The Erasmus Centre for Women and Organisations (ECWO) organised its first Women in Leadership Conference on 5 February. The main focus during the meeting is to explore how women can climb that extra step on the corporate ladder.

“The conference is meant to inspire both men and women”, says Dianne Bevelander, ECWO’s Executive Director. “We chose role models from different branches of industry. Marlies Dekkers, an entrepreneur known for her lingerie line will be one of the speakers, along with former Harvard professor Karen Stephenson. The conference will also feature former President of the Executive Board Pauline van der Meer Mohr (who has spoken out in the past regarding her frustration with diversity policy), Jacqueline Brassey of McKinsey & Company, and other inspiring speakers. A number of employees and students will also attend, but the guests are mainly representatives from companies from all over the world.”

Research and consultancy

At the same time the conference also marks ECWO’s launch. In addition to organising events such as this conference, the organisation is also active on other fronts. “A great deal of research is carried out covering subjects such as how the university can improve itself. We also provide recommendations to companies regarding how they can increase the number of women they work with. The first step is to realise that women must play a larger role within an organisation and management must act upon this realisation. If a company’s management does not ensure that more women actually climb the corporate ladder, then nothing will change.”

More female role models

According to Bevelander, implementing change within a company will be an uphill battle unless changes are also made in education. “If we want to see change then we have to adjust our curriculum. In lectures, when you only use examples of men in leadership positions, that makes it difficult to start the process of change. You unintentionally uphold the idea of the male as leader. We should strive for a gender-neutral university and that can’t happen unless you change this.”