Closing the Gender Gap:

When technology changed, minds needed to follow

gender parity
Company name:
Royal Philips Electronics
Health & Healthcare
More than 50,000
Europe & Central Asia
Contact Name:
Ruud Gal
Contact Position:
Senior Director Innovation Strategy
Contact company representative

The Gap:

Type of Gap: middle management level

As a former electrical engineering environment, Philips Lightlabs traditionally had a low share of female employees.

Technology changes required different profiles and experiences – while still technical profiles -, but the image and mindset of the organization as well as inflow and representation of women, especially in leadership roles, remained low at about 12 to 13%.

The Practice:

Type of practice: Awareness, incentives & accountability

Lightlabs implemented a very comprehensive program to address the gender gap: 

Starting with an implicit association test to create awareness of gender bias, we offered training activities for men and women to broaden understanding (mindbugs and ‘brand me’ workshops). We first targeted the women and leadership of LightLabs MT, then the whole community of LightLabs, partners and suppliers (inclusiveness) were invited to join. After the first year, workshops were also given throughout Philips, including to all kinds of HR functions, like recruitment, talent management, with the aim to provoke a cultural change.

Increased discussions and exchanges among employees regarding the subject were strongly promoted. The workshops opened up the dialogue about diversity & inclusion and after that management was often alerted on non-inclusive practices and incidents. Gender equality and D&I status are now a constant agenda item for leadership meetings (D&I status, succession plans, potential gender gaps in the employee engagement survey...). 

This responsiveness helped a lot to make clear that we were serious and welcome any suggestion for improvement. On purpose, we did not follow a rigid plan, but showed responsiveness, which is better for creating an atmosphere of dialogue.


  • Impact on headcount changes by gender (hires, promotions, attrition)
  • Changes in gender gap in employee engagement survey results

Implementation Date:

It started in 2010. In the first 3 months we held mindbug & D&I awareness trainings. Then a lot of other things were added on an ongoing basis: adapting decision processes, improving dialogue in teams, coaching, etc..

The Success:

  • Inflow of women in increased from ~12 % before 2009 to > 30 % in 2010 and 2011
  • Increase of women answering “favourable” on the question “Philips provides equal opportunities to all employees” went up by 16%
  • From the moment we started, our management team (7 persons) for the first time in 120 years was strengthened with a woman 
  • Our group leaders (average department size of 30 persons) went from 1 to 3 women out of 9. 
  • Three women got a promotion to segment R&D manager or program manager within Philips Lighting outside LightLabs. 
  • No women left LightLabs in the last 2 years to take a position outside Philips.
  • Within LightLabs, we currently do not have any deviating representation of women and men at the different salary grades.

Success factors:

  1. Leadership commitment
  2. Continuity
  3. Involving all employees and making them part of the discussion


Awareness|Education|Employee Satisfaction|Leadership Support|Monitoring|Recruiting|Talent Management
Similar practices Country

Philips' 'Working Parents Program' (WPP)

Company: Royal Philips Electronics

Type of Gap: middle management level

Type of practice: Work environment, work-life balance

A 1.5-day workshop shows immediate results for employees.


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