“Woeful” lack of women at top of Dutch companies

The number of top women in senior jobs at Dutch businesses is Woeful, a damning report warns today.

Most ‘senior employees’ are men in the Netherlands, and just 19 percent are women, according to the report from Mercer, the human resource consulting giant.

The authoritative research, which looked at more than 5,300 companies, says women typically hold less than one in three executive jobs.

With International Woman’s Day on 8 March 2012, and the EU committed to improving the number of women on executive boards, Mercer has revealed the ratio of senior executives and managers that were female, averages 29% in countries across Europe compared to 71% of men.

According to Sophie Black, Principal in Mercer’s Executive Remuneration team, “For a gender comprising over half the global population, women’s representation in senior corporate roles is woeful. The cause is complicated. It’s cultural, social, in some cases it is intentional discrimination but it can also be unconscious – the desire to recruit people like you. This unconscious bias is hard to eradicate. The end result of all these issues is a creation of a ‘pyramid of invisibility’ for women in corporate life.”

Mercer’s data demonstrates the impact of cultural factors with the Saudi Arabian sample showing no women at all in any senior positions. Qatar is the second lowest on the list with only 7% of these roles held by women. Egypt followed behind with 16%. However, the presence of the Netherlands in the next place (19%) shows another reason for women’s under-representation at senior levels.

“The figure for Netherlands suggests that it is very conservative, in its approach to equality in the workplace,” says Ms Black. “Actually, the reverse is true. It’s a progressive nation but, like the UK, has very high levels of women working part-time. Part-time work is a major factor determining the low number of women in senior roles and part-time workers tend to be overlooked for promotion. Cultural factors and expectations of childcare responsibilities often mean that part-time work is dominated by women so it has reduced their representation in senior roles.”

According to the data, former Soviet-bloc countries have the highest levels of female participation and equality in Europe. Lithuania and Bulgaria have the highest female representation amongst senior executives in Europe with 44% and 43%, respectively. In fact, the nine countries showing the best representation of women in senior positions are ex-communist states.

In Western Europe, the countries with the greatest proportion of women in the executive suite amongst the sample group were Greece and Ireland (33%) followed by Sweden (30%) and Belgium (29%). Spain, UK and France all had 28% female representation. Next came Denmark and Portugal (both 27%), Finland, Switzerland and Norway (all 25%) and Italy with 22% representation followed by Austria (21%), Germany (20%) and the Netherlands (19%).

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