Unlocking Gender Equality and Narrowing the Pay Gap

In light of International Women’s Day 2018, Accenture released the latest edition of its gender equality research. The report is based on a survey of more than 22,000 working men and women in 34 countries, with over 700 Dutch respondents, and determines the key factors for workplace cultures.


The “Getting to Equal 2018” report classifies 40 key features that help all employees thrive in the workplace. These key factors, with 14 of them identified as topics that matter the most, represent the most-effective actions business leaders must take to spur improvement and help close the gender pay gap between men and women. This year’s report builds on our 2017 research on how digital fluency and technology can close the gender equality gap in the workplace.

“The research shows that working on a culture of parity is essential for achieving gender equality. That starts at the top of the company. To help women in their career development, gender equality and diversity targets have to be strategic priorities for management,” Manon van Beek, former Country Managing Director of Accenture the Netherlands, explains. “It’s vitally important that companies create an environment where employees can be successful, both professionally as personally, where they can be themselves and where they feel at home.”

What Are the Key Gender Equality Factors?

The 14 key factors have been grouped into three overlapping categories: bold leadership, comprehensive action and an empowering environment. Why these categories? Well, these are essential areas that overarch all the found key features, making them easier to group. What we discovered is that success in one of these three categories automatically enhances the other categories, resulting in a virtuous circle, boosting each other’s effectiveness. Together, they nurture a culture of purpose, accountability, belonging, trust and flexibility.

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The key results per category for the Netherlands, and compared to the US, can be found below. For the complete list of 14 key factors, check page 6 of the full Getting to Equal report. 

Bold Leadership

A diverse leadership team that sets, shares and measures equality targets openly.

Women are over twice as likely to get on the fast track in organizations where management teams take responsibility for improving gender equality. 19 percent of Dutch respondents thought so, compared to 10 percent in the US. Moreover, a mere 84 percent of Dutch respondents believe that the percentage of female senior management positions has increased over the past five years, compared to 38 percent of American respondents. However, compared to 100 male managers, the Netherlands only has only 34 female managers to offer. In the US, that number is twice as high, at 65 female managers for every 100 male managers.

Comprehensive Action

Policies and practices that are family-friendly, support both genders and are bias-free in attracting and retaining people.

Involvement in women’s networks is key for the development of women, but most of the surveyed women (51 percent) said their company does not have such a network. Nine out of ten women that do have a women’s network available participate in such an organization, with 85 joining a network that also involves men.

An Empowering Environment

One that trusts employees, respects individuals and offers freedom to be creative and to train and work flexibly.

One of the factors linked to gender equality progress is not having to conform to a dress or appearance code for employees. Other factors that are equally important are having the responsibility and freedom to be innovative and creative. For 62 percent of Dutch respondents, it’s important to receive trust and responsibility. And 83 percent of employees working at organizations where all 40 factors for gender equality are present, say they receive training courses on a regular basis to keep their skills up to date.

How does the Netherlands Perform?

As stressed above, on every 100 male managers, the Netherlands only has only 34 female managers, while this figure is twice as high in the US, at 65 female managers for every 100 male managers. Accenture’s Getting to Equal research found, however, that every person benefits from working for companies that embrace the 40 factors and actively promote a diverse company culture:
  • In both the US and the Netherlands, 98 percent of the employees are satisfied with the development of their career.
  • 90 percent of US employees strive for promotion, while this figure is at 95 percent in the Netherlands.
  • While 89 percent of employees in the US aim to become a senior manager or executive, 95 percent of Dutch employees pursue that same goal.

Employees also have better chances of developing their careers at a faster pace than those not working at organizations with embodying the 40 factors.

  • Women in the Netherlands have a 44 percent improved chance to develop into a manager position or above, and an almost 300 percent better chance of becoming a senior manager/executive or higher. Chances are even five times higher in the US.
  • Men have a 27 percent better chance of being promoted to a manager or higher position in the Netherlands, and a 152 percent chance of ending up as a senior manager/executive or higher.

Getting to Equal - data

Clearly, women have most to gain from organizations that embrace the 40 key factors for gender equality. In case all working environments had adopted the key features, it would have had a dramatic effect on the statistics

  • There would be 78 female managers on every 100 male managers in the Netherlands.
  • Women would see their pay rise by as much as 52 percent in both the US and the Netherlands.
  • In the US, women would make an increased annual pay of about $20,000, while women in the Netherlands would see their pay rise annually by $35,109.
  • Concerning the gender pay gap, women would make $94 compared to every $100 US men would make. That would close the gender pay gap and add an additional $202 billion in income for US women. In the Netherlands, women would earn $92 for every $100 their Dutch male counterparts would make. Total income would rise by $11,8 billion for women.

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How Does Accenture the Netherlands Approach Gender Equality?

According to Manon van Beek in Het Financieele Dagblad, 81 percent of Dutch respondents do not have a management team where gender equality is a key topic. Equality is also not linked to clear KPIs, while this arguably stimulates the number of women in management positions. A legal quota seems, therefore, a matter of time. “I was not a great proponent of it, but I have no problems with such a law anymore when it does get here. Time’s up”, Van Beek says.

We have to battle inequality as diversity leads to innovation, not because inequality is pitiful

In the Netherlands, we aimed to have an equal workforce by 2030, which is now 70 percent men and 30 percent women. Meanwhile, that target has been brought forward to 2025 to meet the global push for a 50-50 workforce. “That’s a strong ambition, but I’m convinced that it’s doable. That’s internalizing, executing your own belief. It has become clear that diversity is an indispensable value when serving clients”, the Country MD for the Netherlands tells De Telegraaf. “Finding sufficient female and ethnic talent is not a KPI that needs to be checked, but an essential fundament of operational management. We have to battle inequality as diversity leads to innovation, not because inequality is pitiful," Van Beek adds. "Discussions in a group with men and women can often be longer and, at times, more emotional, but the decisions are much better.”

Accenture figures Gender equality

The percentage of women in executive positions is still poor compared to other countries. How can we turn the tide? While there is an active referral bonus policy at Accenture for bringing in more women, the ratio of new female hires has improved to 40 percent. To make the company a more attractive employer, the four-day working week has been made more flexible, to allow for 4 x 9 hours. “It’s all about the result. How and when you work, doesn’t really matter to us,” Van Beek explains to FD. To further empower women, the company has set up strict promotion targets, to balance the number of male and female advancements.

Do you want to check Accenture's global gender statistics? View the infographic.Getting to Equal Infographic Thumbnail

Author: Accenture the Netherlands