Record 102 women now serve as mayors in the Netherlands
A record 102 women have taken the reigns as mayors in the Netherlands, a country with 355 municipalities, RTL Nieuws reported on Friday. . Most recently, 52-year-old Anja Schouten was appointed as the next mayor for Noord-Holland municipality Alkmaar.
"It’s not surprising. There has been a lot of attention to diversity for a long time now. Not only for more women in public administration but also for people with an immigration background," said Hilde Westera, who represents the Dutch association of mayors.
In 2019, Interior Minister Kajsa Ollongren argued that despite the recent positive trend, further steps need to be taken towards broader diversity in this field. "I see the trend and I think it’s nice, but there should be even more if you ask me," she said. Ollongren wants to see more opportunity for a diverse workforce at the upper levels of government, saying "if women do not apply, it’s not going to work."
Together with the Ministry of the Interior, The Dutch association of mayors launched a program that aimed at making public office positions more accessible to everyone. The project offered training to people who had no particular experience with administrative jobs and did not necessarily have a political background.
By doing three short internships and working together with experienced mayors, the candidates who participated in the project could get a better idea of the job, Westera explained then. "You can then see whether the profession suits you and what you think of it. That is a great opportunity."
The current mayor of Wijk bij Duurstede, Iris Meerts, participated in the orientation program prior to her nomination. She said it helped her tremendously to land her dream job by her second attempt.
"I've wanted to be mayor all my life, but I don't have much administrative experience. It would have taken much longer to become mayor if I had to do it alone," Meerts concluded.