FxF Gender Diversity

The Netherlands is often considered a gender-equal country, but is this truly the case? A recent report published by the Gender Diversity Council revealed the Netherlands and Denmark as two countries where the societal perception of gender diversity is higher than the actual figures. Perception of achieved gender equality in leadership positions in the Netherlands is 49%, while the actual share of women in management is 25%.

Gender diversity: the new norm?

The benefits of gender diversity are apparent. In a world where your company’s performance and its economy are measured by metrics such as return on equity, revenue growth, productivity, and profitability, gender diversity is a must-have.

Diversity is good for business. It’s that simple. Companies with women on boards perform better than those without. According to Credit Suisse research, women-led companies generate higher revenue and profits. An article by the World Bank states that increasing gender equality can increase GDP per capita by 20%.

The importance of gender diversity is key for businesses to ensure they increase the representation of women at the executive level. For example, as reported by Forbes:

 “If a company has no women on its leadership team and wants to attract female talent, then having just one woman on the team sends a message that there aren’t enough qualified candidates around or that they wouldn’t be valued as much as their male counterparts… And when it comes time for promotions or raises (or even job offers), the potential employee may think twice about working somewhere where she feels like an outsider.”

The Dutch paradox

The Dutch paradox is that a country with the highest level of perceived gender equality has a lower percentage of women in management positions than other countries. The percentage of female leadership positions in the Netherlands is very low, at 25%. 

Although the Dutch government has placed laws to support gender diversity and has ambitious goals, why is the Netherlands lagging behind?

The paradox is a result of a combination of factors:

  • More women than men working part-time;
    Over 70% of the female labour force works part-time, over three times the rate for Dutch men. The gender gap in hours contributes to unequal pay and women’s slow progression into higher-ranking positions. The gap gets bigger when a woman enters parenthood, as mothers often reduce the hours to care for the children.
  • Childcare Costs;
    Childcare in the Netherlands is one of the most expensive in Europe, making it extremely costly for both parents to work full-time.
  • Corporate culture slow to adopt dads taking parental leave;
    Many Dutch companies are still slow to adapt their corporate culture to accommodate new parents—especially fathers—making them less attractive places for professionals who want greater flexibility as working parents. Their employers often tell fathers that leave is too complicated to arrange or does not fit into the company culture.
  • No Old Girls Network;
    Women have less access to networks that can help them get a job or find a mentor. Unfortunately, there is no old girls’ network to accommodate women getting employed in higher managerial positions.
  • Lack of Role Models. 

Women often don’t see themselves reflected in senior management positions and therefore feel less motivated to pursue such careers and role models who can inspire them and show them how things work at the top level of an organisation or business unit.

Sweden – the optimistic example

In Sweden, only 38% believe that gender equality has been achieved. But looking at the actual share of women in leadership roles, we find that Sweden has the best ratio among the Nordic countries – 43%. And this already says plenty. Clearly, we have a lesson to learn from Sweden. The country’s population holds the opinion that there are still improvements to be made in terms of gender equality, and perhaps that is the exact reason why more efforts are being made to achieve such a good gender ratio, when compared to other European nations.

Why is Sweden performing so well in terms of gender equality?

A main reason why might be Sweden’s decades-old commitment to gender equality, reflected in their national, regional and local institutions. Gender equality is crucial to governmental decision-making and resource allocation and is acting as the main pillar of political policies.  

In this context, women are less often perceived as the preferred or primary caretaker. And that is especially visible in Sweden’s progressive parenting policies. Parents in Sweden are entitled to a total 480 days of paid parental leave, with 240 days for each parent. Should there be a single parent, then they are entitled to the full amount of 480 days. Currently, fathers benefit from about 30% of all paid parental leave, and across Sweden, it is widely accepted that family life should be more equal. This shows the positive effects of the country’s policies that are translating into the job market as well.  

