Still few women in upper management in the Netherlands

Efforts to increase the number of women in upper management positions at companies in the Netherlands are having little effect, according to two recent studies.

Management consultancy Berenschot found that just 5 percent of top level executives at companies listed on the AEX and MidKap indices are women.

This has more than doubled from 2 percent since 2006, but is underwhelming in absolute terms: of 176 executives at the country's biggest listed companies, the number who were female increased from 4 to 9 over the course of 5 years.

Furthermore, most female executives are foreigners, primarily from Belgium, France, England, and the US. According to Berenschot, it seems that even highly educated, working Dutch women are not particularly interested in becoming executives at top companies.

Meanwhile, according to annual research by the Volkskrant, at 35 leading Dutch companies the share of female managers at a sub-board level remains stable at 20 percent.

This number has risen at about half of the companies, but the increase is basically cancelled out because many of these same top female executives are simply switching from one company to another.

Percentage-wise, publishing group Reed Elsevier performs the best, as nearly half its management board is female. The Volkskrant singled out tech company Imtech, chip manufacturer ASML, and construction companies Boskalis, BAM, and Heijmans as particularly poor performers, where just 1 in 10 of the highest positions are held by women, if that.

The Dutch government has legally mandated companies to strive for a target of 30 percent females in executive positions by 2016, but given the sluggish growth and an apparent lack of enthusiasm among Dutch women, it seems unlikely that this target will be reached.

Carly Blair


Carly Blair



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