Women in high positions, their experiences and policy development : A research based upon the personal experiences of women within the water regulatory authorities which shows the merits of using qualitative data within the Dutch emancipation policy
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The main purpose of this thesis is to show the merits of using qualitative data on women’s experiences in the implementation and evaluation of emancipatory policies. Emancipation is a process which involves a lot of different aspects ranging from patriarchal rule, gendered divisions, power, agency and politics. Feminist scholarship tries to show all these different axes concerning the emancipation process, and women’s experiences play an important role in this discourse. The inclusion of women’s personal experiences in the form of qualitative data is not common practice as part of the official statistics on which policies are based upon. Even though the use of this data has great political relevance, the Dutch government unfortunately does not use this information for further development of the Dutch emancipation policy. Therefore this thesis is mainly based upon my internship done at the Dutch Women's Council in The Hague. For this internship I interviewed 23 women about their experiences during their candidacy for the water regulatory authorities elections in the year of 2008. Following the gathered information from my informants, a connection is made between the Dutch emancipation policy and the measures taken to include women more fully within the employment sector. This connection will be explained first while clarifying the main research question of this thesis. To make this discussion on the Dutch emancipation policy more visual, a case study is incorporated which explains the Dutch water regulatory authorities. This governmental sector, as we will see later on, shows a lot of aspects which are presumed to work as barriers for women who want to work in higher functions. Based upon the information gathered from my female informants, structural barriers as well as so called “hidden gate keeping” mechanisms will be discussed to show that the water regulatory authorities is a highly gender stratified organization. Structural barriers which women can face are the often mentioned lack of good maternity leave and child care until late working and meeting hours. “Hidden gate keeping” mechanisms focuses more upon the underlying stereotypical ideas about women and men, femininity and masculinity. To further uncover how these stereotypical ideas influence the relational sphere on the work floor, the network theory and the theory of tokenism will be discussed. In the last part of this thesis, a comparison is made between the Dutch welfare model and the Nordic (or Scandinavian) model, which is known for its high level of participation of women in the labor force. Because the welfare systems of both countries are largely similar, the question arises whether we can learn from, or perhaps even utilize, (parts of) the model used by these Nordic countries. By discussing the main principles of this Nordic model, I will argue that even though at first hand this model seems the answer to our problem, there are negative aspects to be found. Even though the model has been described as family friendly and beneficial to women, feminist scholarship has pointed out some negative aspects that we also need to take into consideration. Just as is the case with the Dutch welfare model, the Nordic model also stays entangled within a patriarchal discourse still present in the different Nordic countries. Even though there are pitfalls in this model, there are elements which could be useful for Dutch policy.