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Gay pride? Or still reasons to hide?

This week is Pride week in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The highlight of this week is the Canal Parade; a joyous and colorful spectacle of boats in the city’s famous canals. Big corporates, political parties, government agencies and NGO’s enter their own boats in support of diversity. Multinationals like Vodafone and Philips, the Dutch Armed Forces, the Police Corps to name just a few. Many take this opportunity to sail along in the slipstream of the event’s media attention and some undertake marketing and PR activities on shore too. An example is Royal Dutch Shell. They have decorated 4 gas stations in and around Amsterdam with the rainbow flag. Many other companies listed on the Euronext stock exchange divert their focus to the LGBTQ community this week. They advertise on billboards and in magazines boosting with PR about equal rights and inclusion.

It is safe to say that with so many big companies on board, things have changed in a positive way, which is wonderful news. And we can’t blame these companies from trying to get an extra buck from a group with more money to spend than the average Dutch household. But when looking at board level, work might need to be done before we can talk about true diversity.

Like the discussion on the Gender Pay Gap and equality of women, the issue of LGBTQ is just as relevant. See my earlier article if being Gay might affect your career: lgbtandyourcareer. For a while now, many European governments are re-emphasizing that women should be more on the executive boards of major corporates. In the Netherlands, the Dutch government has introduced A great initiative for top female executives to promote themselves and for major corporates to meet female talent for their Boards. And pretty much every week newspapers run articles about why there is still no growth in the number of female executives on Boards. No shortage on media attention and government support for the topic.

But how about LGBTQIA Executive Board members? I recently asked COC (the rights organization for the LGBTI community in the Netherlands) if they know of a list of people who are members of an Executive Board of a stock listed company. Their response was negative, which struck me as odd to say the least. They referred me to Work Place Pride. Unfortunately they also do not know. When doing some modest  research on my own, I found that only two openly gay men are on boards of listed companies in the Netherlands: Joop Wijn at Adyen and  Jan Kees de Jager at KPN. This really surprised me. According to Movisie 4-6% of the Dutch population is openly gay or lesbian. Surely the number of LGBTQIA executives exceeds these two?

Either there is a serious shortage to even begin to speak about diversity, or people are still afraid to come out as LGBTQIA at this level. Most likely it’s a combination of both. That means that work needs to be done: either boards have to promote that they need to be diverse or that we need to re-emphasize the necessity of total inclusion. Between 10 and 15 Executive Board Members of the top 25 stock listed companies in the Netherlands should (openly) be a member of the LGBTQIA.

In my view promoting a diverse Executive Board and being proud of who the members are the real PR and marketing gold. Do not only focus on the share of male and female executives, but also focus on a diverse LGBTI, multicultural top Executive team. Setting this as your objective, will have a positive impact on all your stakeholders: your clients, shareholders and most important to all your employees.

We at Lens, Executive Search, part of Kennedy Executive, have a diverse team: 2 openly LGBTI members, 50-50 male, female share, different religious backgrounds and most of all we work with a diverse candidate database. We can help you make a difference.

Lens, is member of the Kennedy Executive Search & Consulting network with offices in Amsterdam, Budapest, Copenhagen, Denver, Frankfurt, Johannesburg, London, Milan, Monaco, Oslo, Paris, Prague, Sydney, Vienna and Washington


Dave Heilbron - Senior Partner

Dave is Senior Partner at Lens. His chief area of search expertise is the financial sector: the risk management and big data disciplines, especially. In addition, he is involved in a wide range of search activities around b2b positions across the globe.

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