A catering company responsible for serving food to the leaders and delegates at the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague made a controversial staffing decision not to allow female staff to give food or drinks to anyone at the conference.
The Huffington Post reported that the world leaders from 53 countries would be distracted by the presence of a female servers, according to the catering company providing food.
The privilege of serving the working lunches at the World Forum has instead been given to the men on the company’s staff.
Hans van der Linde, director of the catering company, was quoted in the Dutch national newspaper Algemeen Dagblad as saying that women on his staff distract from the “uniform” look he was trying to provide, and they didn’t really fit in.
“If 20 gentlemen are serving and three platinum blonde ladies, then that spoils the image,” he told the newspaper.
"The personnel needs to act in as reserved a manner as possible, and you can’t achieve that by adding a couple of pretty, conspicuous ladies to the mix,” he added.
Van der Linde has already caused outrage on social media sites in the Netherlands, but he tried to justify the decision to Radio 1, saying he originally came up with “the creative idea to only employ ladies to serve the world leaders, and to have them do that in little Delft Blue dresses.”
However, the ministry of Foreign Affairs reportedly rejected his idea.
“We also have to go up a very steep flight of stairs, so little dresses wouldn’t be practical, as you wouldn’t be able to lift your legs high enough,” Van der Linde adds.
His “gender bias” was met with harsh criticism on Twitter.
— Monty McNoodles (@MundaneNoodles) March 25, 2014
One commented, “Putin must be laughing his socks off.”
The director of the Protocolbureau, Jean-Paul Weijers, told The Independent that the decision was made to prevent world leaders from getting distracted.
One Twitter user wrote:
— Deb Chachra (@debcha) March 25, 2014
Muslim world leaders present may have had influence in making the decision, Weijers adds.
“They understand that in the West there are different standards, but The Netherlands is a small country that is used to adapting quickly to bigger countries,” he says.