A total of 54 people currently work for the university via the Studeren en Werken Op Maat (SWOM) foundation, and EUR intends to increase their number to 100 by the end of 2021. “That may not seem much when your workforce runs into the thousands,” says former Minister of Disability Issues Rick Brink, who is involved with the foundation. “But there are loads of companies who have zero employees with a disability. EUR is investing in these colleagues, working towards long-term placement and offering solid support. And no jobs were created specifically for the 54 people who work for the university via our foundation.”

Seventy percent of the people registered at SWOM actually have an ‘invisible’ condition like autism; thirty percent have a visible impairment. According to Brink, it isn’t always easy to find a suitable work environment for these young professionals. Indeed, the new award is definitely also intended to ‘inspire’ other employers to hire colleagues with a disability for employment. He says that a number of companies have already contacted SWOM after its presentation, stating their interest in working together with the foundation.

‘Most inclusive employer’

“With this award, we wish to move away from bitterness and focus on the positive,” says Brink. And he is more than aware that a lot of companies aren’t particularly diverse or inclusive yet. “Just look at the statistics published every year by the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP). We want to show people where it is possible. Still, arranging access to employment calls for custom solutions – because a job that is accessible to you may not be accessible to me.”

The title associated with this new award is ‘Most Inclusive Employer’. Still, inclusiveness isn’t something EUR is particularly known for. Only a quarter of the professors are women; its workforce is predominantly white and there are relatively few employees with a bicultural background. Nevertheless, the foundation has consciously opted for the rather broad term ‘inclusive’, says Brink. “That word has impact. But we’ve only looked at what the university does for people with a functional impairment – that’s our focus as a foundation.”

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Wonderful acknowledgement

Judith Wiskie had the honour of accepting the award on Monday, during a live broadcast on NPO Radio 1. She is the HPR Policy Officer responsible for this programme. “It’s a wonderful acknowledgement of our hard work, and we’ll definitely be forging ahead on this path,” Wiskie said on the occasion. “I’d like to dedicate this award to all the managers involved, and specifically the colleagues with a disability for employment who had the courage to take this step.”

In a reaction on EUR’s website, Board Member Ellen van Schoten also shared her delight with the recognition: “I’m incredibly proud that we’re the recipients of the first ‘De Bart’ award. This is a fine acknowledgement and confirms that we’re on the right track. We will continue on this path, so we can recruit even more new talents for our organisation – because we want to show everyone that inclusiveness really works.”