"Companies that move with the times have plenty of time to put quality first when making appointments. Choosing women is a question of enlightened self-interest."

"Where is the button for diversity?"

As a board member of Stichting Topvrouwen, De Leeuw faces a considerable task: he wants to make gender diversity in business life the most normal thing in the world, and break the habit of making a ‘nice safe choice’ of a man when making appointments to executive boards and supervisory boards.

"A warm bath – that’s how some board members refer to making appointments from within one’s own familiar circle. However, eventually the bathwater goes cold and that’s less pleasant. It would be a great shame if reality – in other words, a compulsory quota – were to catch up with companies. Luckily, gender diversity is becoming increasingly vigorous and all the attention to the subject is prodding board members into action.

Stichting Topvrouwen will use all possible means to help encourage appointments of women. Together with national and regional employers associations and industry organisations, we are going to find out which buttons we can press to speed up the development of awareness of the importance of diversity and the promotion of women to top positions. In doing this, we expressly focus not only on corporations, but also on the many family firms in the Netherlands. And of course also on the women themselves: encouraging them to put themselves forward for a top job is a process."

De Leeuw emphasises that companies do themselves a great service by harnessing female potential. "The added value of women is crystal-clear; diverse teams perform better. Corporations that make use of female potential act on the basis of enlightened self-interest. There is a great demand for talent, so it’s only logical to fish from a well-filled pool of such talent.

As Managing Director at Randstad Holding, I work on talent development on a daily basis. I’m keen to give talent room to develop; it’s my personal mission to work on behalf of Stichting Topvrouwen. My experiences at Randstad Holding are an inspiration to me. I can see that female directors abound in the levels below the executive boards and the supervisory boards. These are women who make an enormous contribution and who know full well that they’re ready for the next step. Now we need the promotions, which is a question of raising awareness, on the one hand among those responsible for appointments and on the other hand among the women themselves. They need to recognise their own substantial added value and above all, they must not allow themselves to be intimidated. Someone who has talent would do well to claim a position."