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'If you can’t find any women, keep looking.’

Giny Boer, CEO C&A Europe
Giny Boer, picture Sieze Veenstra
Giny Boer, picture Sieze Veenstra

Text by Ellis Ellenbroek, translation UVC

Make yourself visible. Take hold of opportunities. And believe in yourself. This is the message that Giny Boer, an Orthopedagogy graduate, has for women. For her part, she has packed her bags and left for new professional adventures throughout her long career at IKEA. Since January, Boer has been the head of long-standing retail company C&A.

At the University of Groningen, you studied Orthopedagogy. Why?
‘I was interested in learning how to help children achieve their full potential, including children for whom things do not always go smoothly. It had more to do with my general interest in people. I could have also chosen to study Psychology.’

How did you become the CEO of C&A?
‘I was approached by a head-hunter. I had also indicated that I was looking for something else. They asked if I would be interested in being the CEO of a retail company. I had to sign a confidentiality statement, and then I heard that it was about C&A Europe. That is the C&A that we all know here. I’ve always had a passion for fashion, and I like the fact that, like IKEA, C&A is a family company. Moreover, C&A is iconic in the Netherlands. I would really like to contribute to its continued existence. I nevertheless had to think about it for a while. For example, I wanted to know how much decision-making autonomy I would have within a family company.’

You are the first female CEO in the 180-year history of C&A. A woman was also recently appointed as the financial director, and there is a woman on the Board of the holding company. Were you selected because you are a woman?
‘I think that they do indeed want to have more women at the top. Most of the employees in the approximately 1,400 stores are women, but we were always led by men. I’ve never been much of a fan of quotas, but I am increasingly becoming one. Sometimes, you just have to force the issue. With a balance between men and women at the top, our world will be a better place. This is something that I seriously believe.’

Personally, you are also pushing for more women in high positions. What is your recipe?
‘It’s really simple. Appoint women. They are there. They are well-educated and have good experience. It has more to do with how you search. So often, when I say I that I would like to have a woman in a particular position, I’ll hear that they just aren’t there. Nonsense. If you can’t find anyone, keep looking.’

Do you also have a message for the women themselves?
‘Take advantage of your opportunities. Take hold of everything. Let people know that you’re interested. And believe in yourself. You also have to work for it. In 2005, I went to Italy with my family, to supervise the growth of IKEA in that country. IKEA also arranged a job for my partner. A few years later, we moved house to Vienna, and then to Barcelona, where I was responsible for the region of Southern and Eastern Europe. Now we live in Düsseldorf. Each time, you have to organize again, learn the language—you have to want it. I’ve always done it.’

Your twin daughters are 23. Are they just as enterprising as their mother?
‘They are managing quite well. One is living in London, and the other is in Edinburgh. They’ve both completed a Master’s degree. They are employed. They’ve always thought that what I do is quite normal. They are accustomed to change, and I don’t think they believe there’s anything they can’t do because they are women.’

Giny Boer

Giny Boer (Groningen, 1962) completed her degree programme in Orthopedagogy at the University of Groningen, as well as the evening higher commercial education course, between 1983 and 1990, while also working for fashion companies. In 1995, she started as a management trainee at IKEA. After spending more than 23 years in various supervisory positions in the Netherlands and abroad for IKEA, Boer was appointed CEO of C&A Europe on 1 January 2021.

Last modified:26 November 2021 11.08 a.m.
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