Consul General Gerbert Kunst and a delegation of TedxAmsterdamWomen in San Francisco.

By Kimberly Beijersbergen
Consulate General of the Netherlands in San Francisco

2020 marks the 100th year of voting rights for women in the United States. After a long battle of demonstrations, lectures and expositions, women won the right to vote in 1920 to contribute to solving social problems in society. The US was not alone, all over the world women fought for the right to vote, the Netherlands passed the law in 1919. Fast-forward a 100 years, women are involved in politics, education and (international) business in the Netherlands and the United States.

Opportunities for women are increasing, as more women join the higher ranks of corporate leaders and innovators, and drive efforts towards investments in women-led companies. But what can corporate and startups do to increase gender equality and equity? Female leaders in the US and the Netherlands are keen to exchange experiences and share best practices.

A delegation of executive women from the Netherlands, with different expertise, will visit Silicon Valley this week with TedxAmsterdamWomen and Facebook. “With the first TEDxAmsterdamWomen / Facebook female leadership study trip we aim with our group of participants to rise to new levels of consciousness when it comes to topics on equality, diversity & inclusion,” says Carine de Meyere, Director of partnerships for TedxAmsterdamWomen.

They will meet with female entrepreneurs, CEOs and founders, to discuss their successes and challenges, and look forward to future collaborations between the Netherlands and Silicon Valley. “I believe that going forward, more than ever, diversity and an inclusive culture in companies is needed to help drive strategic changes and to capture the opportunities that technology is offering”, says Dorianne Richelle, Director Facebook performance team in Amsterdam.

As Silicon Valley and the Netherlands face similar issues when it comes to inclusivity and diversity, this visit of female executives will bring useful insights to both sides of the table on the advancement of women in leadership roles. “Silicon Valley has an embedded culture of sharing – ideas, resources, time, effort, contacts and knowledge,” says Consul General Gerbert Kunst. “Many delegations come to Silicon Valley but when it comes to diversity and inclusivity, women are particularly under represented. Female entrepreneurship is the key to more diversity and inclusivity in businesses. That is why I warmly welcome this female delegation to Silicon Valley and hope it inspires many more.”

Female leaders to Silicon Valley

The advancement of diversity and inclusivity has been a hot topic in Silicon Valley. In 2018, startups with a female founder only obtained 2.2% of venture capital in Silicon Valley, the same as in 2017. In 2018 American venture capital firms added 30 new female senior investing partners but also 68 male partners, so the percentage of women in leadership roles only rose to 9.5% from 8.9%.

California is the first state to require women on corporate boards, but the number of female employees working at big corporations such as Google, Microsoft, Uber and Facebook is on average 25-35%. This is on par with the number of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM): 25% of jobs in the US.

Organizations and initiatives such as ParadigmIQ, Girls in Tech and Buffer working on inclusivity and diversity have realized businesses need an open mind and a variety of perspectives to move faster.

Inclusivity and Diversity in the Netherlands

Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation with The Women’s Faculty Club of the University of California during a trade mission to California, March 25-26

The focus on diversity in Silicon Valley caught the interest of TedxAmsterdamWomen, a global conference providing a platform for women to inspire, specifically focusing on the unique ways for women to contribute to the global changes in society and help reshape the future. Prior to their visit, the delegation of TedXAmsterdamWomen met with Minister Sigrid Kaag for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation to discuss inclusivity and diversity, topics that are relevant for Mrs. Kaag’s policies. “Female entrepreneurship is a priority in my foreign trade agenda,” she tweeted after the visit.

Since the legislation of women’s votes, the Netherlands has focused on inclusivity and diversity policies on different levels within society. Female employment in the Netherlands has doubled from 35% in the early 1980s to 70% in 2016. More women are enrolled in higher education than men. The Netherlands has increased its part-time employment adding to job satisfaction of workers, freeing up time for childcare and leisure activities. When women give birth, women in the Netherlands are entitled to a minimum of 16 weeks paid leave.

Yet challenges remain. Young women between the ages of 25-29 in full-time employment earn more than their male counterparts, but when they have children this is reversed. Diversity is beneficial and valuable for creative processes and problem-solving; research has indicated that there is a positive correlation between the number of women in management and the profitability of the company. The Dutch government has a legal target where management and supervisory boards must consist  of at least 30% women and 30% men.

The Netherlands and the United States

The Women’s Faculty Club of the University of California Berkeley shared their experiences with diversity and inclusivity in the academic world with Minister Kaag, when she visited the San Francisco Bay Area in March. Thoughts and experiences on different approaches to female leadership were shared and knowledge on how to draw attention to the importance of increasing female perspectives within STEM positions. “Investing in women is not only the right thing to do, it is also smart. Female entrepreneurs, employees and leaders all contribute to poverty reduction, economic growth and sustainable societies. Gender equality is good for growth,” said Minister Kaag in tweet for Women’s Rights Day.

The delegation visiting Silicon Valley is inviting people with exciting ideas to reach out to them, to start collaborating on making diversity and inclusion in business as common as voting rights for women are today. Carine de Meyere of TedxAmsterdamWomen. “We strive to bridge the gap of diversity & inclusion between two continents and we hope that both eco systems will benefit when both our worlds come together.”