In short, Sweden promotes a family-friendly workplace culture and has an egalitarian view on gender roles, in the context of very gender equality-focused governments and policies. Thus, this eventually contributed to more women climbing the career ladder and remaining in leadership positions.

This is where FxF comes in.

The Financial Industry is one of the most male-dominated industries, with only 3% of women in management. For the past year, FxF has been working with over 30 partners in the Financial Industry to increase the female presence in the sector. With the FxF formula focused on educating, networking and matching women with the right company, FxF successfully matched over 70 women. 

  • Creating the New Girls’ Network;
    By networking with like-minded women and connecting them with role models in the finance industry, FxF inspires a new generation of female talent for the financial sector.
  • Educate and Train;
    FxF is preparing the leaders of tomorrow by empowering, educating and guiding them from the start of their careers.
  • Creating the new gender diversity norm.
    By raising awareness, creating an inclusive hiring process, and branding, FxF rewrites the new norm of gender diversity for companies in the Financial Sector.

What does your company do about it?

Each company has unique challenges and obstacles that must be addressed to achieve a diverse workforce. We hope this article helped shed some light on the actual workplace gender diversity versus the perception in the Netherlands. 

There are many ways for companies to improve upon their current practices when it comes to hiring new female employees: from ensuring that each department has an equal number of males and females working within it (or at least having an equal number of men and women applying) up to offering competitive salaries across all levels based on experience level or education level (if applicable). 

Nevertheless, here are our top tips for your company to attract and retain female talent:

  • Consider the whole picture

    According to a piece published in MIT Sloan Management Review, the perspective taken on gender diversity needs to be broadened. Most of the time, diversity guidelines and definitions only focus on top management and board positions – but looking at how you perform in terms of diversity and inclusion within your company as a whole will provide a better understanding of your company’s current situation. If there is no awareness about what is still to be improved, you will never make further progress.

  • Start building an inclusive workplace culture

    A Danish study (2022) found that women in leadership positions face more micro-aggressions than men. They also perceive the career ladder as less fair and objective than for men.

    This is why, once you are aware of the current situation on gender diversity in your company, it is time to promote an inclusive workplace culture in which awareness-raising, positive reinforcement and accountability are the backbone of change. Moreover, transparency at each level is essential – to avoid discrimination and biases.

  • Change your recruitment approach

    If you want a more diverse pool of applicants, you need to loosen up your requirements so that they fit a variety of profiles instead of reinforcing the same type of candidate.

    This is where skill-based hiring comes in. After working with 30 partners and placing more than 70 female candidates, Female x Finance identified a beneficial trend towards more skill-based interview processes, rather than knowledge-based.

    Not long ago, technical questions were the norm. They aimed to test how much a candidate knows from the top of their head. Recently, however, this approach has made way for focusing on more strategic questions. These questions target someone’s soft and hard skills, rather than acquired knowledge. In the financial sector, for example, a candidate’s business sense and critical thinking are becoming more relevant. 

  • Retain your female employees

    Why? Because if you don’t, it will be harder and harder to recruit female talent. In a study by McKinsey on women in the workplace (2022), it was emphasised that if companies don’t act towards improving gender diversity, they will lose not only their existing female leaders, but also the next generation of female talent

    So, how do you retain female employees? There are multiple approaches, but a Danish research (2022) on gender diversity revealed the following as the most important:

    • Providing mentoring and growth opportunities, as well as role models to look up to;
    • Openly supporting diversity initiatives;
    • Building a family-friendly workplace: Offer inclusive benefits for childcare, parental leave, aiming at breaking gender imbalances and stereotypes when it comes to family life.
To conclude, understanding the benefits of having both men and women in your company is one thing, but knowing how to implement them is another. The more you know about gender diversity, the better equipped you are to make a positive impact. The Netherlands has a long way to go to improve Gender Diversity at every level in a company. But, with initiatives such as Female x Finance, we can close the gender gap sooner than hoped.