Just under 30% of businesses see gender equality as a high priority

September 25, 2018

According to Frazer Jones` Global HR Spotlight report, just under 30% of all businesses globally have gender equality as a high priority on their strategy map. Yes, gender diversity is back in the spotlight in the Netherlands after the publishing of McKinsey`s report for Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven. The Financieele Dagbald`s cover page spelt in large letters “Achterstand vrouwen kost Nederlandse economie EUR 100 mrd – Disadvantaged women cost the Dutch economy EUR 100 bn”. A headline which is most likely quite surprising for many as people view the Netherlands as a very tolerant and inclusive nation, which it is.

But it has failed to deliver significant steps to increase gender diversity in leadership roles. Personally, I believe, it is not only direct discrimination against woman, it is a much more complex issue. There is an expectation that women are responsible for childcare. As a result, a large part of the Dutch part-time employee population is female. Now, in most corporates, it is next to impossible to drive a part time career on a senior level. According to McKinsey, only 25% of all management roles are held by women. Is this the main reason why men and women are not equal? Gender equality in the Netherlands is clearly not where it should be.

There are some positive trends though. Within the HR recruitment market, we have seen a clear increase in activity in regards to roles in diversity management and heads of diversity. Over the last months, we have helped to successfully appoint Global Heads of Diversity & Inclusion for two of the most well-known brands in the Netherlands. Both roles are based in Amsterdam. A clear sign that the importance of diversity in the workplace and the benefits of gender diversity have reached the boardroom agenda.

Client side we mainly see two schools of thoughts in Human Resources departments, one of which is a very holistic approach to inclusion and the belief that a diverse workforce is a result of being inclusive. The other approach is to focus all major efforts on gender diversity. Professionals in this strategic direction believe that if you solve the gender equality issue within an organisation you will improve all other areas of Diversity pretty much as a side effect. Not to forget, the focus on female leaders in the Netherlands has to go hand in hand with a workable solution to the gender pay gap.

I touched on this in my interview with Hein Knaapen (Chief HR Officer, ING Group) and he made a crucial point: “D&I is very important – though it`s a complex challenge to develop best practice around it. To an extent, this may be due to a mixing of various aims, each laudable in itself. What you really want is behavioural diversity.”

This is a key point, behavioural diversity. If we take this line of thought for a moment I can see a major challenge, all of us are programmed and focussed on hiring cultural fit. Are both mutually exclusive or inclusive?

According to our own research (see Frazer Jones Global HR Spotlight, page 54) 84% of all respondents agree that diversity of thought will positively contribute to the bottom line of their businesses. As a sheer contrast, more than 60% of all global respondents think that neither area of diversity is a major priority. Only under 30% of respondents felt that achieving gender equality is a high priority. Even more shockingly, 39% of businesses in Europe do not role model inclusion.

So, is the public debate not heard in the boardrooms and are the nice brochures just window dressing? I fear in many cases this is the harsh truth. Especially when you look at LGBTQ+. Around 60 % don’t see this as an issue they are addressing or if they do then only with low priority. The picture is very much the same for social mobility, a challenge which is pulling societies apart. Very clearly a rethink of inclusion strategies is required.

Naturally, our figures reflect the status quo on global diversity and more detailed regional results can be found in our report. But it is safe to say that Europe nor the Netherlands is where they should be especially in regards to the gender gap. US corporates seem to be in much better shape with 76% of all respondents agreeing that their employers role-model D&I – that’s a benchmark.

Here at Frazer Jones, we will keep pushing Inclusion & Diversity where we can. Whether that is internally for our own staff and leadership positions or how we work with our candidates and clients. We are very proud of what we have achieved over the last number of years, especially the gender diverse workforce we represent across all our global offices. We are currently preparing a top-level client event on ‘Can we achieve equality’ for the first quarter of 2019 in Amsterdam. Want to get involved? Reach out!