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Dutch quota for women on supervisory boards unpopular

Dutch MPs on Tuesday voted to bring in a 30 percent quota for the number of women on listed companies’ supervisory boards.

Published: December 5, 2019, 7:56 am

    The Hague

    The compulsory quota will require that supervisory boards of listed companies employ at least 30 percent females. The proposal was opposed by the VVD and ChristenUnie coalition parties as well as the anti-immigration PVV and nationalist FvD. The Socialist Party, however complained that the measure did not go far enough.

    In September, the government’s SER advisory body called for compulsory quotas but this measure has never been supported by the biggest coalition party – the VVD. While the motion does not place any requirement on company management boards with regard to women, the government has a 30 percent target.

    Leftwing Dutch daily Het Parool spoke to a number of women who are already prominent in the Dutch corporate world.

    Rabobank Amsterdam chairwoman and university professor Barbara Baarsma says she opposed quotas because they are a last resort. “They don’t root out the real problem, of too much part-time work. Just 26 percent of women work full time, compared with 73 percent of men,” she explained.

    Quotas can actually have the opposite effect, she added. “Women end up being asked if they are in the top job because they are good or because they are a woman… I would rather we put more effort into the position of women at the bottom end of the labour market. They have far more problems.”

    But eonomist Helen Mees told the Volkskrant that the introduction of quotas benefits all women. She refered to the situation in Norway, where a 40 percent female quota was introduced in 2006.

    The Dutch business daily, the NRC highlihted in its analysis that the new quota was a compromise, despite being described by emancipation minister Ingrid van Engelshoven as a “historic step” because some 30 of the 88 listed companies in the Netherlands already meet the target.

    Moreover, the cabinet has not yet made its position clear, even though parliament has backed the introduction of a limited quota. Nor have ministers yet reacted to the recommendations by the SER advisory board, which called for the introduction of supervisory board quotas earlier this year.

    The motion now has to be put to the senate, once legislation has been finalised. If there is majority support in the upper house, the quota could be introduced in January 2021, the daily reported.

    Marry de Gaay Fortman, a lawyer and supervisory board member at the Dutch central bank and KLM says she backed a quota. “Some 75 percent of listed companies do not meet the government target of 30 percent,” she said.

    “I think a quota will help because the jobs which are open can no longer be filled by a man. And there are enough woman who want to do the job and are up to it. Corporate culture remains an obstacle.”

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