Friday 07 May 2021

‘Named and shamed’: minister slams firms like Hema for failing to promote women

It might sell gender neutral children’s clothing, but Dutch retailer Hema apparently hasn’t followed suit with its adults: equal opportunities minister Ingrid van Engelshoven has highlighted the brand as one employing too few women at board level.

On Friday she launched a list ‘naming and shaming’ the largest 200 Dutch employers for their top-level gender balance. Only 13, reports RTL Nieuws, met the government target of having more than 30% women.

The list tots up the number of women on executive and non-executive boards, finding that big names such as Hema, ING and Ahold did not come up to scratch, with no women at all on their boards of directors.

Companies that did promote a more equal level of women to both boards included the ANWB, NS rail company and PostNL.

‘Companies respond to competition,’ Van Engelshoven reportedly told RTL Nieuws. ‘Nobody wants to be at the bottom of this list.’

Pathetic excuses

She added that arguments about ‘all male’ sectors or a lack of good female candidates did not stack up. ‘A lot of what I read is really in the category of pathetic excuses,’ she reportedly said.

Releasing the figures on international women’s day, with interviews for different Dutch media, she added to the AD that things had to change. ‘There is a clear figure in the law, but we don’t see it happening. Last year I said we would be naming and shaming. This is what I’m doing.’

Meanwhile, organisational consulting company Korn Ferry released a report comparing 12 European countries and finding the Netherlands does worse than average: an average of 27% of non-executive directors are women, compared with the European norm of 32%.

However, it said, such high-ranking women are ‘only’ paid 4% less than men in similar jobs, compared with 6% in Europe.


On her Twitter feed, culture, education and science minister Van Engelshoven promoted a campaign called ‘appoint!’ (#benoem) with a video featuring some of the Netherlands’ top women (and a few token men) tearing apart some of the excuses given for discrimination.

Ingrid de Graaf, on the management board of Aegon Nederland, points out sarcastically: ‘Gender is just one factor in diversity. What could be better than a board of 50-year-old men?’

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