Women in Positions of Power

A Dutch Women’s Quota in the Industry

Positive news from the Netherlands: yesterday parliament has agreed to a women’s quota of thirty percent for boards of directors. It only applies to companies that are connected to the stock market. Eighty companies in total of which fourty-seven of them to not have this percentage. Of course, a quota of one-third women is not revolutionary and it took my country years to follow Norway, Spain, France , Iceland, Germany and India in this, but still it is very good news.

It is a very important step in the road for an equal gender balance in all decision-making bodies in society. Not just those who are political or who are democratically voted for. It is a crucial step in the awknowledgement of women as equal citizens and of the importance of their participation in decion-making. For an elaboration of this argument, read my book Feminism and Citizenship.

What pleases me was the overall argument in the debate. By having more women in these boards, we will get a better quality of the conversation, they said. More inclusive. More representative of different opinions, interests, qualities of people. And yes, it is all that. Not one aspect with a guarantee, for instance that one woman will represent always women’s interests or that this one woman will add feminine qualities. More modest and honest. On the whole when we get more women in decision-making bodies, the quality of our debates and decision-making will get better because they are more inclusive.

So what other decision-making bodies will follow? Universities? Hospitals? Health-care insurance companies? Banks? Courts? Military organizations? Churches? I am not kidding. They are all deciding about where and how our money, effort and opinions should be directed. Raise your voices! I hope we are looking forward to interesting times.


Women in Positions of Power

Carnaval and the Emerging Princess

Princess Suus I from Ohé en Laak, Volkskrant.

Yesterday I went to Carnaval in Breda and I am happy to report that the Princess is gaining power at the Dutch Carnaval. I don’t mean sexual power. Women have had that always. So also at Carnaval. No, I am referring to that bastion of power: the function of Princedom. In this, someone chosen by the Carnaval’s Council of Eleven receives the town’s key from the Mayor to rule over town for five days in a different way.

Princess Gerrie I from Afferen, Carnaval 2018.

For centuries this position was reserved for men only, just like the position of the Council of Eleven itself. Strange in fact. Because Carnaval is about the reversal of roles. The king becomes a jester. A reserved woman becomes a witch. The rich man is dressed up as a beggar. An old lady is suddenly Little Red Riding Hood. And so on. This includes the dress-ups as members of the other sex. Women have for centuries dressed-up during Carnaval as Robin Hood, knights, firemen and sailors. In some places like in the Belgium Aalst, men have also done this for centuries.

A few Dirty Jeanets from Aalst. Carnaval 2019. Photo Marieke van der Velde. Volkskrant.

In Aalst, this figure is called Dirty Jeanet and it arose out of poverty. Workers did not have money to buy a Carnaval costume, so they used their wives’ or mothers’ clothes and underwear. Yesterday in Breda I have seen an enormous number of men dressed up as Queens, Countesses, actresses and maids. Good for you: men! So sex reversals have existed at Carnaval for a long time. Except for the position of the Prince!

Prinses Rachelle en Prins Calvin from Son en Breugel– Carnaval 2019

Yet, recently even at that bastion of power the Princess is coming up. To my knowledge, the first Carnaval Princess appeared in the Netherlands in 1969: Princess Bep I in Someren-Heide and ruled there for six years. In 1998 Betke I was chosen in Valkenswaard. She called herself Prince Betke I, because as she argued: it is a position, just like the Mayor. And in Ossenisse, Princess Margaretha has already ruled for 25 years, with an all-female Council of Eleven.

Raad van Elf van Ossenisse 2018

Lately, we see in many villages and town a Youth Princess and her female Adjudant. And even the adult position of the Princedom is now and then given to women. Yet, in the biggest Dutch Carnaval cities, the opposition against this is severe. The people in power say that we have to respect the century-old Carnaval traditions or that the Statutes of the Carnaval clubs do not allow this.

Princes Linda van District Antwerpen Belgium, Carnaval 2019.

But now something interesting is happening. In the Carnaval cities Weert and Tilburg, female members of the official city councils have raised questions in council meetings about that male monopoly and have asked a change in the Statutes at this point. In Weert they have lost, but in Tilburg they have won! Already a female member of the Council of Eleven has been admitted. So members of city councils and of Carnaval clubs elsewhere: please follow this example and pave the road for the Carnaval Princess in this way.

After all: Carnaval is about the reversal of roles!