Cultural Diversity Network

While Moroccan-Dutch Khadija Kabli grew up in the Netherlands, Shaju Basheer came here from India as an expat eight years ago. These Deloitte colleagues, who helped found Deloitte’s Cultural Diversity Network in 2015, each approach Diversity & Inclusion from their own angle. Both are convinced that diversity brings benefits – but only in an environment that’s inclusive too.

Khadija works as a consultant for Deloitte’s Programme Leadership service, advising companies on complex transformations. ‘To me, diversity is a fact of life. It’s happening and it’s growing. The focus should be on each individual’s uniqueness.’ Shaju is a senior manager at Global Business Services and supports global clients with shared services and outsourcing solutions. ‘I define diversity as a way of thinking. It’s not about slicing and dicing people into cultural categories. It’s about respect and equality for each individual.’

  • Shaju and Khadija about cultural diversity within Deloitte


When Shaju joined Deloitte four years ago, it proved to be less international than he expected. ‘I saw little awareness of the expat situation and the challenges that involves.’ As another newcomer at the time, Khadija also felt Deloitte could do better in terms of cultural diversity. ‘There were very few people who looked like me and shared my cultural and social background. And that’s a shame. There’s so much we can learn from engaging with colleagues from different cultures. We’re sitting on a goldmine of cultural wealth.’ 

The two of them and several other like-minded people decided to do something about it. They founded the Deloitte Cultural Diversity Network, meant for all Deloitte employees with a diversity mindset. Its mission: to ensure Deloitte’s workforce is culturally diverse, reflecting the makeup of today’s society, and to ensure an inclusive environment where everyone enjoys the same opportunities to develop their skills.

"There’s so much we can learn from engaging with colleagues from different cultures. We’re sitting on a goldmine of cultural wealth."

Pushing for policy

For such a small group, the challenge was considerable, but the results have been impressive. ‘When we started, Deloitte didn’t have a clear diversity policy. Together with Deloitte’s Women Network and GLOBE, we put it on the agenda, and it’s now a strategic pillar,’ says Khadija. ‘So it’s working, though I have to admit, when I look around me, we still have a long way to go.’ Besides the core team, each Deloitte unit now has its own Cultural Diversity Ambassador, so the push is more decentralised, with more people driving the momentum.

For expats, the network offers practical support in settling in at work and in the Netherlands. ’We now have the possibility to find them a “buddy” from their own home country,’ says Shaju. On the cultural front, the network cooperates with Deloitte’s D&I team to highlight different cultural festivities, like Ramadan, Chinese New Year and the Holi Festival. Workshops and sessions are organized to raise awareness.

"Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance. Diversity and inclusion are two sides of the same coin."

Recruitment is key

But it all starts with recruitment, of course. Khadija observes, ‘At school visits and career events, it helps if the colleagues representing Deloitte reflect the diversity we want.’ A big success Khadija remembers was Deloitte’s participation, along with other large Dutch companies, in Amsterdam’s annual Diversity Dinner. ‘We found several new colleagues and were able to demonstrate how serious we are about diversity.’

Shaju sees the value of diversity in his own work. ‘We work with multinationals and diverse teams, so diversity has to be part of our way of working. To ensure effective collaboration, we need to ensure that we hear what clients have to say, and seek to understand it also from a cultural perspective. On our latest project in Brazil, we had team members who could navigate the local nuances, and made sure that Dutch directness didn’t hit too hard.’ Khadija adds, ‘Exactly! More diversity means more access to a variety of viewpoints and perspectives, which is in line with Deloitte’s ambition to act as one globally.’

All about inclusion

Diversifying the brain pool is not enough, however. Both believe diversity has no point without inclusion. ‘Everybody, regardless of their background, needs to feel empowered, to be given the right tools to thrive,’ says Khadija. Shaju adds, ‘Inclusion Strategy Head Verna Myers of Netflix puts it like this: diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance. Diversity and inclusion are two sides of the same coin.’

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