Sandie van Doorne
Executive Director Corporate Strategy & Geneva, Lucas Bols
“My children are still not allowed to play any shooting games because I said there was enough violence in the world and I don’t want them to learn to use guns, not in real life, nor virtually…when it comes to porn, it’s a difficult question. I do get concerned when I see all the music videos with girls being subservient to men, that I really don’t like. I see my young daughter looking at it and she may think she has to be like that towards men…For me, teaching your children how to respect each other is so important. But, I think it’s unrealistic to say porn should be outlawed. I just don’t think porn should be easily accessible.”
In your opinion, what qualities make a “Power Woman”?
It’s a women who achieved her goals professionally, personally, privately and that you are able to stay a woman and have a private life and a professional life–have it all in balance. When I see women around me who are getting into of where they want to go, that’s powerful
With all the different issues one could focus on, how do you balance your efforts in pursuit of gender equality? is it a global approach or a specific issue that you are passionate about?
I have a hard time talking about gender equality because I don’t live from that paradigm to see the differences. I mean, I see a lot of value in mixing men and women in a working place. What I find incredibly important is to train the people you empower–young people, both girls and boys–and to train them to treat each other as equals. Everybody deserves the same place and I really believe that it starts over there. In The Netherlands there is a lot of talk about gender quota on the board directors. But, I don’t believe in that–then you are too far along down the line. The question is do you educate your young women and your young men to work together and to empower them to go after their goals. I think that’s really important for the next generation when I see my children and step children. I think that’s where the real change is starting about, and now, if we put in a quota today it’s about
women who already have made a choice either to take care of children, or to work part-time. In The Netherlands we don’t have a lot of women in management positions and higher positions because they have made a choice that they are not getting there, not because they are not allowed to, but because there aren’t many available who don’t want to do that. It’s about the education, being young, and you, as a woman. As a woman, you can have family ambitions and you can also have work ambitions, but for a man in a work place it’s about both men and woman.
If you could have someone else’s job for a day, who and what would it be? Why?
If I could be anything I would be a performer because I love to sing and perform with a passion. If I were able to sing like her singing and performing with that much passion. I mean she is really all about passion. If I were more serious I would be Christina, from CNN. She’s such an inspiring person, influential, inspiration, and not afraid to address issues. She has a very elegant way yet knowing how to interview people. She’s not afraid to voice her opinion.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I don’t have any that I can identify with as a historical figure. There are a lot that I admire, but none that I can identify with.
Are you involved in politics at the local or national level? Why or why not? In what way do you work for women’s power and equality? What do you think is the number one action we as a society can take (e.g. affirmative action)?
I am not very active in politics. I am very goal-orientated person, rather than a process-orientated person. As in politics, in Europe I don’t think it differs as much in U.S., but they are very process-orientated and very compromise-orientated, so it’s just not something that’s easy for me to do or something that I like to do. But, I am very much involved in an NGO called For Life, which is all about empowerment for the young generation and that’s where a few make a difference. It’s a Dutch NGO that works with different countries around the world on empowerment. It originally started the fight against HIV/AIDS, but it has become an organization that works towards behavioral change on young people. The only way the young generation can have a better future is if they behave according to their goals–who are you and what do you want? Then we start to talk about how to get there and notes on empowerment, behavioral skills, and life skills. Of course, you influence their sexuality and protecting themselves goes much further than empowerment and life skills, so it’s also about equal education for both men and woman and you have to keep the boys as well.
What issues in the workplace contribute most to the gender pay gap: Accessibility? Unconscious bias (including questions about previous salary requirements)? Economic? Reproductive? Or some other nefarious reason. Why do you think these are still challenges we face?
What I found as my own strong side is that I’m not afraid to negotiate, I’m not afraid to talk about my strengths, and I’m not afraid to say, “Okay, I can do it.” I found that a lot of women talk less of themselves and they’re not as outspoken as men. Well, women would say I have never done that before. I tell women to negotiate for what they want: “You are strong, sell your virtues and your strength.” I don’t know whether it comes from nature or nurture, but I do see the law and some men may not like it strong in terms of standing towards your goals asking for something or negotiating, but I never let it stand in my way and I do tell woman all around me to negotiate when they go to a new job–be strong about it and don’t talk about what you can’t talk about, you are capable and learn along the way.
