EQUALS: Equality and diversity in the workforce and Amsterdam’s ecosystem of female entrepreneurship
Important steps have been taken towards gender equality across a variety of workplaces, but take a look at the numbers and it’s apparent there’s still a long way to go. Why is there still such a lack of female and non-binary representation in power positions and in tech jobs – in Amsterdam and beyond? And what can be done to solve this problem? EQUALS, formerly known as We-Rise, an organisation supporting equality and diversity within tech in Amsterdam, weighs in on the situation and offers hope for change. “We need to bring female talent to the market and ensure that they stay there.”
Despite policy plans outlined by the Dutch Government to increase gender and LGBTQIA+ equality in the labour market, there remain vast imbalances in pay, opportunities and leadership in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and further afield. For example, findings by Equileap revealed that in 2021 no Dutch company (out of the 100 they studied) had closed its gender pay gap and 43 stated that they had zero women occupying their executive teams.
The Dutch capital is home to a thriving ecosystem of startups, entrepreneurship and innovation. Within it lies a number of communities committed to forging new seats at the table for women and non-binary persons in the city and beyond its borders, to bring about benefits across a variety of industries. So if this is the case, why do discrepancies remain and what more can be done to level this imbalance?
A prime example of an organisation chasing change is EQUALS. Partnered with StartupAmsterdam, EQUALS champions gender equality in tech through various awareness and educational initiatives. Driving a movement towards equality in the workforce, the organisation supports and empowers women to make the career change, or development, they’ve always dreamed of. Step by step, they’re helping to secure a new standard for all.
To gain a deeper insight into what’s to come, we spoke to Dieuwke van Buren, general manager at EQUALS, to learn more. Read on to discover her take on the future of female entrepreneurship in the Dutch capital.
Female representation in power positions
According to Equileap’s recent study, only 4% of companies in the Netherlands have reached a gender balance among their senior management teams. In the political sphere, the University of Amsterdam notes that female representation is only 30% in the House of Representatives and at a local level, despite 50% of the Dutch population being women. Liza Mügge, associate professor of political science at the university, remarks that women face “equal rights, but not equal outcomes” when it comes to political equality and opportunities. Such figures only highlight why organisations such as EQUALS and others in Amsterdam have formed and what they’re tackling to achieve equality – not only for women in specific industries or positions of power, but for all, including those dreaming of a new career trajectory or skillset.
EQUALS: supporting equality and diversity in the workforce
Creating inclusive pathways is essential to setting up support systems for women wanting to make a career change or progression, particularly in the tech sector, says EQUALS’ Van Buren. “Now, if women want to make a career change or re-skill, they have to overcome a number of hurdles, namely the uncertainty of finding a job after reskilling, the high costs of training and managing without income during study periods – something that is mostly only accessible for women and girls who have a strong financial backup.” EQUALS aims to equip all women with the knowledge and support they need to overcome these obstacles and reach their goals. Ultimately, over time, this will create a new standard within tech, thanks to a continuous influx of female talent to the sector.
“This is our chance to change the numbers”
EQUALS has worked hard to unite a number of communities, initiatives and other organisations to create a joint force, acknowledging that through collaboration they’ll be able to really start to “move the needle” towards equality. Programmes such as EQUALS’ Momentum is a prime example of how these collaborations have come to fruition. A joint venture with the digital acceleration platform Accelerator Squared, the three-month online educational course steers around 20 budding entrepreneurs through an immersive business development programme.
Similar programmes are helping EQUALS to strengthen Amsterdam’s ecosystem of female and non-binary entrepreneurship, as well as making sure that women in tech are easily finding the support and resources they need to thrive. Van Buren notes that EQUALS focuses on both education and recruitment initiatives. The aim: “Bring female talent to the market and ensure that they stay there.” Noting that there are currently more than 96.000 local job openings in tech, Van Buren comments that “this is our chance to change the numbers and make sure the tech talent scene will be a representation of society – 50% women and inclusive to a range of people from various backgrounds.”
What more can be done?
Weighing in on the road ahead, Van Buren says that support and role models will play a crucial role. It’s key to ensure that fellow women in tech and in founding positions support others and work to remove the obstacles that may have stood in their own way, and to create an easier and more equal path for others to follow. On an industry level, she comments that “companies are willing to change, but aiming is not enough. They have to take action and challenge their teams and business on the actual numbers [associated with gender equality].”
On a governmental level, positive changes continue to happen. Recent legislation, from September 2021, now legally requires company boards in the Netherlands to have a minimum female representation of 33%, in a move that follows several other countries in Europe and that is expected to create more opportunities for women to enter decision-making roles within companies across multiple sectors. It’s a good start and an acknowledgement that more needs to be done, from creating more funding and education opportunities for female-led ventures to tackling gender bias in the workplace and in general society.
Amsterdam is home to a growing and thriving network of individuals, groups and organisations that are paving the way for the future of female talent and entrepreneurship in the city. Innovations and collaborations are helping to drive this change and are strengthening the support networks available to women and companies inspired by these changes.