'For me, the database stands for commitment and the importance of women at the top. And above all it's about getting active: for people actually to use the database.'

The role of coordinator for topvrouwen.nl fits Leo Houwen like a glove. In order to propel more women onto executive boards and supervisory boards, he wants to encourage, connect and persuade. 'In my career I've worked with so many talented women; for years they've been living proof for me that organisations are putting themselves at a disadvantage without women at the top.'

'I'm convinced that the problem of the lack of women at the top will have been solved in 20 years' time. For people who are now just reaching adulthood, inclusivity is the most natural thing in the world. They are relaxed in dealing with gender differences. In addition, completely new business models are emerging that revolve around 'sharing and connecting', and women are good at that. But we don't want to lose the preceding generations. For this reason, changes need to be made much more quickly. Not just for the women themselves, but also for companies and organisations, as they put themselves at a disadvantage by not bringing women into the top positions.'

With his many years of experience of the labour market – at USG, among other things in the role of corporate vice president, and as an executive board member of the Algemene Bond Uitzendondernemingen, ABU (Dutch association of temporary employment agencies) – Leo Houwen has worked with many talented and ambitious women in management positions. 'These women are proof that they are of enormous value when they progress upwards to senior management jobs, executive boards or supervisory boards. Men and women complement each other. Where men often race ahead, women give matters greater consideration and take fewer risks. Women's different way of looking at things provides added value in every decision. This mix of competences makes companies and organisations future-proof.'

As far as he is concerned, the work of the coordinator takes place somewhat more behind the scenes. 'It's about encouraging and connecting. What do I do specifically? I meet members of executive and supervisory boards and link them, for example with someone from an ambassador company with a mixed top management. It's about knowledge sharing and inspiring one another. Companies are very open to this – we notice it at our round-table meetings, for example, which are well-attended. We have momentum on our side: there is a strong focus on the lack of women at the top. Encouraging change is a work in progress for which we intend to put in a lot of effort in the coming years. We are gathering information about experiences, so that we can give companies specific advice about removing obstacles. In this way, companies will not be obliged to reinvent the wheel. Our completely modernised database on topvrouwen.nl helps in this. The database is easily accessible for companies and executive search agencies that are looking for top women.

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