For best experience please turn on javascript and use a modern browser!
You are using a browser that is no longer supported by Microsoft. Please upgrade your browser. The site may not present itself correctly if you continue browsing.

“If the Faculty of Science is a place where people feel comfortable to come, that’s a good first step. The second step is for these different types of groups, for everybody, to be able to contribute to the conversation around diversity and inclusion. It is important for them to feel comfortable to speak up, not only to feel comfortable being here”, says Siddique Sheikh, Faculty Diversity Officer (FDO) at the Faculty of Science. As of 1 May, he succeeds Machiel Keestra, now the Central Diversity Officer (CDO) at the UvA.

Portrait Siddique Sheikh
Siddique Sheikh (photo: Liesbeth Dingemans)

A foot in two different worlds

While Siddique acknowledges that diversity and inclusion (D&I) is an important topic for everybody, for him, it has a personal component as well: “When I was three years old, me and my family migrated from Pakistan to Canada. So I experienced first-hand what integration means. Having a foot in two different worlds: one with my parents and older siblings at home and what they thought was their culture or their belonging, and the other with what I was being introduced to at such a young age in Canada and that culture. I had to navigate it and figure out what it meant for me. There were obviously some bad, but also some really good interactions that taught me a lot about D&I. Especially how important it can be in a school or work setting.”

At 29 years old, Siddique moved to another country yet again. This time: the Netherlands. “It was less of a culture shock, but definitely some things to get accustomed to. The same things come about in terms of learning a language and how much you assimilate.” He looks forward to his new role: “I have a personal interest in diversity and inclusion, and I am looking forward to helping and supporting the D&I initiative to grow and continue to be better at the Faculty of Science.”

Building communities

“I have experience in working with companies and it’s my favourite part to help them grow. There is that satisfaction of helping the company grow but also that social aspect of creating a community where companies feel comfortable working with each other and adding to the greater good, whatever that may be”, explains Siddique about his role as business developer at LAB42. “Previously I worked for an accelerator in Canada. We were working with a variety of different entrepreneurs: businesses that were led by women, by minorities, by individuals from the LGBTQI community. There were some cases where we offered different initiatives, programmes and workshops, that we later found out weren’t very inclusive in terms of the unique challenges that these different groups face. We felt a responsibility in helping and coaching these start-ups and scale-ups with their inclusive policies. So when they grew larger, it would be less of a mission to become more diverse in their thinking and how they hire, for example.”

The best of the best

In terms of D&I issues, there are parallels between the business world and the university, according to Siddique: “There are some practical and pragmatic reasons to be focused on D&I. Having different unique points of views helps you create a better ‘end product’, whatever that may be. If you want to have a society such as the one we have here in the Netherlands, it’s important to include different groups because they have unique issues that others may not know about. That creates a society, or in our case a faculty, that is not only objectively warm welcoming and better, but also something that other groups or individuals would like to be part of and contribute to. So if you would want to look at it in a very practical or pragmatic way, having a more diverse and inclusive faculty allows us to attract the best of the best when it comes to staff and students. However, more importantly having a diverse and inclusive environment is socially the right thing to do.” This applies in particular to the university or higher education, says Siddique: “ I think the university more then, potentially, an independent private company has a responsibility to understand that there are differences that come with different groups and to provide a climate in which they can all cohabitate respectfully, and feel safe and included.”

Facilitating and connecting

Siddique’s business background translates to the way he approaches his new role: “I see my role as a facilitator and connector. I’d like to identify and connect the groups that are working in the D&I field within the Faculty of Science, and help them by amplifying their message. Also, individual groups might have overarching issues that other groups might be facing as well. These individual groups, rightfully so, might be focusing on things that affect them or things that they care about. So it’s my responsibility to connect as much as possible.” He stresses that the change of FDO should not mean that all the good work that has been done already should go into the dustbin: “At the Faculty of Science, a lot of great initiatives and programmes are already in progress and are being improved on currently. In my general philosophy: it’s important to not only improve things that aren’t being done well, but to make sure to highlight those that are going well and not lose them as you’re changing.” Siddique highlights that the transition between Machiel Keestra and him can act as a new chapter: “As much as possible I want this transition of becoming the new FDO a point where people either readdress things that they brough up in the past but did not have a satisfying resolution or address newer issues that we aren’t aware of.”

While preparing for his new role, Siddique shares his hopes for the future: “I’m heartened to see that people feel comfortable, as far as I can see, talking about D&I issues. Our upcoming results are the actual work, but I do like to see that people are open. Hopefully we can translate that openness and discussion into results that will actually make them happier, feel more welcome, and contribute to a more diverse and inclusive faculty.”

Siddique Sheikh, Business Developer at LAB42
Works at the UvA
since November 2021
Lives in Amsterdam-Noord
What are your hobbies? “I like to play sports and cook. I also enjoy exploring new places with my partner and friends, be it within our own city or traveling boarder and experiencing new places.”
What do you enjoy most about your business development role? “There is the satisfaction of helping the company grow but also that social aspect of creating a community where companies feel comfortable working with each other and adding to the greater good, whatever that may be.”
What are you looking forward to in the FDO role? “I have a personal interest in diversity and inclusion, and I am looking forward to helping and supporting the D&I initiative to grow and continue to be better at the Faculty of Science.”