More CEOs Are Called Peter Than There Are Female CEOs

Written by
- 3 min read

Gender equality is far away. Equileap's equality report shows we're not even close to where we should be. How embarrassing, especially in a 'progressive' country like the Netherlands where, today, more CEOs are called Peter than there are female CEOs.

Gender equality

The fact of gender inequality in the workplace isn't new. But every report showing the specifics and the facts hurts.

A new report from Equileap triggers that painful feeling again. They assessed 100 leading Dutch firms on workplace equality. This includes companies like Unilever, Shell, ING Group, Heineken, Philips, Ahold Delhaize, DSM and Randstad.

Here's what they found.

Women at various levels

Women are underrepresented at all levels, but especially in executive teams, where a mere 14% are female. Over half (51) of the companies don't have a single woman at this level.

Globally, the situation is not much better. Only 10% of companies have gender-balanced boards and 6% have gender-balanced executive teams.

Here are the data for various levels:

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The senior management level is strongly male-dominated. Only 3% of the companies have gender balance (between 40-60% of each gender).

Secrecy all around

In an earlier post (Equal Work = Equal Pay (NOT!)), we described how one company addressed this by being transparent about it. While that narrowed the gap, few companies have dared follow suit.

88% of Dutch companies do not publish gender-segregated pay information. They prefer to keep such painful secrets locked away inside corporate walls. In fact, 99 out of the 100 companies in the dataset have not published any strategy to close the gender pay gap.

Moreover, 21% of the companies do not publish gender diversity figures. Secrecy or indifference seem to be the norm on this touchy subject.

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More Peters than women

And then there's our headline fact. More CEOs are called Peter (five) than there are female CEOs (four). While Peter might be a common name in the Netherlands, it's definitely not THAT common!

Emotions over rationality

Most agree this shouldn't be part of today’s world. It doesn't belong any more. While that reflects the shared feeling, it doesn’t reflect the reality!

In the end, we continue to accept this antiquated practice.

And yes, we stress again that diversity leads to better performance. More diverse boards have greater returns and lower risk profiles. Increased participation of women at all levels leads to better company performance and higher growth.

But that's all about rationality. Some leaders might be persuaded to pursue equality because it's better for business, and therefore increases their pay check. But shouldn't this be more about emotion and values?

Would change occur more swiftly and more profoundly if it came from a place of love? Because it's the right thing to do? And because leaders and companies want to have a positive impact on the world?

I believe that's what’s needed to change. We need leaders motivated, encouraged and evaluated on how they contribute to doing good: and to the extent they use position and power to tip the scales in favor of goodness.

While that might sound naïve, I believe it's the right way. All of us can contribute by electing, engaging, rewarding, and promoting those leaders and businesses who believe in that too—and for calling out those that don't.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

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Replies (5)

Mark Inskip

Mark Inskip

You rightly highlight the problems in the Netherlands, and those aren't unique to that country, but your post is disappointingly short on calls to action. We've had decades of relying on good will.

If 88% of Dutch companies do not publish gender-segregated pay information and transparency is crucial, why not as a first step legislate to make that happen? Although it's not perfect, in the UK since 2017 employers with 250 or more employees had had to annually publish and report specific figures about their gender pay gap.

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I totally agree with Mark here - in order to drive change there is a need to have defined actions that will enable change to happen. Of course businesses should be a force for good and do the right thing; but unfortunately not all leaders see it this away. Although in the UK we have gender pay gap reporting, I believe more needs to be done; for example publishing clear action plans on how to close the gap together with the hard numbers (otherwise it's just a "reporting" excercise).
Ultimately those changes will need to be driven by leadership and so linking long term social, environmental and other responsible business metrics (including D&I) to executives performance would be a start to hopefully see some change happen.

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Mark and Edoardo have highlighted one way to change the numbers: government-mandated reporting.

Imagine my surprise to find we have this in Australia and audits, too. But the BIG surprise is that half of the top 20 gender-equality companies worldwide (on Equileap's list) are also here!

Are government-mandated criteria the answer?

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For the first time, I am shocked to find myself at odds with this Corporate Rebel commentary which seems to accept all too easily the, for me, doubtful premise that equality of outcome is a desirable and realistic objective for which we should all be striving.

Personally, I find this review far more compelling 👍🏼

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Mark Inskip

Mark Inskip

The irony can't be lost on anyone that this comment has been posted by someone called Peter!

Personally, I find this review far more compelling 👍🏼

class="blockquote-footer mb-0">Peter

Check out the background of person in this video (Jordan Peterson) here

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