Companies still dragging their feet over women in top jobs


Current legislation to ensure more women have seats on company boards has not worked and a quota system is the only way forward, according to a new report on female representation in top executive functions.

Last year, 67% of listed companies had not a single woman on the board of directors while over 43% of supervisory boards were male-only. Although the government has set an aim of at least 30% females at executive level, this was met by only 10% of companies.

‘We had hopes that more companies would have done something about this. But they haven’t. This is obviously not going to happen by itself’, Caroline Princen, chairwoman of the monitoring commitee, said. The committee has been in place since 2013 and reports back to the education ministry every year.

Princen attributed the very small increase in the number of woman in top jobs in some companies to the fact that a quota system is on the horizon.

From 2013, companies have been forced to account for not achieving the 30% aim in their annual reports. Since then, the number of women on management boards has risen from 7% to 12%. Supervisory boards did better, doubling the number of women from 10% to 20%.

‘There is no other way than to impose a legal quota system to finally get women in the top jobs,’ Princen said.


The new proposed legislation, which will be voted on soon, will mean listed companies must have at least 33% women on their supervisory boards, but not on management boards. Any company that falls below this proportion and appoints a man in an executive function will be forced to cancel the appointment.

Princen said the law could have been more comprehensive but was an important step.

Employers organisation VNO-NCW said it was confident a quota system would work. ‘It is working in Germany, France and Italy and is has made a big difference there,’ chairwoman Ingrid Thijssen said.

Companies, she said, should also be more ambitious when to comes to women in middle management and so create a pool of talent. ‘Then things can finally get up to speed,’ Thijsen said.

Part time

Women are underrepresented in managerial roles in the Netherlands because they are more likely to work part time, the government’s socio-cultural advisory body SCP said last June.

Only when people work at least 28 hours a week, are they likely to move into middle management jobs, the SCP researchers surmised. Some 74% of Dutch women do not work the standard 40-hour week but, on average, work 28 hours.

The SCP research shows senior managers tend to work at least 50 hours a week.

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