Women and the labour market: par for the course

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With three-quarters of all Dutch women in paid work or running their own business, the Netherlands scores high internationally when it comes to the total number of women in the workplace, according to research carried out by ABN AMRO Group Economics. But in my role as an HR professional, I’m still struck by the fact that, on the whole, few working women are progressing to senior positions. This is all the more remarkable because we’re in desperate need of them. Why is getting the right woman in the right job so tough?

Talking about why women do or don’t progress in organisations is less effective than focusing on success stories Carien Bartels Carien Bartels Head of Talent Acquisition

Taking on women? Par for the course

In recent years, there’s been a lot of media focus on women’s participation and diversity in the workplace. But the media image of people in the banking sector is still fairly one-sided, as if the financial world were made up of just one particular type of male employee. Fortunately, the reality is much more diverse and nuanced. There’s always room for talented, ambitious women at the bank. In fact, it’s been my experience that taking on women has even become par for the course.

Actions speak louder than words

At ABN AMRO, we all know that women play an important role throughout the bank, a fact which is clearly reflected in the culture here. Various women’s networks, such as Leading Ladies and Women in Financial Services, are also working to increase the number of women in senior positions. I actually find that the network sessions that aren’t specifically about diversity are often the most interesting ones. After all, talking about why women do or don’t progress in organisations is less effective than focusing on success stories. By establishing a meaningful dialogue, we can support one another and together achieve our best.

Aiming high

Part of the difficulty of placing women in top positions has to do with the positions themselves. If we post an IT vacancy or an opening in the Dealing Room, most of the applicants are men. It would seem there’s just more interest among men in certain areas. At the same time, women in senior positions are in great demand – and rightly so – yet supply is limited for two reasons. First of all, not every woman aspires to such a position. Second, there’s still a widespread belief that a job at the top means working full-time. But that’s not necessarily the case. Women who aim high at ABN AMRO can work their way up to higher positions. It’s my experience that these women gain a great deal of satisfaction from their jobs, and can certainly hold their own with their male colleagues. What’s more, teams made up of both male and female members perform better. I firmly believe it’s a win–win for everyone.



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