Network 'Colorful Rabo' aims for more cultural diversity

Kris Soomers, Inclusion Agent and board member Colorful Rabo

In March 2022, Colorful Rabo will celebrate its fifth anniversary. The network of employees is committed to the positive awareness of cultural diversity. Kris Soomers is Anti-Money Laundering Expert at Rabobank and a board member of Colorful Rabo, or in Dutch: Kleurrijk Rabo. He talks about this initiative and the plans for the future.

What is Colorful Rabo?

“Colorful Rabo 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 the signpost of cultural diversity within Rabobank. I started working for Colorful Rabo because I think everyone should be committed to diversity, justice and inclusion. I don’t have a culturally diverse background myself, so I’m really doing this for others and that gives me a lot of energy.”

Colorful Rabo has its own board with currently 8 board members: Tirzah Tetelepta-Weima (chair), Bassel Chakhachiro, Nesrine Dini Meerwijk, Safae Bouaazi, Diejana van der Wal, Odessa Tseng, Kris Soomers, and Edselline Jozephia.

What are you actively working on now?

Awareness, Commitment, and Empowerment: these are the main priorities of Colorful Rabo. Kris explains: “Within our recently established committees we work on these topics. For one thing, it’s about raising awareness of discrimination, prejudice, and racism throughout the organization. In addition, we strengthen culturally diverse colleagues to develop their talents. This is because we want all layers of the organization to become more diverse. We organize several events for our network such as ‘Colorful lunches’. At these, we always have a special guest. This can be someone from senior management, the Supervisory Board, or a colleague who knows how to inspire us in the field of cultural diversity.”

“In 2021, we made an impact as a bank in the area of diversity and inclusion. For example, we hired 60 refugees and won the LinkedIn Talent Award as Diversity Champion. I myself, in addition to my role as a board member at Colorful Rabo, am also active as an Inclusion Agent. Together with a group of a total of 28 Inclusion Agents, I hold open dialogues with colleagues from all levels within the organization on the theme of diversity and inclusion.”

“This year is extra special because we are celebrating our 5th anniversary. Therefore, in the spring we are organizing an event with Marian Spier. She has written the book Impact, about personal and business leadership. Together with her, we will also look ahead: what else can we do to make Rabobank more colorful? For this event, we are collaborating with the RaboWomen network. We often seek out other organizations and networks, also outside the bank. For example, we’re working with companies like NS, KLM, and Clifford Chance, and with networks like Wrokko and Agora. By expanding our network we can learn from others and strengthen each other in our common mission.”

Colorful Rabo, Board 2019

What does the initiative mean for employees within the bank?

Colorful Rabo wants all colleagues to be and feel their authentic selves. With our activities, we contribute to a diverse and inclusive organization where employees with a bi-cultural background can fully develop and fulfill their potential. Every employee has the right to be treated equally. Together we make the organization and the world a better place. Rabobank says it wants to be more of a reflection of society. We, as Colorful Rabo, are happy to help with that. This also fits in with Rabobank’s mission: ‘Growing a better world together’.”

We hope that one day we will no longer be needed within the organization.
Kris Soomers

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

“We’re going to involve our network in the various committees. In a few years’ time, Colorful Rabo will have a more robust presence in the organization and colleagues will know how to find us even better. Our activities will continue to increase awareness and involvement, and of course make the bank more colorful. The ultimate goal? I hope that one day cultural diversity is self-evident, and that we are no longer needed within this organization.”