On the 8th of March we celebrated International Women’s Day, which is a collective day of global celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It also marks a call for accelerating gender parity. Together with Lof Foundation, TopFem organized an event on this special day to inspire all interested women. Successful role models, such as Hans Zwarts (former CEO at Randstad) and Francine van Dierendonck (CEO at Xenos), told their ‘lessons learned’ through storytelling.
“Diversity is a precondition for The Netherlands to continue participating in the business top.”
– Francine van Dierendonck
First, professor Mr. Breedveld-de Voogd started the evening off by welcoming us and telling us the personal story of her career. Next, the floor was given to Francine van Dierendonck and Hans Zwarts. Both guided us through their lives and career by telling very personal stories. Francine gave us an insight in what it is like to be a women in a top function. On the other hand, Hans Zwarts told us about the change of perception of women he has noticed through the years. As a way of ending the college tour, several statements were discussed with both the speakers and the audience.
The event was then moved to City Hall Leiden to enjoy some complementary drinks. During this informal part of the evening, we spoke to three young women who attend a TopFem event for the first time: Claire Vegter (master Public International Law), Fleur van Lit (master Middle Eastern Studies) and Justine van den Hoed (bachelor Communication).
“I was looking at a LinkedIn profile of a former classmate and there I saw TopFem. The name triggered me, so I visited the website and saw this event”
– Fleur van Lit
Claire was triggered by the event as she is not sure about her future career yet, therefore she is always open for inspiring events. Intriguingly, both Fleur and Claire had the expectation that the event would provide a really feministic approach to career with women telling “female stories”. However, after attending the event they changed their mind 180°. Next to that the event covered leadership and top positions in general, the ladies learned that the concept of feminism is so much broader than the common definition maintained by the media. Claire even ordered the book ‘We should all become feminists’, cited by Hans Zwarts during the event.
“The fact that the speakers were male and female made so much sense afterwards.”
– Claire Vegter
Justine, Claire and Fleur all learned a lot during the event. Interestingly, they also pick out different personal learning points. Justine has learned that even though you make conscious decisions, things still can work out (very) differently. You don’t know what you will find on your path, just seize every opportunity you can find. This is basically how Justine made her decision to study communication (with no regret).
Fleur was first determined not to go to the networking drinks. The idea of ‘networking’ scared her off. By accident, she went after all and it was amazing! She had a really good time talking with many TopFem members as well as other fresh faces, sharing ambition or vision, or just have a nice talk. Fleur dares to say that she is less scared to just walk towards people and have a conversation. Claire learned that if you are stuck in one job or one direction, you can still change your path. Just do it with 100% commitment.
“It is going to take years to create equality between men and women, but I believe we shouldn’t just focus on equal rights for women, but for men too, for example maternity leave for fathers too.”
– Justine van den Hoed