/Carola van der Kooij

Women in leadership

This year’s theme for the International Women’s Day is “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” (1). This theme celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future.

This theme is close to my heart because as a girl born in 1971, I was raised by parents who think it is very good, healthy and sensible to be an independent woman. So, I studied hard, got my diploma and worked the first few years to be independent and earn my own salary.

As years went on and I became a stay-at-home mum of two boys, we moved to different countries for the work of my partner, my work ambition changed. I was not independent anymore, we lived on an 1-salary income.

Woman’s place in the world

A topic we regularly discuss at the dinner table is that of a woman’s’ place in the world. As they could be future CEO’s, politicians, doctors, teachers and husband/partners, it is my job to make my boys understand that there is so much more a woman can do then raise children. At the moment, the possibilities for girls and gender equality is not as it should be. Unfortunately, women still face significant cultural, socio-economic and political barriers to accessing leadership.

Although there is a difference between 1980 (my primary school time) and 2021 in women as leaders in the community, politics and businesses, it is only a small percentage and the process is very slow.

Therefore we need to encourage young men and women to engage in advocacy for gender equality internationally.

How encourage?

For example by choosing Co-education. I am very glad we chose Co-education for our boys. The classroom is a mirror of our society. They already learn to work with girls at school, have discussions, find out that a girl has sometimes a different approach than boys, that they are clever and have something to say.“A crucial advantage of Co-education is that of learning to adapt to gender-neutral situations in the workforce, which is a necessary skill later in life when you have to work with both men and women.”- Hidde (my son, 17 years)With these little things like discussions at home and choosing education for your children you can encourage change in boys and girls thinking as well.
It’s time to celebrate the achievements of women, whether social, political, economic or cultural.

Personally, I am very happy with the fact that I choose to be a stay-at-home mum for the first few years. It gave me more time with my boys, we had time to adjust in all the countries we lived and we learned a lot about different cultures. I studied to become a Sport Massage therapist and Perinatal Massage therapist when my youngest went to pre-school and I started to parttime work again when both the boys went to school.

Although there is a difference in pay between me and my partner, it is still very rewarding to be able to do my what my passion is, nurturing women’s and babies wellbeing.