Many countries look to the Netherlands as the example of liberated thinking. A country where "live and let live", tolerance and a willingness to discuss (and embrace) everything from recreational Cannabis use to televised pornography is part of the fibre of the nation's national identity. Everything, it seems, but opening the corporate Old Boys Club to include women. That, until today, seems to prove a bridge too far.
A study just out spotlights the dismal situation:
60% of the top 10 companies in the Netherlands do not have a single woman in their Executive Committee.
Giants such as Shell, ING, Philips, Akzo Nobel and Heikeken don't have a single woman on their boards.
Of the 4 women who do actually sit on Executive Committees, 3 are in line/operational roles, 1 in a staff function. The harsh truth of this reality? One women alone on a board will never have enough weight in the group to affect change. There is a rule that says you need 3 people in a group of 10 to affect change.
3 in 10. Not 1 in 10. So those 4 women are in effect, "invisible" committee members: present but unable to make a fundamental difference.
This situation needs to change. Urgently.
Today, more than 50% of all college graduates are women.
Research has proven that gender-balanced companies perform better than those who's boards consist only of men and that the current economic crisis probably wouldn't have been as fundamental had more women held executive positions, participated in more key decision-making.
Women need to be encouraged to participate at strategic level. Our future - not just women's future - depends on it.
I've written before about the questionable validity of results obtained from focus groups (you know, those demographically aligned groups of strangers we put behind one-way mirrors to fiddle with and discuss our products or ideas). Then along comes the book "What she's not telling you" and confirms what we have always dreaded: our focus group research is worth Nada. Zero. Nil.
Because the participants (women, in this case) weren't telling the truth (but that could go for men too).
Recommended reading BEFORE you finalize and test that one winning 'big idea' on yet another focus group:
"What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It."