Why it is time to walk the talk and deliver on gender equality promises: a moral responsibility and legal necessity

We were pleasantly surprised when we read the recently published AGM Engagement Report of VBDO, pointing out that many organizations have recently updated their diversity policy or intend to do so next year. However, a comprehensive policy does not equal effective implementation. It requires a structural approach and integration in the management cycle…

The Netherlands is doing well in many areas when it comes to gender equality. However, when it comes to equality in the workplace, we perform poorly. The McKinsey Global Institute’s report The Power of Parity published in 2018, shows that the Netherlands is bringing up the rears in terms of four out of six researched indicators of gender equality in the labor market. Dutch women work the least number of hours, have the lowest monthly salary, on average no other country in Europe has as few women in management positions, and the percentage of girls choosing a beta study is nowhere else as low as here.

A similar picture emerges from the latest report on implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. The Netherlands is in many ways on track to reach the SDGs by 2030, but not when it comes to SDG 5: gender equality. In particular, the transfer of women to higher positions is a point of attention. Despite the focus on women’s positions in the labor market and the many initiatives by government and labor organizations, there is little progress regarding the proportion of females at the top. The results of Vrouwen in besluitvorming 2018′,Bedrijvenmonitor Topvrouwen 2019’, and The Female Board Index 2019’ show that the percentages of women in top positions is increasing, but at a slow pace. Also, the transition of women to the sub-top is faltering, and companies do not seem to understand why.

To boost further improvement, PvdA, Groenlinks, SP and 50Plus submitted a bill to oblige equal pay for men and women in organizations with over 50 employees. This bill would shift the responsibility of identifying and reporting on wage discrimination from the employee to the employer. In addition, Parliament voted in favor of legislation that requires listed companies to have at least 30% of women in their supervisory boards last December.

Although the new bill is not yet set in stone, organizations are not waiting around to act. The earlier referred to AGM Engagement Report 2020 of VBDO shows that Fugro, KPN, ASML, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield and NN group have committed to further development of a comprehensive D&I policy and/or strategy. In addition, Arcadis, RELX Group, SBM Offshore, Philips, ING Group, Van Lanschot Kempen, OCI, Altice and Randstad have committed to report on the gender pay-gap. A great development and a good first step which we encourage, and hopefully will be followed by many organizations. Though, to really bring about change, companies must realize that policymaking comes with commitments, and that they are only at the beginning of this journey. Your customers/clients, future employees and other stakeholders will value concrete actions and results.

If your organization sees the transition of women to the sub-top faltering or is unaware of a possible gender pay-gap and wants to further improve performance by structurally integrating efforts in the management cycle, get in touch! We’d love to help.

Author: Kyra Weerts.

Stay up to date with our latest news, recent blogs, and events with our regular email newsletter (3-4 times a year)!