Top Belgian companies still reluctant to hire women directors

The nomination of a former male minister as director of the National Bank of Belgium has re-opened discussion about gender balance in management teams. Belgium is a slow learner: in 6 of the 20 biggest companies there's no "womanager" at all.

Marjan Justaert
Marjan Justaert De Standaard, Belgium
Source: De Standaard
Top Belgian companies still reluctant to hire women directors - NewsMavens
Steven Vanackere, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

The Belgian Christian Democrats (CD&V) rewarded their former minister Steven Vanackere with a prestigious appointment, even though he had to step down in 2013 because of a controversial deal between Belfius Bank and a Christian trade union to which he belonged. Vanackere is the official nominee for a soon-to-be-vacated position at the National Bank. He will replace the only woman on the board of directors.

Although other coalition parties initially approved his nomination, the new all-male board of the National Bank has been criticized by many politicians.

The CD&V's feminist movement, Vrouw & Maatschappi, has also voiced dissatisfaction at the absence of women in the National Bank's upper management.

But the National Bank is no exception. De Standaard looked into the board of directors of Belgium's 20 biggest companies and saw that as of 2018, six of them still don't have a woman in their executive management team.

The call for mandatory quotas is growing louder and louder. Visibly, things are not improving on their own.

Details from the story:

  • The facts are clear: only in 1 of the 20 biggest companies in Belgium, telecomprovider Telenet, have a good gender balance in the board of directors.
  • No less than 6 (!) companies don't have a female manager at all, not even in public companies such as Bpost. Ironically, the minister who is responsible for Bpost is Alexander De Croo, a liberal, who wrote the book "The Century of the Women" and is a driving power behind #SheDecides.
  • "I can't force them, it's the company who choses the managers", De Croo says. But he regrets the absence of "womanagers".
  • According to female CEO Saskia Van Uffelen, diversity must be in the DNA of a modern big company. 
  • Both Van Uffelen and the Belgian Institute of Gender Equality are in favor of creating a gender quota rule to cement the process (which exists already for the governing boards by the way).
  • But, the CEO adds, "then I also plead for age quota: rejuvenation is as important as a gender balance."
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