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International Women's Day: 'Management teams that also incorporate women, lead to better decisions'

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Jasmijn Bouwmeester (34) is the agency lead at marketing and media agency M2Media. Anouk Schepers (32) is the account manager and brand PR consultant at communication agency Coopr: two driven young women who work at CANDID engage in conversation with one another during the week of International Women's Day on the subjects of ambition, independence and leadership based on a sense of feeling.

Anouk: "You became a mother a year ago. How do you manage to combine that with a position as a manager?"
Jasmijn: "I was granted the opportunity to take on this new role at work immediately following my leave, which was a year ago now. I'm a sensitive woman and I'm all about harmony. But if you're ultimately responsible for massive budgets, then it can be quite complex to connect with everyone who has an opinion one way or another. Motherhood has made that just a little more complicated. At the same time however, it has strengthened me in terms of my leadership, because I now have a solid foundation, which reinforces me in my role, provides me with perspective, and ensures that I can still remain close to my own sense of self."

Anouk: "To be honest, I don't see myself at the helm of Coopr at the age of 34, like you are at M2Media. I'm working hard to progress towards a senior position, but agency leadership? That's not really for me, as I'd no longer be able to carry on with PR work. For me, ambition means above all striving to work hard. If you want something, you have to do something for it in return. I started working as an art and culture coordinator at a festival at the age of sixteen, and attended HBO (higher vocational education), then started working as a freelancer immediately afterwards; I just wanted to roll up my sleeves and get to work."

Jasmijn: 'Did you get your drive from your family surroundings?
Anouk: "My parents separated when I was thirteen, which meant I had to learn to stand on my own two feet at a very young age. I think that's where that mentality stems from. Working hard, doing my best and taking care of myself was my only anchor. What is it that makes you so driven?"

Jasmijn: "My father has always provided me with the opportunity to obtain the most out of myself. In addition, my mother always said: whatever happens, make sure you can stand on your own two feet. She made the choice to work part-time and to also take care of me and my brother and sister back in the day, so that my father could have a career.
To this day, a comment pops up about it every so often, along the lines of: "Oh, if only I could've put everything into having a career, maybe I could have..." Nowadays we can combine both motherhood and a career, providing you have a partner who stimulates and supports you. I would also advise other women to do the same, and to make sure matters at home are all sorted.''

Anouk: "Do you think there should be more women in leadership positions?"
Jasmijn: "In our industry, it is indeed mostly men. It's an almost historic fact and it's high time the scales are more balanced in that sense. Management teams that also incorporate women, lead to better decisions."

Anouk: "I personally don't believe in glass ceilings or female quotas. In my opinion, a position should always be intended for the best man or woman for the job. What do you think?"
Jasmijn: "I agree, but I do think it's a generational matter. Our mothers - and myself included - fought hard to get to where we are today. We must extend their commitment and ensure fully fledged top positions for women. We must move towards a world in which men and women enhance each other, and a world where masculine and feminine qualities are equally important."
Anouk: "I already notice that with various customers. Management boards increasingly comprise a male-female duo who complement each other.''
Jasmijn: "I think that's fantastic. That way, it can be possible to make feminine qualities as important as male qualities; where we come to view authority not only as strength, but also intuition. As soon as you start talking about 'feeling' at a media agency, you're in difficult territory. Figures not feelings are what are considered to be key, but I act a lot on feelings, especially when it comes to people, such as customers and colleagues. But with policy and pricing comes the hard rationale, and then I'm also on the ball when it comes to number crunching."
Anouk: "The funny thing is that PR is actually all about feeling. We have constant conversations with our customers about 'how something feels'.' She then adds laughingly: 'Maybe that's why no men have lasted the distance at our agency. We're in an office where 25 women work. We've had men working here at some point, but they've all left!"

Jasmijn: 'Is there also room for feeling when it comes to your own progress within Coopr?'
Anouk: "Absolutely. My supervisors once asked me what I needed in order to progress further. That would be space, opportunities, freedom and confidence to develop myself; of course, that's all about feeling. And that's exactly what I get working here." 

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