The Power of Women

International Women’s Day is here, and for me it’s a day that has both a personal and a collective significance.It’s a day to reflect on the strong women who inspire me, with whom I work, and who are part of my family.

My daughter Charlie will celebrate her 8th birthday on International Women’s Day, March 8th, and I’m in awe of the strength of spirit she’s already shown at such a young age. At five years old, in 2017, Charlie was diagnosed with childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, or ALL. While Charlie has now recovered from this gruelling illness, her resilience during her treatment is an ongoing inspiration to me. 

To create something positive from Charlie’s experience, my family and I set up the Charlie Braveheart Foundation, with the mission to train medical professionals to help alleviate children’s suffering during hospital treatments. To do this, they use tools such as focus language, hypnosis, and music. You can find out more about the foundation here

I also wanted to discover the meaning of International Women’s Day for the women who inspire me. Read my Q&As with Miluska van 't Lam, editor-in-chief at Harper's Bazaar NL, Mirjam A. de Blécourt, principal at renowned law firm Baker McKenzie Amsterdam, and Marie-Claire Greve, fine art and wildlife photographer below. 

 

What does International Women’s Day signify for you? 

Miluska: 

That connection and teamwork are half the fun. During IWD, I can feel that connection become stronger. Although at the same time, I’m wondering why we do not include men in this connected feeling. It also reminds me that I consider myself a woman who wants to develop. This aim helps me to determine my path and gather people around me who have the same goals.

Mirjam:

For me, it means creating an awareness of female role models to encourage and empower women around the globe. Role models are important as they show just what women can achieve.

Marie-Claire:

It’s a reminder that a successful woman has a belief and trust in herself. That she is not afraid to stand up and speak up for what she strongly believes in. That she understands the power of women in our society.

Who or what are your biggest influences?

Miluska:

My mother. She always showed me that perseverance and hard work will be rewarded. She had to raise me and my two sisters on her own, after my father passed away. At the time she was 36, and me and my sisters were 8, 6, and 4. She picked up where she left off and continued running a big business with my father’s family. My mother taught us to get everything you can out of life. My daughter is my second icon. She has a lot of influence in how I shape my life. She provides me with the primal motherhood feeling, and at the same time functions as my mirror. She develops in such a beautiful way that it gives me a lot of confidence in the next generation of women.

Mirjam:

To start with the “who,” Christine Lagarde, currently president of the European Central Bank and the former chair of our Baker McKenzie firm has had an enormously positive influence on me. She is my role model and has been for a long time. She is at once tough but friendly, which is a very powerful combination. She has always fought for women, and has led the way in her own actions. Then the “what” - nature has always been a positive influence, alongside my family and friends.

Marie-Claire:

My biggest influence is Jane Goodall, the British primatologist and anthropologist. As a girl who was connected to nature, Goodall was supported by her mother in following her dream in Africa. Her belief in her mission, and her curiosity to keep learning has made her an icon of nature conservation. An example to many! 

What are some of your key responsibilities or achievements at your job?

Miluska:

The media is changing a lot. It’s my responsibility to make Harper’s Bazaar, as a printed magazine, a brand that is ahead of its time, to reflect how it was originally conceived. In the Netherlands edition, we strive to focus even more on ambitious women. That reflects today’s society, in which more women than ever have an entrepreneurial mind-set. We want to inspire these women as much as possible. We’re introducing new ideas, such as Powercast, a weekly Harper’s Bazaar podcast, Jewellery Night, and our first Harper’s Bazaar at Work Summit, which takes place April 3.

Mirjam: 

I’m head of the employment group of lawyers and staff within Baker McKenzie Amsterdam, and I am a member of the European Employment Steering committee. I have also been a board member at Baker McKenzie for seven years. I’d say one key achievement is that my employment group is made up of dedicated, hard-working, and fun people.

Marie-Claire:

I share the beauty of nature. My photography is abstract, and leads people to question what they are looking at, and by doing so, they start to actually see. My work seeks to connect those who view it with nature. I share the stories of good conservation to inspire others to follow this path. A single person can make a huge difference by keeping conservation in mind.

