SER Chair says it’s time to Accelerate Diversity
Making an impact together
Chairman of the Social and Economic Council (SER) Kim Putters, is urging for greater diversity in Dutch workplaces, arguing there is a need to "accelerate diversity" and opportunities for professional women. During a meeting on 8 March – International Women’s Day – titled “Making an Impact Together: Towards more Gender Diversity,” Putters expressed his dissatisfaction with persistent inequality even in the year 2023. He is imploring industry members to take steps to establish a significantly more inclusive, diverse work culture.
In his address, which can be read here, Putters used the example of the story of a 10-year-old girl named Louise, the daughter of Putters’ colleague, who voiced her disbelief and anger upon learning that pay inequality is still present on the Dutch labour market. “Louise first asked him if he couldn't arrange with the minister that female football players would be paid the same as men from now on, because that difference is so unfair,” said Putters. “She then made it clear that she couldn't believe women weren't allowed to do some professions back in the day and especially 'that people once approved of that'. To top it all off, she not only told her father that she thinks it's 'greatly unfair' that women are paid less for the same work, but she also asked the justified question: 'That time is really over now, isn't it, Dad?'"
To tackle this issue, Putters suggested utilising the labour market shortage to promote gender diversity issues. Putters’ address acknowledged that promoting diversity in the workplace requires addressing entry-level positions, not only leadership roles. He also spoke of the "part-time culture" in the Netherlands, suggesting that it would require a fundamental shift in societal norms to change. In the past, women in the Netherlands were culturally and legally encouraged to do part-time work in order to fulfil their roles as domestic housewives, as work outside of the home was widely viewed as inappropriate. In fact, in 1924 the Netherlands passed a royal decree which dismissed women under the age of 45 from work the day after marriage if they worked for the government; the following year, a law was passed making it possible for municipal councils to dismiss women teachers after marriage. These rules were abolished in the late 1950s.
However, with changing times, there has been a positive shift in societal norms, with more women joining the Dutch labour force and driving change. Wittenborg CEO, Maggie Feng, who is also a member of the SER Topvrouwen organisation, supported Putters' call to action. She emphasised that diversity was not only a moral imperative but also good for business, as diverse team members offer fresh perspectives and ideas, propelling success.
by Olivia Nelson