Eurocities is the network of more than 200 larger European cities working together for a better quality of life in cities and for cities to be genuine partners with the EU. We contribute to the green, digital and fair transformation of Europe and its urban areas. I focus on organisational management, strategy development and implementation, as well as the political positioning of the network to the EU.

Dorthe Nielsen
Executive Director, Eurocities

What inspired you to work in the international association sector? Would you recommend this career to others? Why/ why not?

I was initially inspired by the very enriching Europe-wide perspective of the daily work and the strong commitment of the membership to collaboration between each other as well as with the EU institutions.

Our activities connect with almost all public policies that strive to improve the quality of life for people living in cities. It offers a meaningful perspective as well as a purpose-driven and incredibly varied agenda. Also, the networked leadership approach, which is predominant in most membership associations, provide a very dynamic work environment, where shared interests, consensus-seeking, and creating buy-in takes priority over individual agendas. It is sometimes challenging, but always fun.

I would absolutely recommend this path to others at any time.


Can you remember a time when you needed to #BreakTheBias – either your own, or that of someone else? What lessons did you learn from this experience?

Coming back from my second maternity leave, I applied for a senior job in the NGO sector. The interviewers in the final round, all men, asked me if I had what it would take to do the job, with two little children at home. I cannot remember what I replied and in any case, I didn’t get the job. After that experience, I fully appreciated my then-employer, who offered excellent maternity leave and return-towork

conditions and who never questioned my commitment or capacity to do my job with a growing family. In my current role, I do my best to follow that example.


How important are diversity, equity, and inclusion for the future success of associations? What have you done to improve DEI? Did it work? Why/ why not?

The benefits of and business case for diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace are well documented. In a European association, one important aspect is diversity in terms of nationalities represented, which underpins relations with the membership. One of the challenges we have in Eurocities is gender balance. We have found it challenging to attract and retain male employees. We revisited our recruitment and selection processes, for example paying extra attention to having male candidates in the final interview rounds. Shifting partly to teleworking now, we have also been able to review aspects of our contractual arrangements, which has had a positive impact. We are gradually

improving the balance, while the overall number of staff is also growing. This stands in contrast to our high-level events which involve mayors. Across Europe, the majority of city leaders are men. We always start our events planning by programming in more men than women as speakers and actively looking for the women mayors to invite. This helps us to achieve a fairly good gender balance in events.

Needless to say, it is important to look at the real issue though: why are there so few mayors that are women in the EU?