About Esther Mollema

Esther Mollema is CEO and founder of Direction and HPO Center and an expert in Female Leadership, Mindbugs and diversity. I have studied, lived and worked for over ten years in various places and regions of the world. When I returned to the Netherlands, I noticed that in a country where equality of all citizens is an important good, we also have very high stereotypes in tasks and roles. I also saw that reflected in organizations. When I got an assignment in the Netherlands as a leadership trainer, I worked almost exclusively with men, who were also almost all white, Dutch and of the same age. Even at organizations that worked very internationally. I asked myself: “Where have all those other talents gone?”

I did research and initially focused mainly on women in leadership. This turned out to be a good choice, because more diversity in the broadest sense of the word starts with promoting the advancement of women.

“With her no-nonsense mentality, in-depth knowledge about diversity in relation to high performance organizations, Esther shows both men and women the power of diversity and Esther touches you, whether that is 1-on-1, in a group or with a book is. I am always impressed by its impact. ”
Nicolette Loonen, Member of the Supervisory Board, ABP

Slowly but surely I gained more insight and a vision grew about women and ambition, and the way men and women look at this and how careers take shape. Organizations asked me to share my insights with them. Together with my colleagues at Direction, I designed a training for women to give them the insights not to lose their ambitions, but to realize them. Female participants in this training introduced us to their organizations, and we started working with managers more and more. They asked us to think about other diversity challenges such as age, cultural differences and personality. Every assignment and collaboration brought me more insight and experience. It struck me that the knowledge about diversity within organizations was always held by a very small group of people, and that this had to change.

In 2009 I wrote the book ‘50% meer talent: Zo scoor je met vrouwen’ ( 50% more Talent ). It was longlisted for Management Book of the Year and became a real bestseller.

The main motivation behind the book was that if we really want to perform better, people at all levels of the organization need to know more about diversity and why it doesn’t just work. We knew when the first book was published that part of the solution lay in understanding how your brain labels and assesses other people. Not because your brain wants to discriminate, but because your brain has to label and generalize to be able to make the millions of decisions per day at all. I call these mind bugs, after the example of Mahzarin Banaji, the Harvard professor who pointed this out to me. Mindbugs explains why you think you choose or judge the best but you don’t. Your brain works very differently. At Direction, we have expanded and deepened our knowledge of the brain in recent times by following a lot of scientific research and talking to neuroscientists. We developed our own tests and also conducted our own research. In this way we discovered all kinds of puzzle pieces that put together into a whole explain how the promotion of diversity also works in the Netherlands.

Every day, we engage in a dialogue about the effective promotion of diversity with managers who want to build the best, and therefore diverse, team. I talk about it so often that when I was walking down the corridors at an organization the other day, a passerby shouted, “Hey, there’s Mrs. Mindbugs ”.

“Esther Mollema makes is easy to discuss sensitive issues around diversity and high performance at Schiphol Group. This book is fun, light-hearted, you can almost hear Esther tell you (in her pasionate way) and you encourage managers to take actions to really make their teams better, to take them to a higher level. ”
Jos Nijhuis, former President and CEO Schiphol Group

In my book ‘Succes in Veelvoud’ and during various workshops and lectures I share all the knowledge and experiences that we have gained recently. And we share a proven approach for real results with diversity.

I want to help those managers who do not want to wait for another policy memorandum or a diversity KPI in their organization, but who intrinsically want the best for their teams and their organization. Managers who simply want to get started themselves and can use concrete tools to start making progress in the field of diversity. We want to help them to really choose the best people in their teams and show them a way of working and performing together with their employees in a High Performance Organization (HPO) way. Diversity in teams, high and low in the organization, are an important key for HPO teams. HPO teams make organizations better. Better organizations are the foundation of an even better Netherlands.

For more information about Esther Mollema, please visit www.esthermollema.nl

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