Network ‘Rabo Colourful’ aims for more cultural diversity

Board Colorful Rabo
Woman smiling at a dinner table
A conversation between three women from diverse cultural backgrounds
Souad el Kholte & Edselline Jozephia
Board member Rabo Colorful
Reading time4 minutes

Rabo Colorful is the internal network for and by employees with a bi-cultural background. Board members Edselline Jozephia (Manager Insurances) and Souad el Kholte (Team Lead Business Clients CDD) tell us the importance of cultural diversity, about Keti Koti and Ramadan and how they work on more connection and awareness.

What is Rabo Colorful?

“Rabo Colorful is the diversity network within Rabobank Netherlands where colleagues from culturally diverse backgrounds are strengthened in terms of work and personal development. We strive for positive awareness of cultural diversity. We share experiences, give each other tips, support each other and organize events. We are the face of a colorful organization and provide guidance on cultural diversity topics within Rabobank”, tells Edselline.

“In 2020, during the Black Lives Matter-protests, I felt a strong need to commit myself to creating more awareness of discrimination, prejudice, and racism. With my team I already recorded a video about this. I looked for like-minded people within the bank with whom I could talk about these things. That’s how I discovered Rabo Colorful and eventually, I joined the board. Now I can work on awareness much more broadly, outside my own team.”

“I believe that as Rabobank we should reflect society”, says Souad. “Our customers are also very diverse. With more cultural diversity in the office, you will get more varied perspectives. Diversity is now also an important theme within the organization. For example, HR has a strategy for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with clear, measurable goals. As Rabo Colorful we actively commit to this.”

Rabo Colorful has over 275 members and a renewed board since the end of 2022, which now consists of 7 board members: Edselline Jozephia, Odessa Tseng, Diejana van der Wal (chair), Souad el Kholte, Anne-Marie Breuker, Nourelhouda Kassi and Patrick Sanwikarja (in the photo from left to right).

Three women from diverse cultural backgrounds have a conversation.

Keti Koti and Ramadan

Awareness, Commitment, and Empowerment: these are the main priorities of Rabo Colorful. Edselline explains: “We organize different events. Last year, for our 5-year anniversary, we organized an event together with RaboWomen, another diversity network. We invited Marian Spier, who has written the book Impact, about personal and business leadership. Together with her, we looked ahead: what else can we do to make Rabobank more colorful?”

Souad: “And this past spring we organized our ‘Colorful Dinner' – an iftar with about 100 employees. An iftar is the breaking of the fast during Ramadan, the meal after sunset. Also here we had an inspiring speaker and meaningful conversations at the dinner table. Ramadan is so much more than only fasting. These kinds of events work really well to bring people together and raise awareness.”

Edselline: “This year we especially want to focus on Keti Koti, on July 1st. On that day, it is 150 years ago that the Netherlands abolished slavery. A day to commemorate, but also to celebrate. Keti Koti is not only a meaningful day for the people in our community, but for all of the Netherlands. What is nice is that members from our community approached us with ideas for an event. We embraced that and together with them, we will organize a Keti Koti-event, this fall. On the one hand, we want to increase awareness on our history and how it still affects people today. A lot of people don’t know what Keti Koti means. On the other hand, again, we want to bring people from the bank together. And also here, food connects us. So we will invite a chef specialized in Caribbean cuisine, who will explain the link between culture and history.”

Woman smiling at a dinner table

What does the initiative mean for employees within the bank?

“As Rabo Colorful we have a good sense of what is going on”, says Souad. “We have an active online community and often people come to us first to share their experiences, before they go to other colleagues. We notice that employees with a different cultural background have different challenges with regard to growing within a large organization. Skills like networking and negotiating are not always obvious. That’s why we organize workshops, connect people to mentor programs and share vacancies in our community. We want all colleagues to be and feel their authentic selves at Rabobank.”

Edselline: “I like that more and more employees outside our own community are also starting to see the importance of cultural diversity. As an example, we were recently asked by the Members Council of Rabobank Utrecht to think along on the question: how can we increase our cultural diversity? We facilitated that dialogue, but also gave concrete advice and we told our story. We always get positive reactions on that. This is our way of contributing to Rabobank’s mission: ‘Growing a better world together’.”

"We hope that one day we will no longer be needed within the organization." 
Souad el Kholte

How do you see the role of Rabo Colorful in the future?

“I’m proud that we really give a voice to employees with a multicultural background”, says Souad. “We see our network becoming more active, and we want to stimulate that even more. In this way, as a board, we will be able to not only organize activities ourselves, but mostly support our members with their own initiatives and find support for that within the organization. In the end, change cannot only happen bottom-up, it also has to be top-down. That is why in the coming period, we will focus specifically on getting commitment from management teams in the bank, and have them act as our ambassadors. So that Rabo Colorful can spread across all layers of the bank. The ultimate goal? I hope that one day we will no longer be needed within the organization.”