The Dutch university empowering women in the workplace

This is how the Erasmus Centre for Women and Organizations (ECWO) is empowering women in the workplace to be a force for individual, organizational, and societal change.

In short

The challenges facing women in organizations

McKinsey’s recently-published Women in the Workplace 2022 report makes for fascinating reading. The annual survey, now in its eighth year, helps shed some light on the numerous challenges that women face in today’s workplace. Here are some of the most striking findings from the report:

  • Just 40% of managerial positions are held by women, a figure which decreases to 26% for the C-suite.
  • Women are leaving their companies at a higher rate than men – and at the highest rate in several years.
  • For every 100 men promoted from entry-level to managerial level, only 87 women are promoted. This is putting gender parity further and further out of reach.
  • Women value remote working more than men. Women who are able to work remotely are less burned out, happier in their jobs, and less likely to consider leaving.


For many women, these findings might feel all too familiar. A lack of upward mobility in organizations and lack of representation at the managerial level and above result in a lack of role models and leaders that don’t cater to the needs of large parts of their workforce.

But more than anything, what the report demonstrates is that this gender imbalance is holding women back, holding organizations back, and ultimately holding society back. It’s that final idea which underpins the work of the Erasmus Centre for Women and Organizations (ECWO) at Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) at Erasmus University.

What is the Erasmus Centre for Women and Organizations (ECWO)?

The stated aim of ECWO is to “create organizations where all women are fully and equitably engaged at all levels.” ECWO works with women to “become change-agents for gender equality in society.”

To achieve this, ECWO runs a suite of programs that aim to empower women in the workplace with the tools and insights they need to advance their careers. They also offer coaching, organize regular events, engage in advocacy, and conduct world-leading research into the role of women in organizations.

Dorothy Grandia, who is the Associate Director of ECWO, says the center will “help you find your confident and engaging voice…we will show you that you’re not alone, and will help you build a community and a sisterhood.” (00:46)

ECWO also encourages women who have found success to speak up, so they can inspire others to do the same. “You will also practice sharing your success stories and amplify your leadership strengths,” says Hanneke Takkenberg, Executive Director of ECWO and Professor of Management Education focusing on Women in Business at RSM. (00:49)

How ECWO empowers women in the workplace

The central mission of RSM is to be a force for positive change in the world. It’s a commitment that is deeply embedded within the school’s fabric and continues to shape every person who steps through its doors.

The commitment manifests itself in several ways, from recruiting alumni SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) ambassadors to forming partnerships with members of the local Rotterdam community. It is also, of course, a guiding principle of ECWO and of the programs it runs. 

ECWO empowers women in the workplace through a range of open and customized programs. ECWO’s flagship program is Women in Leadershipa two-day program that challenges women to explore their own leadership, helps them build their knowledge, and provides ways of building a sisterhood with their organizations to move toward systemic change. 

The center offers two more short programs – Communication with Power and Impact for Women and Negotiating for Success: Women, Career, and Business. They also collaboratively with organizations to create customized programs.

RSM’s mission to be a force for positive change underpins each and every ECWO program. Hanneke says, “You will leave our programs refreshed, inspired, and ready to be a force for positive change.” (01:02)

However, ECWO’s ambitions go beyond achieving gender equality in the workplace. According to Natalie Cleton, a faculty member in a number of ECWO programs, achieving societal change remains the overarching objective of ECWO.

“Join us in one of our ECWO programs and become part of the movement of individual change, of organizational change, of societal change.” (01:09)

If you’re interested in learning more about RSM or ECWO, feel free to reach out to one of their MBA ambassadors.

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