Gender inequality is a subject that has been very important over the last few years. The issues were taken on in business life and in some sports, however the world of field hockey lags behind. ABN AMRO Bank, sponsor of 53 hockey clubs in The Netherlands, wants to change that. In October 2020 they announced that there needs to be more gender equality in hockey. The clubs who don’t support this initiative, will not get a new sponsor contract. ABN AMRO is head sponsor of Hoofdklasse Hockey club Oranje Rood. For Oranje-Rood it meant: Are we in or out? Pieter Janssen, president of Hockey club Oranje-Rood, talks about the announcement and what it means for his club.
Hockeyclub Oranje-Rood has a men’s and women’s team who play in the highest division. In this league, most of the players get payed, but there is a major difference between the genders. Take for example: salary, materials, clothing and other facilities. ABN AMRO is one of the main sponsors who facilitates these things.
Janssen is pleased with the statement ABN AMRO made. “There’s a significant difference in payment and opportunities between genders and this needs to change. That, when the number of female hockey players is way higher than men. Why is this still a thing? People say that women’s hockey is commercially less attractive. This is a self fulfilling prophecy, because eventually it’s just the way you look at it. Women have way more followers on social media for example. I can’t identify a male role model in hockey, while women like Naomi van As and Ellen Hoog are still in the picture.” They played for the national team and recently retired. They still have around 200.000 followers on Instagram. “Women work just as hard, if not harder and deserve equal reward for that.”
The announcement made an impact, because the numbers were shocking. ABN AMRO claims that currently, only 20% of the sponsor funding goes to the women’s and that men get paid 5 to 10 times more than women. The clubs boards’ consist of 80% men. According to Pieter Janssen, this is not the case at his club: “That’s not true. We have a bigger diversity in our team. Also, they never asked us how much the men and women get paid.”
The numbers may not add up entirely, but Oranje-Rood did not question it, because the underlying message was clear. They want to make a statement that there needs to be equal opportunities and rewards. They make these claims to set something in motion. Without this it would not have that large of an impact. “I don’t mind it, I would have done the same thing,” Pieter Janssen says.
Concrete changes are hard to make according to Janssen. “The board consist of volunteers. It’s hard enough to find good ones, who do their job right. We do not have the luxury to select members of the board on their gender, because we do not have many people to choose from.” Equalizing salaries may seem quite simple, but that is really difficult as well. “If we pay the women more, we would end up closing our doors. If we pay the men less, they will leave to another club or another country to make more money.” Immediate changes are a bit too much for clubs right now, because they are financially incapable.
Hockey club Oranje-Rood is a means to an end for ABN AMRO. They want to sponsor clubs who share their mindset and communicate this to their public. “Back in the day, sponsors would give you a bag of money and you would put up a billboard. Nowadays a contract consists of way more than that. We have become a tool for ABN AMRO to spread their message. This message contains the strive for sustainability, inclusion and diversity. We use this collaboration to work on these themes ourselves.”
According to ABN AMRO the numbers need to be 50/50, by the year 2025. Janssen agrees with the announcement but realises there is a long road ahead. “These changes do not happen overnight. It all starts with the right intention. ABN AMRO helps to make this movement happen. They don’t expect us to give them outcomes or anything, so it’s all about the wish to make a difference. Ultimately, every change starts with awareness and the rest comes with time.”