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Dutch Women Demand Quota for Top Positions

Dutch Women Demand Quota for Top Positions

Over 200 women at the top of their professions in The Netherlands have signed a Manifesto for a Quota demanding that legislation for a 40% quota for women on all non-executive Boards of listed companies, and governmental and semi-governmental organisations. The Manifesto, initiated by Woman Capital, an executive search firm, was sent today to the members of the Dutch Parliament, the Cabinet and the Social Economic Council.

Look to Norway

Hufvudstadsbladet writes (in Swedish) about a similar process in Norway, where several years of voluntary compliance failed to lead to a sufficient number of female board members. In 2002, voices in the Norwegian government publicly proposed a 40% quota on publicly listed boards. A law would be enacted in three years only if companies failed to comply. Out of the 611 then affected companies, 470 had not a single female board member.

In spite of the efforts, however, by 2006 only one in four publicly listed boards in Norway had met the 40% target for non-executive female directors. It was then that the government announced that the quota would become compulsory. The government had expected a widespread rebellion, but by the final deadline for compliance only a handful of companies had failed to meet it.

An interesting detail in the process is that the quota was presented less as a gender-equality issue, and more as one driven by economic necessity. It was argued that diversity creates wealth and that Norway could not afford to ignore female talent.

In Norway, the quota went ahead only after years of ferocious debate and some resistance. For example, business leaders argued that experienced senior women were impossible to find, especially in the oil, technology and gas industries. In response, Marit Hoel (the founder of the Oslo-based Centre for Corporate Diversity), called a press conference where she spoke no words but showed the photographs of 100 senior women with a brief resume of their cvs. The idea was to show that experienced women are out there in quantity and the problem, as elsewhere, is that they are literally not seen. Men have their own networks.

Catalyst, an influential New York thinktank, has published a list of the barriers to female advancement to board level. On top of the list is women's lack of management experience, closely followed by women's exclusion from informal networks; stereotypes about women's abilities; a lack of role models; a failure of male leadership; family responsibilities; and naivety when it comes to company politics.

The Guardian also wrote a rather detailed article on this topic.

Female boardroom quota backed by MPs


Plans to make at least 30% of top company executives are female will be debated in parliament later on Monday, the Volkskrant reports.

The scheme would require big firms to make sure 30% of their management and supervisory boards are women. It has the support of the ruling Christian Democrats and Labour (PvdA) as well as the opposition Liberals (VVD), giving it a majority in parliament, the paper says.

If the plan gets accepted, companies which do not meet the quota will have to draw up an improvement plan. The quota would only affect firms with at least 250 employees.