a patient care perspective, she also works on it in the faculty itself. Although it’s not always necessary. 'The population of the faculty is already extremely diverse, among both students and lecturers. There’s a wide range of cultural backgrounds, for example, we have a high intake of female students and there’s diversity when it comes to sexual preference too. So diversity often happens naturally, we don’t always have to talk about it. We also have a diversity focus group, which helps keep us on track. They sometimes draw our attention to things that we hadn’t seen ourselves.' Currently, with the coronavirus measures in place, highlighting the negative impact of some solutions on marginalised groups is a priority. The programme has enrolment quotas and the committee responsible for this constantly checks to ensure that the selection procedure is not biased. Inge: 'As things stand, the person assessing the application doesn’t see the person’s name, photo or gender, for example. But I would like to investigate further to check that there aren’t other prejudices that impact on the selection process.'

Diversity often happens naturally here, we don’t always have to talk about it.

Greater diversity needed among professors

When it comes to personnel, there is still much work to be done. Inge: 'The majority of professors are still white males. The appointment committee that advises the Dean when there are applications for a new professor must include at least two female scientists and someone from outside of the faculty. This ensures that we look at new appointments with a fresh eye. It is clear also that, as things stand, not many dentists opt for an academic career. So we’re trying to encourage them to do so, by providing them with better information, for example. The aim of this is to increase diversity among the workforce, because we’re still seeing fewer women at the top in both academia and management. Also, very few students with a migration background progress to the role of professor. This is understandable when they don't have many such role models in their family. That’s why we had also planned an event with a female associate professor who is a second-generation Moroccan. She is a good role model.' Since this event couldn’t go ahead, other channels are being used to get the information to the target group.

Personal involvement in diversity and inclusion

Inge studied cultural anthropology and is interested in diversity from that perspective. But she also has an intrinsic motivation: 'From a feminist perspective, I believe my work on diversity is crucial. Women are treated more harshly than men.' Inge derives great pleasure from her work on diversity, especially when it comes to the inter-faculty meetings for students and lecturers at VU Amsterdam (ACTA is a joint venture between the UvA and VU Amsterdam). 'These occasions really bring things to life', she says. But it’s not always easy: 'Working on diversity and inclusion is sometimes a challenge too, for some people it means a change in mindset and that takes time. For me, sometimes too much time. But looking at things in a different way, seeing things from a different perspective, is a lengthy process. I haven’t yet found the magic formula for speeding things up.' So, for the time being, Inge has her work cut out raising awareness of diversity among as many people as she can.

A diverse university makes more progress. And diversity comes from working together. Thats why we are committed to ensuring that everyone at the UvA can develop to the full and be themselves. Whatever their cultural background, gender, beliefs, sexual orientation or disability. Every faculty has a Faculty Diversity Officer who sets out the diversity policy, together with staff and students and the Chief Diversity Officer team. Every faculty does have a different identity. Over the next few weeks we will be publishing interviews with all of the Faculty Diversity Officers. This interview was with Inge van der Stap, Diversity Officer for the Faculty of Dentistry (ACTA).

Inge van der Stap, role: Policy officer

Has worked for the UvA for: 8 years
Lives in: Amsterdam
Hobbies: Painting, reading, running.
What do you enjoy most about your job? Seeing my ideas being taken on board and put into practice.