Representing and empowering the black community

ING’s Black Employee Inclusion Group (BEING) is celebrated its first birthday on 10 June 2021. The network has already made its presence felt in its short period of existence, but if Xiomara Blank has anything to do with it, this is just the start!

BEING was founded by a colleague because she felt that it’s sometimes challenging to be the only black person in the room. She worked in teams where she was the only one without blonde hair and blue eyes, or who wasn’t Dutch. She studied and lived in the Netherlands for eight years and has everything sorted – a job, a house, a partner... and yet she still felt a little lonely at times. She wanted to get in touch with people who look more like her whom she could relate to more easily.”

White bubble

Xiomara – who works in the Customer Loyalty Team for Investments in Amsterdam – echoes her experiences. “Moreover, it seems logical to me that as a bank we want to reflect society. For example, our Dutch head office is in the middle of a black neighbourhood: Amsterdam’s Bijlmer district. So it would be crazy to preserve a ‘white bubble’ inside, even if it is completely unintentional.”

Not innocent incidents

Xiomara: “As black people, we all go through a lot – and that’s not a complaint, but a fact. For example, when wearing my hair in an afro I’ve had colleagues (before I joined ING) stroking me like a pet. I’ve also experienced some very unpleasant confrontations – even with managers – about ‘Zwarte Piet’, which thankfully they later apologized for. There are lots of examples like this. For us, they aren’t innocent incidents, but events that hurt and affect us deeply.”

Represent and empower

BEING’s aim is to contribute to making ING an even more inclusive organisation and a safe and pleasant place to work for everybody. We want to represent and empower the black community, especially in leadership. Therefore, we need to share our stories and engage in sometimes uncomfortable conversations, to create awareness of the position of black colleagues within the organisation and to gain commitment from the management.

Role models

The goal is to show how much talent there is out there and ensure everyone gets equal opportunities for growth and development, regardless of peoples’ ethnicity. Xiomara: “We want to provide role models for black people inside and outside ING. It was so cool that two black female ING leaders, Joyce Louiza (Chapter Lead at ING Netherlands) and Raïssa Tété Yéboué (CFO of ING France), shared their stories at our event!”

BEING works closely together with HR and are about to start a mentorship programme in collaboration with ING’s Lioness network. We also have a popular book club which includes colleagues from many other countries worldwide and we’ve already organised some very well-attended storytelling sessions.”

Courageous Conversations

To celebrate BEING’s first birthday, weorganisedCourageous Conversations ondiversity, inclusion and race at ING. The meeting was moderated by Dutch/Surinamese actress RomanaVrede. In attendance were members of (senior) management and BEING to share experiences and have the difficult, but necessary, talk about racism.

Maarten van Beek, former director HR: “The dialogue on what we already do well and what we have to improve was a big step forward. An inclusive culture in which everyone can be themselves and feel safe is essential for ING. That is why we will continue these conversations internally.”

Read more about diversity at ING

About Xiomara

Xiomara Blank was born in Surinam and moved to the Netherlands at the age of two and a half. She has a master’s in Business Administration. She joined ING’s Investment Department in 2016. Her life changed completely a few years ago when she lost her mobility due to an illness. Since then, she has started growing plants as a hobby and has become a real podcast junkie. She is slowly recovering and is now starting to exercise again. Xiomara is the local coordinator for BEING NL.

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