More than two hundred female Dutch professionals have signed a manifesto demanding a quota for women in top positions.
It was with mixed feelings, Bercan Günel admits, that she and 214 other female professionals decided to sign a manifesto demanding a quota for women in top positions in both private companies and public institutions. “It is after all a desperate measure,” says the director of the headhunting agency Woman Capital.
For years the women’s lobby has opposed legislation to enforce equal opportunities in the top echelons of the private and public sector. Günel: “We thought voluntary initiatives would be enough to bring about the cultural shift.”
But despite all the promises the percentage of women hired for top jobs remained disappointing. According to Woman Capital it is currently at 6 percent, and it is not expected to rise above 12 percent for 25 years.
So it was time for action. On Wednesday Woman Capital delivered the Quota Manifesto to all members of the Dutch parliament. The Manifesto calls for a legal minimum of 40 percent within five years. It would apply to the supervisory and advisory boards of all publicly-listed companies, all government institutions and all (semi-)public organisations.
The proposal is based on existing legislation in Norway, where it has proved effective. Having more women on the supervisory and advisory boards appears to result in more women being appointed to management and directorial positions too. Günel admits she is unfamiliar with research by the consulting firm Bain & Company, which suggests that imposing a quota doesn’t work.
Woman Capital says a better balance between men and women in top positions is also necessary to find a way out of the economic crisis. Günel: “Men are risk-takers, women are more cautious. A combination of the two results in better management.”
So far only women have signed the Quota Manifesto, although Günel says supportive emails from men have started arriving at Woman Capital’s website. The signatories include top female professionals like Pamela Boumeester (Dutch railways) and Trude Maas (ABN Amro).
At the end of October the Dutch parliament will debate an amendment by the Labour party proposing a 30 percent ‘target’ for female directors and supervisors. A similar previous amendment failed to get approval.