Vlerick Business School signs the Inclusive Panels charter

The initiative stimulates greater diversity and balance in the composition of panels for events

Marion Debruyne

By Marion Debruyne

Professor of Marketing

26 November 2021

The aim of Inclusive Panels – a new initiative by Women in Finance, Women on Board, members of DMAB (Diversity Managers Association of Belgium) and various Belgian gender experts, with Febelfin as a supporting partner – is greater diversity in the composition of panels, in terms of gender, ethnic origin and age. Over the past year, the founders have been meeting in a virtual working group to devise solutions that emphasise the importance of gender diversity – as well as a mix of ages and backgrounds – in all kinds of panels.

The result is a charter that can be signed by both organisations and individuals, as well as an overview of databases with various experts and speakers in Belgium and across Europe. Over 80 speakers and organisations (including several leading international players) from academia and (federal and regional) politics have already signed the charter.

By signing the charter, Vlerick Business School is committing itself to paying more attention to balanced panel compositions.

Marion Debruyne, Dean of Vlerick Business School: “Vlerick is a source of inspiration for the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs. It goes without saying that we also wish to show the diversity of leadership, allowing diverse talents to follow in the footsteps of these role models and have confidence in their own potential.”

Why inclusive panels are important

Research shows that only 30% of the panels at events are gender-balanced. Yet, balanced panels offer numerous advantages:

  • A mixed panel ensures richer and more open debates, with more innovative ideas.
  • Mixed panels provide a strong signal to both the participants and the outside world.
  • If you can identify with people like yourself (in terms of gender, origin, language, etc.) in the role of expert, you will more easily hold on to your own ambition to become an expert. ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’
  • A survey by ProFacts in 2020 clearly showed that Belgians prefer mixed and more diverse panels.

Balanced panels are clearly a win-win for everyone. The initiators of Inclusive Panels therefore not only wish to spread a message, but also offer concrete proposals and solutions to allow more diverse panels to be created in practice.

The charter and overview of databases

The initiative was outlined in a charter that contains a concrete commitment: the signatories (organisations, companies and individual speakers) will ensure a systematic focus on diverse panels. Organisations or companies will always invite a mix of experts to panels or speeches at their events, while speakers will take into account the composition of the panel they will form part of. They could suggest sharing their place or even propose a female replacement, for example.

In addition, the initiative provides an overview of existing databases which makes it easy to find female and diverse speakers from Belgium and across Europe.

Since it was launched, the Inclusive Panels charter has already been signed by over 40 large companies and organisations and more than 40 speakers (a balanced group of women and men). Various ministers are already convinced of the importance of diverse panels and support the initiative.

Alexander De Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium: “A debate in which various different perspectives are discussed is usually much more interesting and gripping. It also prevents one-dimensional thinking in which a subject is only approached from a single point of view. For me, this also involves more than just ensuring sufficient diversity between men and women. It also means that you allow people of different ages and backgrounds to speak. If we don't want to leave anyone behind in our society, it's important to hear what everyone has to say.

Jason Warner, Zone President Europe, AB InBev: “AB InBev strives to be as diverse as society itself. As the world's largest brewer we always set a good example, also when we are invited to panels. We have signed the Inclusive Panels charter so we can have richer and more open debates, by ensuring that the panels are as diverse as the topics they cover and the communities they inform.”

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