Elisa Van Ruiten is an Association Manager at Dentons Global Advisors, based in Brussels. With Dutch roots and a Californian background, Elisa came to the city to work for an International Human Rights organization over a decade ago and has been there ever since. With a diverse background in design, sociology, and law, she has gained over 15 years of experience working with non-profits. Elisa is passionate about working with individuals from different backgrounds, solving problems, and facilitating change. Her work with international associations allows her to do just that on a daily basis.
What inspired you to work in the international association sector? Would you recommend this career to others?
I gravitated towards the association sector as it allows me to work with individuals from different backgrounds, solve problems, and to help facilitate change. It is so diverse that there is something for everyone, and everyone can bring some skill, perspective, or talent to an association. Therefore, I would – and do – recommend this career to others.
How do you #EmbraceEquity? Does giving a voice and a space to diverse groups make for better results?
I worked in Women’s Rights for years before joining the Associate Management team at Denton’s Global Advisors (DGA). It is therefore important for me to work with a team that fosters a culture that values diversity and promotes inclusion. At DGA, we #EmbraceEquity daily by approaching all the work we do through this lens – how are we making space for others to speak up, feel comfortable and respected, and have the right resources for them to contribute to our work and reach our shared goals successfully.
Internally, we strategically include DEI in our team policies and practices. Our team comes from different backgrounds, and we are at different stages in work and life. For instance, we support our colleagues who are parents by allowing flexible schedules and working from home on a regular basis. We also have open channels of communication for feedback and support for any challenges that may arise.
When working with our associations, we promote an inclusive and equitable approach, helping to support and advance DEI initiatives and efforts – from ensuring there is equitable representation on boards, to making sure communications use inclusive language that reflects the diversity of the audience, and that meetings and events are accessible so everyone can participate.
How important are diversity, equity, and inclusion for the future success of associations? What initiatives, projects and ideas can you share that help other understand the real value of DEI?
DEI is not just a nice-to-have at this point – it is essential to associations and life in general. When everyone is at the table, it becomes a much more interesting and fun place to be. It is important to include DEI in your governance documents and priorities because there are always going to be those who need that inclusion to actually act on it. But it is also essential that your daily actions follow suit.
DEI is more than meeting legal or societal requirements – it is about acting ethically and responsibly. Associations have a social responsibility to promote fairness, equity, and inclusivity in their operations, policies, and practices. Demonstrating ethical leadership by actively promoting DEI helps associations align with the values of their members and stakeholders and contribute to a more just and equitable society.
« Women Who Advance Associations » was started by Dentons Global Advisors four years ago to showcase the diverse talent and voices of female association leaders, innovators, and trailblazers. Thanks to the support of our incredible partner network, this initiative has now become a key event in the international association calendar, celebrating diversity, equity, and inclusion – and the amazing people who make it happen. It has also allowed us to collect and connect global insights on DEI and develop a DEI toolkit for international associations.