How would you characterise your work environment?

Miluska:

My work takes place in so many different areas of expertise. From fashion to beauty, to jewellery and interior design. Nowadays, we focus on the entrepreneurial and tech worlds, too. As Harper’s Bazaar, we can create connections and links between worlds, which makes our work truly relevant. That gives me a lot of satisfaction. I hope for Harper’s Bazaar to grow and become a brand that supports ambitious women and inspires them to become the best version of themselves. 

Mirjam:

Hard working and fun at the same time, with lots of responsibilities, and lots of opportunities to create your own world, alongside many opportunities to be of real value to your clients.

Marie-Claire:

My work environment is nature, the most inspirational source of all colours, shapes, and patterns. It’s an environment in which we lose track of time, and where the silence, through its sounds, allows us to reflect on our inner self.

How does the International Women’s Day slogan, #EachforEqual, apply to your own working life?

Miluska:

We focus a lot on inclusivity and are aware that as a brand, we have an influence on forming opinions. That’s why it’s important to us to act like a true role model. #EachforEqual is still a very important message, because as society we still have a long way to go.

Mirjam:

I live it every day, in my advisory work, in my role as a partner in the firm, and in my role in the Senate.

Marie-Claire:

To be very honest with you I believe that diversity is the greatest gift. I am not striving for equality but for mutual respect, and for the understanding that everybody, no matter their gender, has something to contribute! 

What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?

Miluska:

I’m an emotional person. But I’ve learned not to switch off my emotions, even during hard times, such as the bankruptcies or reorganizations that I’ve been through at my previous jobs. Instead, I use my emotions. That’s resulted in gaining the trust of my team, which has led to recovery and even growth. Emotion means having attention and respect for the people around you. Being transparent is also important, since the younger generation of employees want to know what they stand for, what their role is, and on what criteria they will be judged.

Mirjam:

There will always be barriers. To overcome them you have to speak out, not be afraid, step out of your comfort zone, have fun, and persevere.

Marie-Claire

Yes, there are barriers, but if you really believe in what you are doing, those barriers disappear. Sometimes you think you need more stamina or more patience, but I think one just needs to better understand the language that is spoken to get one’s point across.

How important is it for women to support and elevate each other, and what does that mean to you? 

Miluska:

I completely stand by this; there is enough to share with everyone. Share opportunities with others, give them a platform, and introduce them to your network. To uplift people and see them grow is the most satisfying feeling. When this happens within a team or a company, this growth tends to bear its fruit in the company’s results and mentality, so nothing can stop us!

Mirjam:

If women do this, it changes the world. But both men and women can lift each other up and create possibilities for each other. Every small action changes the world.

Marie-Claire:

I think we should always support one another! Be hopeful and positive and have an opinion, but never judge. Sharing your experience with others is uplifting for yourself, too.

On International Women’s Day, what’s the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

Miluska:

I know it sounds cliché, but follow your heart. Sometimes your passion is closer to you than you think, maybe even so close that you tend to overlook it. Don’t over-complicate it. Just reach out to a person you admire, knock on the door of a company or organisation you admire, to see what the next step could be. If you are already working, speak up about your hopes and dreams, so that people are able to reach out a helping hand. Keep in mind that it is fulfilling for people to help as well. However, preparation is key to get the most out of conversations and to make a good impression. Who knows what that will lead to? The world is smaller than you think. Before you know it, you could have a new job, exciting projects presenting themselves, or new opportunities showing up. What goes around, comes around.

Mirjam:

Find a mentor or a role model, have fun, persevere, and be who you are. Having young children and a career is a tough combination. But when the children grow older, which happens quickly, you’ll be happy that you have a fulfilling job. And don’t worry about not having a good relationship with your children because you have a career - you will have a wonderful relationship!

Marie-Claire:

Never give up! Understand how beautiful and talented you are. And don’t forget that you are a woman! 

 

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