“It’s about women learning to play the networking game without losing their unique characteristics.”

About the organisation

In the Netherlands, Rabobank serves more than 6.7 million individuals and 800,000 business clients, providing financial products and services. Around the world, Rabobank is active in 40 countries and serves around 10 million customers. Rabobank is a cooperative with members instead of shareholders.

In 2014, Rabobank formulated the objective of having women make up 30% of senior management and 40% of middle management in 2020. This is because Rabobank is convinced that diversity contributes to the transformation of the bank and to better customer service. Worldwide, more women than men work for Rabobank (52% versus 48%). With the new group management board, which took charge in September 2017, the objective has been achieved at the top management level (40%).

Diversity is expressed in variety among people relating to gender, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, culture, ethnicity, and mental and physical health. Managing diversity means that these differences between people are taken advantage of in an optimal fashion. A prerequisite for achieving greater gender diversity is an inclusive culture: a culture in which everyone can and is allowed to be himself or herself, and in which employees feel respected and valued on the basis of who they are.

The promotion of women is a major strategic priority within Rabobank. The basic principle is that diversity is necessary in order to gain maximum benefit from every individual’s unique characteristics. In addition, having teams with a uniform composition leads to tunnel vision and groupthink. Wiebe Draijer (CEO): “I am convinced that the contribution made by women in top positions is essential for growth and for a better working environment.”

  • Sector: financial services
  • Number of employees: 45,567
  • Total share of women in organisation: 52%
  • Share of women on group management board in 2017: 10 people, 4 women (40%)
  • Share of women in middle management in 2016: 25%


Rabobank carries out an active diversity policy to facilitate the promotion of women to senior or middle management. This is done, among other things, by striving for diversity when putting together teams.

Rabobank attaches great importance to the inflow and advancement of talented women. For instance, in 2014 the ‘Talent to the top’ Charter was signed. At the top level of the Group there is the necessary commitment to embedding the focus on gender diversity firmly within the organisation. Target figures are formulated, for example, to facilitate the inflow and promotion of women. Women are also encouraged to develop themselves and their profile, and to use their networks. This is done with the help of workshops as well as mentoring and sponsoring programmes. Faisal Sheikh (Project Manager Diversity & Inclusion) summarises Rabobank’s approach as follows: “Awareness, commitment, measuring and adjusting. That is what our policy is built on.”

Sponsoring programme

In recent years, Rabobank has been committed to sponsoring and mentoring talented women from job scale 7. In 2016, more than 40 individual programmes led to the women sponsored making a successful move upwards in their career. The sponsoring programme holds a mirror up to women, helping them to articulate their ambitions, recognise qualities and have guts, while remaining true to themselves.

Gender bias awareness training

An uneven composition of middle management often comes about because the talent pool for that level is too limited or because women are not ‘fished out’. The cause of this is usually gender bias. Making people who play a crucial role in selection procedures aware of this gender bias lets them see how important it is to have a diverse selection committee. In consequence, since 2015 selection committees for top-level jobs within Rabobank consist of at least 30% women.

“We have many different programmes to promote gender diversity, but it all starts with ‘awareness’. You have to be aware that you have unconscious biases. We have managers attend workshops to let them see how biased they are. In 2014-2015, we had the top 100 managers of Rabobank complete such training courses. This facilitates the promotion of someone who is different from them.” (Faisal Sheikh, Project Manager Diversity & Inclusion)

Diversity Board

In 2014, Rabobank established a Diversity Board. The Diversity Board safeguards the commitment and involvement of the organisation’s senior management. The Chair and Vice Chair of the Diversity Board are members of the group management board. The other members are national and international senior managers and directors. They meet once a quarter and, with the help of reports, discuss the results obtained. Based on the meeting, the Diversity Board can take additional actions or measures.

What are the benefits?

Thanks to the commitment of the group management board, the active efforts of the Diversity Board, the awareness training offered, the sponsoring programme, diverse empowerment programmes, and the women’s network, RaboWoman, Rabobank has succeeded in raising awareness of the importance of gender diversity and eliminating the gender diversity gap at an accelerated rate. In two years, the proportion of women at the top has gone from 5% to 25%; since 2017, the supervisory board has been 30% women, and the share of women on the group management board is 40%. In this way, Rabobank has made a huge leap forwards in a short time in the area of gender diversity.


  1. It all starts with awareness and having everybody speak the same language. If an organisation is not aware of the unconscious biases that exist, other actions are of no use.
  2. It is not simply a case of empowering minorities, as groups that are in the majority also have to be actively involved in diversity and inclusion.
  3. Commitment from the top of the organisation is of crucial importance. The exemplary conduct that they can demonstrate is of incalculable value for the goals that you want to achieve as an organisation.


Faisal Sheikh – Project Manager Diversity & Inclusion:diversity@rabobank.nl

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