At the top “It’s all about finding someone’s strengths. Women don’t outperform men and vice versa. But I won’t deny that it takes a lot of discipline to stay at the top as a woman,” Ineke expresses. Just like men, women have a lot of qualities that match perfectly with a leadership role. It’s important that leadership comes from the heart. And you need to have the intention to help others grow and make them better through your role. I call it Servant Leadership. If you want to make your company a success, you need to be of service to the company and its people. This has nothing to do with gender or background.
That’s why a quota for women at the top is completely nonsense, according to me. All women who really want to reach the top, will find a way to break through that glass ceiling. No bias in the world will stop a woman on a mission to reach that top position. But it’s wrong to think that anyone with the right capabilities – man or woman – can work anywhere they want. There should be a match between your personality, the company’s values and its culture. And sometimes it’s just a case of pure luck. Being at the right place at the right time. If this match doesn’t come naturally, it’s just not meant to be.
But if there is a perfect match between you as a leader and a company, it’s the first positive step, in my opinion. It’s still a lot of work. Having all that responsibility takes a lot out of you. You shouldn’t be afraid to make choices, and that also means saying no to certain activities in your personal life.
I am a mother of two and am not home every day. My husband and I have been able to make it work. I notice that a lot of women still find it difficult. But you can’t run a company part time. You need to dare to go full in. Those doubts often appear during the initial job interview. Women say “I want to be a director, but I still have children that I need to bring to school. Is that possible?” As if there are no male CEOs that bring their kids to school. The big difference is that men don’t ask these kinds of questions. They just do it!
It’s all about balance. Recently, I attended a forum on female leadership, where I talked about my role as a CEO. In the audience, were female students who were just about to graduate. When the moderator asked which of them wanted the same job as me, only three of the four hundred students raised their hands. The moderator was shocked, and asked the audience what was going on. “She works too much”, was the answer. “And we also want to be able to go to parties, exercise and have a social life.” That shocked me a little. It’s not that I don’t do anything else besides work. My downtime, social life and work activities are just one big mix. It’s true that I’m constantly thinking about work. But I also allow myself to go for a run in the morning or see my hairdresser during the week. To me, it’s just one full week in which I can do a lot.
Did I have this go-getter mentality as a child, since I already knew I wanted to one day reach the top? I think so. But, at the same time, all the things I hoped for as a child didn’t come true. What I got is a lot better. I definitely don’t regret the choices that I’ve made. I started a family, got married, and am the CEO of a young and ambitious company. I should therefore be the last person to decide whether or not one should have a leadership position based on a ’home situation’. How you combine the two is up to you. And yes, that takes a lot of discipline. But if you have natural leadership qualities, I believe everything is going to be alright.
The key to achieving this? As a female – or male – leader, you need to learn to let go and prioritise. Just do your best and focus on making things better for other people.
About the Author
Ineke Kooistra is the CEO of YoungCapital, a leading Dutch recruitment agency, since 2013. She has been working in the recruitment and secondment branches for 25 years. Additionally, she has also set up and expanded various specializations within the IT staffing market. Her role as the CEO of the company is to get people moving, motivate them and coach them. Together with three male founders, she directs a predominantly female management team and 1,300 employees, of which 80 percent is also female. This is pure coincidence, because Ineke doesn’t believe in selecting her employees based on gender.
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