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Top business women in the Malietoren - The importance of role models

Around 80 top business women gathered in the Malietoren in The Hague on April 1st, to attend a meeting of the RoundTable 4 Top Women. The theme of the meeting was “International Relations and Leadership”.

Annette Onrust is the founder of the RoundTable 4 Top Women, an exclusive network for female board members, and author of the book Top Woman in 7 steps. She spoke with Louise Beduwé, Deputy Director of International Relations at VNO-NCW, and Andy Wehkamp, ​​Director of PUM Netherlands senior experts, about international ambitions for top women and existing opportunities.

International opportunities

“We have done research into why women do less international business”, Louise Beduwé said. “Then you see that women make different considerations. When we talk about trade missions, women look at how effective they are: Is it interesting in terms of time and money, is it worth it to join? It is important to share our support in this area too. We try to do that by calling attention to this subject during trade missions within our female networks. We try to encourage this. Role models are very important. Our women’s networks are important, for example VNO-NCW West, but also nationwide. These networks were created based on the needs of women themselves”.

Andy Wehkamp is one of the two Directors of PUM Netherlands senior experts (PUM). She spoke enthusiastically about two female entrepreneurs. Women who have taken the opportunity to, alongside their jobs or after retirement, help entrepreneurs in developing countries and emerging markets by sharing their knowledge and experience. Andy: “PUM actively contributes to more gender equality in two ways. First of all by attracting more women to become PUM volunteers, and secondly by reaching female entrepreneurs in developing countries”. Andy called on everyone in the room with international ambitions to register as a PUM expert.

The importance of role models

Deputy Director General of International Cooperation, Birgitta Tazelaar, spoke on behalf of Minister Sigrid Kaag, who unfortunately was unable to attend. She underlined the importance of having a role model, someone for girls and young women to be their example. Birgitta Tazelaar had also brought along a young, talented colleague to hear the experiences of top women and gain inspiration. Birgitta: “You often realise all the possibilities when you hear from others and see how far they make it. That is why the RoundTable 4 Top Women is so important. You share experiences and knowledge and ensure that ingrained patterns are broken”.

Women to the top and trade policy

“Trade policy needs to be professionalised”, according to Hans de Boer. As chairman of VNO-NCW and chairman of PUM’s Supervisory Board he shared his experiences and recommendations. “We are proud of PUM, professionals who really do something valuable for businesses in other countries. What PUM does in those countries is a stepping-stone to other things. For example in Vietnam: PUM professionals advise on animal nutrition, making the cow healthier and giving more milk. We then link these companies to the animal feed industry in the Netherlands. PUM experts also contribute to cleaning the Ganges River in India by tackling the problems in the entire leather industry. We are already working on integrating PUM into the positioning of the Netherlands by doing good business in other parts of the world”.

‘Mission not yet completed’

Hans de Boer, as the founder of Top Women, also stated that his mission to get more women to the top of the business community has not yet been completed: “I provide the database, there are plenty of women with good education, and through headhunters I try to match them with top positions in business. But I haven’t succeeded. Why we need more at the top is a known fact. But how? How do we do that? Agreements made with headhunters and the creation of the database have not yet had the desired effect. I am sorry to say that”.

Young talent

The top women present were given the opportunity to ask the speakers questions and also to respond to their talks. It was an inspiring meeting that ended with a snack and drink. Almost all members of the RoundTable 4 Top Women had brought along a young talent. Because, as was emphasised, it is important to have a role model.

Text: Gabrielle ten Bokkel Huinink

Photography: Jacinta Dicker