Can you tell us a short story in which you encountered a block in the work place and what you did about it?
It started at university and there was a teacher who was teaching macroeconomics while I was studying for my degree and he kept on saying, “What are you doing here? You are a girl.” At some point, I asked him a question about the board and the writer and I asked a question about modification. He kept on saying, “Walk to the right because there is a door and that’s where you should go.” When I got my degree, the first place I went was the student office…If you are a women, you often have to have a feminine side, and looking back, it has given me some trouble. It always gave me a trouble as an intern, working for a company, doing my thesis, I got it from a guy who was my boss at the time and I didn’t understand it. He asked me out and I did go out with him. He said, “I’m sorry I’m gonna stay over because you have an upcoming appraisal,” but I’m extremely lucky that the other guy took over and saw what was going on. You do encounter these things and if you also show your feminine side. You see other aspects of men and you can hurt their ego. I really believe in teaching your young children well. Often, women can be their own blockage.
Do you think that asking previous salary requirements in job interviews contributes to the pay gap between women and men? NY State recently outlawed this practice. Should we push for a nationwide ban?
I think it’s an irrelevant question to about previous salary. I don’t believe in outlawing and banning and making quota, I think it’s irrelevant. For a certain position you look at qualities and skills in people, you have a certain level for a certain pay and the past is irrelevant. If you stumble upon someone who is good for the position, it doesn’t matter if it is a woman or a man.
Have you seen any changes in the political landscape for women over the past few years? If so, what are they?
I think it’s wonderful for all these things to be happening in the world, for more female presidents. The mayor of Amsterdam is a woman and I said, “That’s great news.” and then I said, “Well, why is that big news? It’s not normal?” I find that women get judged for being harsh and I have never heard of a man being harsh. It’s a little bit of a bullying for women. If you stick out the head, and I often do experience this myself, and you stand for your roles and for yourself you also get judged, but a man will never get judged.
Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today? What was it?
It was actually a man who made a difference to me. It was a boss when I was young and he slammed down his hand on the table and said, “Why are you being so damn insecure? Stand up for yourself. That’s the only thing that is standing in your way.” I took it to heart. It’s good that someone sees all this potential in you, don’t be afraid.
Do you believe that open access to porn (including violent video games, social media etc.) contributes to gender inequality and violence against women?
My children are still not allowed to play any shooting games because I said there was enough violence in the world and I don’t want them to learn to use guns, not in real life, nor virtually. I don’t think it’s fun or a game. When it comes to porn, it’s a difficult question. I do get concerned when I see all the music videos with girls being subservient to men, that I really don’t like. I see my young daughter looking at it and she may think she has to be like that towards men. So, possibly yes, all the porn and music videos can give strong messages about how to behave. But, again, for me it’s about teaching your children from this generation of how to respect each other. But, I think it’s unrealistic to say porn should be outlawed. I just don’t think porn should be easily accessible.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Well, there’s a wonderful saying our colleague PFO always said: “Happiness is becoming who you are.” I love it. It’s just so simple that I don’t need to expand, it’s becoming who you are.
There are many studies that support the idea that a female presence in the board room increases the bottom line and leads to healthier work environments. What can we do to continue to support and enhance the growth and presence of women in high profile positions?
I think I mentioned it before, but there is a lot of discussion going on in our country about quota and minimum quota in higher management positions. I don’t believe in that because there is always a right person for the job and I don’t think it should be a man or women, per se. There’s a right person for the job and that’s more than just putting a quota out there because that may not work. I strongly do believe in the balance between men and women in the company, with rules, besides, to see things differently. But, sometimes a woman can be like a man, or it can be the other way around. I think there has to be a balance and there is a right person for the job. I do believe in that, but putting in a quota I don’t believe in–that’s were education should be early on.
Who do you most admire? Why?
I admire a lot of people, but if I had to choose one person it would be Oprah. She speaks her opinion, is a business woman, and also goes for what she wants.
What is your favorite book (fiction or non-fiction)?
It’s a fiction book.
What do you most value in your friends?
What do you consider the most over rated virtue?
Well, I’m not a very big compromiser. I think it’s overrated to make compromises.
Which trait do you most deplore in yourself? In others?
My Dutch directness it gets me in trouble. What I really deplore in others is hypocrisy, dishonesty, and going behind someone’s back.