The World Economic Forum (WEF) publishes the Global Gender Gap Index each year. The Global Gender Gap Index provides insight into the inequality between men and women for more than 90 per cent of the world population. It compares 142 countries using four factors related to inequality: economic participation, access to education, healthcare and political power. Having dropped from 11th to 13th place in the rankings last year, the Netherlands this year drops to 14th place.

INSCOPE: Research for Innovation is the host institute for the WEF in the Netherlands. Henk Volberda, Professor of Strategic Management & Business Policy at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), spearheads this research for the Netherlands. The complete report can be found here. The Dutch news release can be found here.

From a global perspective, there is almost no inequality between men and women as far as access to healthcare and education is concerned. Henk Volberda suggests that 96 per cent of the equality gap in terms of access to healthcare has been closed, while 94 per cent of the equality gap in access to education has been closed.

In terms of women’s economic participation and political influence, a great deal of improvement is still required, according to Volberda: the participation of women in the labour market lags by 40 per cent and women hold 79 per cent less political power than men. On the basis of its extrapolations, the WEF expects the worldwide economic participation inequality gap to disappear in 81 years (in 2095). Volberda expects that advanced Western economies, in particular the Scandinavian countries, will achieve this much faster.

Equality is the key to competitiveness

The Global Gender Gap Index shows a strong correlation between gender equality and national competitiveness. According to Volberda this provides a clear signal to policymakers to incorporate gender equality in their national priorities.

The key determining factor in the competitiveness of a country is its human talent – the skills, education and productivity of the working population – and women make up half of the potential talent base. The competitiveness of a country therefore depends significantly on how a country invests in female talent and enhances the opportunities available to women. To maximise its competitiveness and development potential, every country should strive for gender equality;  women should be given the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities as men.

Full-fledged economic participation, equivalent incomes and management functions continue to be problematic for women in the Netherlands in comparison to men

According to Volberda there are two reasons for the Netherlands’ lower ranking. First, women earn significantly less than men in equivalent positions (23 per cent less) and the share of women in management positions is still low (only 29 per cent of managers are women). Although the participation of women in the labour force has increased (74 per cent of women have jobs), 77 per cent of women have part-time jobs compared to 23 per cent of men. In addition, women score increasingly better when it comes to participating in education (10 per cent more for higher education). In Scandinavian countries the dominance of women in higher education is even greater.

The political influence of women in the Netherlands has increased because 47 per cent of ministerial positions in the current Cabinet are occupied by women. However, the Netherlands has never in its history had a female prime minister.

In general, the Netherlands scores much better than the worldwide average, but is increasingly lagging behind Scandinavian countries. Frontrunners in the Global Gender Gap Index this year once again are Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark (see Table 1). These countries have closed more than 80 per cent of their Gender Gap and function as role models for other countries.

In spite of higher participation rates in higher education, the share of women in management positions remains low

Volberda suggests that in spite of their dominance in education, women continue to be under-represented in management functions and earn significantly less in equivalent positions. He observes a great deal of unused potential of the Netherlands’ female population. In view of the higher participation rate of women in higher education and their superior study performance, Volberda considers it unjust that women continue to be discriminated against in salaries, and that they do not advance to management positions.

In healthcare, the inequality gap is 97 per cent closed, the same score as last year. Volberda suggests that most countries score highly for healthcare so good scores in this area do not translate into a high ranking on the index.

According to Volberda, there are opportunities in economic participation, where 71 per cent of the inequality gap has been overcome, and in political influence where only 41 per cent of the inequality gap has been overcome.

Policy implications for the Netherlands: better facilities and quotas for women

It is precisely in times of cautious economic revival that it is necessary for a country to improve the participation of women in the economy, according to Volberda, because this provides opportunity for progress: We must do everything in our power to ensure that the Netherlands' highly qualified and well-educated women advance to management positions and political functions.

Cues can be taken from Scandinavian countries; they are clearly frontrunners in providing facilities for parents that enable them to combine work and family, childcare and maternity leave. In addition to tax incentives, social security provisions and employer investments that eliminate the inequality between men and women, it is also possible to adopt a top-down approach through means of legislation. In Norway, at least 40 per cent of executive board members of listed companies must be women. The quota debate is ongoing in the Netherlands, but as yet has not resulted in any national legislation. The European Commission wants to have 40per cent of the senior positions of listed companies filled by women by 2020.

Inequality will remain

There is not a single country in the world where inequality has been completely eliminated. The four highest ranked countries – Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden – have closed more than 80 per cent of their gender gaps, while the lowest ranked country – Yemen – has succeeded in closing only 50 per cent of its gap. The Netherlands has closed the equality gap between men and women by more than 77 per cent.

Europe is a frontrunner

Seven European countries are among the top 10, and 11 European countries are among the top 20 countries that are best able to close the inequality gap between men and women (see Table 1). The top four, consisting of Scandinavian countries, remains unchanged from last year.

Table 1: Ranking of the top 20 countries; WEF Global Gender Gap Index 2014 and 2013


Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is ranked among Europe’s top 10 business schools for education and among the top three for research. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam - a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who carry their innovative mindset into a sustainable future thanks to a first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes. RSM also has offices in the Amsterdam Zuidas business district and in Taipei, Taiwan.

For more information on RSM or on this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, Media & Public Relations Manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

Alumni , Companies , Doctoral Programme , Executive education , Faculty & Research , Homepage , International , Newsroom , Strategic management and entrepreneurship