I grew up in a typical Dutch family with my father, my mother and two sisters. From the beginning women out numbered men. The greatest thing my parents taught me was that as a woman you needed to be independent; independent of your ‘husband, boyfriend or partner’, and my father was just as keen on this rule as my mother. My sisters and I were lucky enough to receive a full education – school, college, university, after which we all found successful jobs and grew into independent adult women. We made our own choices, but always felt comfortable to ask for advice when it was needed.
I admire my parents for their thinking and I’m lucky that my inspiration was so close by, but there were plenty of others who inspired me as well. Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady. Angela Merkel, frequently referred to as the de facto leader of the European Union and the most powerful woman in the world. Oprah Winfrey, funny and inspirational as a TV host whilst exuding professionalism and using her influence to bring attention to global issues. Martina Navratilova, a fabulous tennis player and outspoken supporter of LGBT rights. Sinead O’Connor, her version of ‘Nothing Compares 2U’ (which still makes me cry when I hear it), her shaved head, dare to be yourself attitude! Serena Williams, another great tennis player, who not only demonstrates tenacity and perseverance, but uses her profile to promote body positivity – a great example for all. And then most recently, the next generation of inspiring leaders such as Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg, encouraging young people to speak up and demand a liveable world for generations to come.
Working in HR I am passionate about equality in the workplace and to achieve this there needs to be a greater focus on women’s education in certain fields. I have worked in the IT industry for decades, where despite conversations around gender diversity in tech, women are still underrepresented. There needs to be active promotion of a digital education to females all over the world – to close the gender gap in technology and to change the image of what a programmer or engineer may look like. If we want to be diverse and equal in our workplace, we need to have woman players to choose from as well as men. Combined male/female work forces are far more productive and creative than sole male or female work forces. In my opinion it makes sense; get more female students through the TECH doors – it is a great industry to work in.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive”. Women’s Day is not only for women but a special day for everyone! Let’s celebrate this lovely day.