“I’m aware of the fact that as a female CEO, who also has children and has struggled with the combination of work and family, I don’t at all fit the traditional mould. Unfortunately, women in top positions are still quite the exception. I realise that I can support other women in this area.”


Partou Holding BV is the largest childcare organisation in the Netherlands and it provides childcare of all kinds and at every scale

  • Sector: business services
  • 3670 employees
  • 1 woman (50%) on the executive board
  • 1 woman (50%) on the supervisory board

What are the benefits?

“We believe that complementary teams are important. These are teams that stand out because together the members have just the right mix of qualities and skills. For us, women at the top is not an aim in itself. But a good male/female ratio does often result in more successful teams. This is simply because in practice, male and female qualities appear to complement each other well,” says Katinka Reuling, CEO of childcare organisation Partou.


Partou opts for a pragmatic approach, emphasising complementary qualities. If there is a change on the executive board, the supervisory board and the shareholder are both closely involved in selecting a new candidate. “Getting to know the candidates personally, several rounds of interviews and an assessment form a set part of the recruitment procedure, in the search for the very best candidate.

If two candidates are equally suitable, we consider carefully how to obtain a balanced composition. This can mean that we deliberately choose a woman or, in other circumstances, a man. For management positions we always look first at our internal talents, which we identify in an annual staff review.”

  • Being aware of the added value of diversity.
    “The importance that we attach to complementary qualities is decisive. A balanced male/female ratio is often better for the success of an organisation – something that has been shown by research. We take this into account in our actions.”
  • Deliberate policy to distribute the seats on the executive and supervisory boards evenly.
    Katinka Reuling explains what happened in her case. “Five years ago, I was approached by people from the network of the supervisory board in connection with the departure of the previous CEO – a man. They were explicitly looking for a candidate who could carry out major changes and who could combine effectiveness with the ability to empathise and connect. With this combination of competences, there is a greater chance of the choice landing on a woman.”
  • Deliberate policy to increase the proportion of women in management positions.
    “By means of our annual staff review, we establish who our potential top talents are and what development they still need in order to be ready for the next step. This can be a horizontal or a vertical career step. If there is a vacancy, we actively approach our talents. Naturally, it’s their decision whether they are ready for the next step. We also take account of the candidate’s private life and help the candidate to work out how he or she can combine a responsible job with a family.
  • What concerns us are the results that we wish to achieve and how the candidate can use his or her talents to contribute to this. We are not concerned about the way in which people want to organise their work, as this is flexible. As a manager you shoulder the responsibility that goes with the job. Practical experience shows that in this way we encourage our female talents in particular to take the next step.”
  • Use of assessments
    “We always do an assessment – I also had one when I came here. The assessment is not so much a question of whether candidates are capable of doing the job, as you already know that at this level. What we explicitly look at are personality and complementary qualities.”


  1. Articulating ideas clearly
  2. “It isn’t very difficult. You need to establish and make clear that your greatest wish is for a woman to be selected. As an executive board and supervisory board, we find a balanced male/female ratio important and for that reason we expressly want a woman.”
  3. Actually carrying out your intentions.
  4. “It isn’t true that you cannot find a suitable woman; you can no longer present that argument. In that case, you give the task to a search agency.”


Katinka Reuling
telephone +31 (0)651189505
E-mail: katinka.reuling@partou.nl

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