Today | Written by Ralph Rozema
Sanne van Kuijk (37) is the strategy director at brand identity agency Millford. Marjolein van den Broek (36) works as an account director for Online Company, a digital performance agency. During the week of International Women's Day, these two CANDID women discuss equal opportunities and diversity.
Sanne: 'I started at Millford seven years ago while I was pregnant. The headhunter who approached me for the job didn't have much faith that I'd be hired when I told him I was expecting; you'd almost think I'd committed a crime, I remember thinking. But Millford simply wanted me on board, pregnant or not.'
Marjolein: 'That's unique, I'm certain not every agency would have reacted like that. I feel pregnant women have to deal with a lot of prejudice. Didn't you experience that as well?'
Sanne: 'I do remember moments when I tried very hard not to seem to be unable keep up with anyone who wasn't pregnant. I worked extra hard, so at least that wouldn't be an issue - sometimes a bit too much, but I didn't want to allow myself to give in, in that regard.'
Marjolein: 'How do you combine motherhood with a career?'
Sanne: 'I went from 40 hours down to 36, which, of course, is basically still full-time. My husband took parental leave for both children. He worked a three-day week, which has also given me the opportunity to further my career. I realize that this isn't the case for everyone; I am where I am today because we were able to arrange things this way at home.'
Marjolein: 'I don't have any children myself, but I'm driven in terms of my work, just like you. I think it's very important to grow and to continue to develop. I did this several times by changing jobs and taking on a new challenge. I'm allergic to standing still, I get really restless whenever I experience that.'
Sanne: 'Who or what helps you to progress in that regard?'
Marjolein: 'I look after myself and my own development. What helps me is self-belief, to know what makes me happy and what my qualities are. The fact that I'm a woman has never been a hindrance. My perception is that at Online Company, where I have been working for a little more than a year now, men and women are awarded equal opportunities - and I'm keen to seize those opportunities. Mijn employer really encourages that by putting together a personal development plan, and holding a reflection meeting every fortnight.'
Sanne: 'As far as equal opportunities are concerned, I also feel I have nothing to complain about, but the board at Millford could do with being a bit more diverse as far as I'm concerned. Over the course of 36 years, there has never been a female partner. That will change at some point in the future I think, but then that's true for so many agencies. The image of a board comprising only men is not a reflection of the world in which we live.'
Marjolein: 'I agree with you. It's good for a company to radiate a solid balance between the number of men and women; that is of course very contemporary, and as a company, you'd want to align with that.'
Sanne: 'Yes, but I also think it's healthy if there is just as strong a male as female dynamic within an organization.'
Marjolein: 'I believe that a board should consist of a mix of people with different characters and qualities. There needs to be a balance between strong commercial personalities, but also people with empathy, who are able to be in tune with others. Women often have different personalities to men, which is why I believe in a blend of the two, but that mix doesn't necessarily have to be based on gender, because a man can also have feminine traits and vice-versa.'
Sanne: 'What's your view on gender quotas?'
Marjolein: 'I don't believe in them. I believe that people should be a match for a position based on their experience and qualities, not their gender. The agency world is a fast-paced one, and has to suit you. If you want to move forward in that world, you have to dare to stand up for yourself and express your opinion, whether you're a man or a woman. I do find an initiative like International Women's Day useful though, because I think there are still a lot of traditional companies that are not as contemporary as CANDID. The more organizations join initiatives of that nature, the more it becomes a topic that is very much alive.'