Netherlands rebuked over business gender gap

24th February 2004, Comments 0 comments

24 February 2004 , AMSTERDAM — A researcher with the Catholic University in Nijmegen has sharply criticised the Netherlands over emancipation, claiming that very few women are being appointed as company executives.

24 February 2004

AMSTERDAM — A researcher with the Catholic University in Nijmegen has sharply criticised the Netherlands over emancipation, claiming that very few women are being appointed as company executives.

Researcher Yvonne Benschop said Dutch business emancipation had been poor for some time due to three factors: firstly that it is often said it is only a matter of time before women occupy executive positions and secondly, it is often said that women do not want careers.

The researcher — who obtained a doctoral degree in 1996 for a thesis on emancipation in companies — said the third argument was the only one with any weight to it: that companies are not organised and do not take action to appoint women to top positions, newspaper Trouw reported on Tuesday.

She said the structure of Dutch companies is totally focused on men. There is no room to take advantage of a variety of work times and that both men and women think it is normal if women work less when they have children. "If companies would offer more flexible work times, less talent would be lost," Benschop said.

Her comments come after Social Affairs Minister Aart Jan de Geus said last year that the Netherlands was almost fully emancipated — a statement Benschop adamantly refutes. 

The researcher recently studied yearly accounting reports from several businesses and said operating figures were primarily reported. Only occasionally did companies report on their emancipation initiatives, but even then they were scarcely given the light of day, she said.

Benschop said her research indicated that the wellbeing level of a country did not have anything to say about the number of women in the business community. She said the most emancipated country is Russia, where 89 percent of companies have a female on the board of directors.

The Philippines and the US are also rated well, scoring 85 and 75 percent respectively. The Netherlands was a long way behind, scoring just 27 percent.

The Social Affairs Secretary of employers association VNO-NCW, Guusje Dolsma, said she is not surprised by the low score. "It is a known fact and is partly due to the workforce participation rate of women, which got moving late here."

But Dolsma said there are enough companies taking initiatives to make up for lost time. Despite this, she admitted the road to the top is difficult and demands a big effort and high ambition from women.

Opportunity in Bedrijf (Opportunity in Buisness) was established by prominent companies and is designed to help companies stimulate emancipation, but advisor Margo van Berkel is not surprised by the research either.

"The time-honoured breadwinner model has only been formally let go of in the past few years," she said.

But Van Berkel said the Netherlands' low emancipation rating — which placed the nation at about the same level as Islamic Pakistan — was not due to economic factors. She said it was due to stereotype images of men and women.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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