Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

  Today, November 12 2017, the well-known presentator Leila Prnjavorac read one of the great Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls in a gigantic bed in the Public Library of Amsterdam. It was a great act to observe, especially at the moment that all the children imitate the ‘camouflage’ that Queen Nanny (1686 – 1733) taught the Marrons at Jamaica to protect themselves from the English ennemy. See and enjoy the youtube I produced about that particular story (in Dutch, click on the image):

The book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls has now been translated for Dutch children under the title Bedtijdverhalen voor Rebelse Meisjes. The stories of 100 special women are described in a nice, easy-to-go way in combination with beautiful and colorful images.
Is it possible to be inspiring and practical on a simple page? Yes it is.
For example the book describes the story of an Irish girl who wanted to be a sailor and a pirate. When her father told her that her long read hair would get stuck in the ropes of the sails, she just cut her hair off, leaving her father no other choice than to take her onto the ship. Girls learn that there are solutions to problems they might face and that they can take action all by themselves. And they see what can be achieved. The Irish girl ended up being personal friends with the Queen of England she initially fought against. It is a joy to read the different stories of the book, with women from all over the world, from many cultures.
No shortcomings in this book then? Yes, but just one. The choice was made to describe also the stories of women still alive. That always comes with the risk that they might still do less heroic things after the story was written. For example Myanmarese Aung San Suu Kyi is in the book as a Nobel Price winning political hero. However at this very moment her Nobel Price is heavily discussed due to her negative role in the immense drama of ethnic cleansing of the Rohinya in Myanmar – not exactly the good night story one would choose for one’s kid to tell…
However, this is a minor shortcoming that still leaves 99/100 inspiring stories in the book. Therefor I warmly recommend it for all rebel girls >>> and their mothers!

Bedtijdverhalen voor Rebelse Meisjes
Geschreven door Elena Favilli en Francesca Cavallo
Uitgegeven 2017 door Rose Stories

Another blog you might like: Puteaux: a French world in pink and blue
Or this one: Left Handers Day and high giftedness

Palmpasen in Jordanië – daar waar je invloed hebt…

genderdiversiteit jordanië

Genderdiversiteit in Jordanië: vorige week gaf ik op Palmpasen (zondag = een gewone werkdag aldaar) een training over genderdiversiteit aan een team van een groot Jordaans bedrijf. ‚Zaten daar ook mannen bij‘, wordt me nogal eens gevraagd over trainingen in de Arabische wereld. Het antwoord is ja, en vaak in meerderheid. En ze staan bijna allemaal positief tegenover gender diversiteit— Nederlandse discussies als ‚waarom moet dit eigenlijk en waarom heeft dit nu prioriteit‘ worden in landen als Jordanië overgeslagen. Je gaat er gewoon aan het werk en daarmee maak je sneller meters.

Tijdens de training kwam via social media het bericht over de aanslagen op Koptische christenen in Egypte binnen. De verslagenheid was groot. De deelnemers vergeleken het meteen met een grote aanslag in Bagdad, 94 doden, aan de vooravond van een islamitisch feest en interpreteerden dat terreur juist mikt op mensen die rustig bidden en in vrede hun godsdienst willen belijden. Vanuit Nederlandse ogen lijken Egypte en Bagdad misschien ver weg van Jordanië maar de Arabische wereld heeft een sterk eenheidsgevoel. Een dergelijke aanslag komt dus keihard binnen ook al vindt die vele honderden kilometers verderop in een ander land plaats.

Veiligheid is sowieso een issue, ook in Jordanië zelf. Zo was niet alleen de locatie waar de training plaats vond zwaar beveiligd maar ook de streek eromheen omdat IS op dat moment actief rekruteerde daar. Maar zoals gezegd, niemand vroeg waarom genderdiversiteit in Jordanië nu eigenlijk moest of prioriteit kreeg, integendeel. Er heerste een sfeer waarin elk individu doet wat hij kan, want: in deze context telt elke actie. De wereld kunnen we niet veranderen maar op de inclusiviteit van onze eigen organisatie hebben we wel grip, meenden de deelnemers. En zo is het. Ze waren hartstikke gemotiveerd voor betere genderdiversiteit in Jordanië. We hebben dan ook de rest van de dag hard doorgewerkt. Hou je van diversiteit & inclusie, laat je dan niet ontmoedigen en onderneem actie op de terreinen waarop je zelf invloed hebt.

Over eerdere ervaringen met diversiteitstrainingen in Arabische landen lees je hier:

Read also this blog: Politics and diversity in your organisation

Mensa member Angela Riddering publishes book about trust

presentatie veldgids vertrouwen  Angela Riddering publishes book
Wednesday 20th March, Mensa member Angela Riddering presented the new book she wrote ‘Veldgids vertrouwen’. You can find the book here:
We know Angela as a creative person. So the book presentation was in some misty place called Worm in Rotterdam, where the toilets were made out of plastic and the floor consisted of former Dutch Fortis Bank desktops. As a person from Amsterdam, I do not think I will ever understand the people in Rotterdam but I can admire them, though 🙂
Angela is one of those multi-talented people, she celebrated the presentation with a performance of her band playing the themes of her book in music. Music, the book, also her Mensa activities are just hobbies as she has a serious job in local government – or maybe the job should be considered as her hobby…
The book is very nice, it is designed in an original way and the structure is a real ‘field guide’ (veldgids): the different parts of the book can be read all by themselves but there is an overall idea and structure. After reading this book, you won’t say any more one-sided things like ‘trust is good, control is better’. Both trust and control get their place in management and governance styles in this book, and style choices can be made by the reader following the lines Angela and her co-writer Frans de Jong draw.
Thanks Angela, for another nice meeting and for offering a good new book to the world!

Other books you may like:
Ik kan vliegen
My new book about diversity at work
Good night stories for rebel girls

Dutch entrepreneurs then and now

vno-ncw investeren in vrouwen loont 008 Today a new book about Dutch entrepreneurs was presented at the headquarters of Dutch employers, the Malietoren in the Hague. It was a pleasant venue, as you can see in the picture. A big text shows that investing in women gives a real good ROI (return on investment). I know that plans for this action were discussed during the trade mission to Turkey last November (see my other blogs so it was great to see the outcome!
However, the presentation was only about male entrepreneurs in the period 1850 – 1950 in Holland (the west of the Netherlands); great entrepreneurs that made our country to what it is now. Most entrepreneurs combined their business with social involvement. The chair of VNO-NCW, Bernard Wientjes, explained that this has always been usual in Dutch business. The last 30 years brought an approach too uniquely focused on shareholder value, but we are regrouping from the problems that brought and heading toward sustainable solutions.
The Van Oord family explained how they run their marine ingenuity business (see as an entire family business: that was so interesting. Family business means that long term vision is included in every step the business takes. We got a story here how a small business starting with a single entrepreneur can be developped into something worldwide and top of the bill by a large number of 3rd, 4th and 5th generation members. I loved it!
Present were not so much people like me who have a 1st generation business; most of them were 2nd and 3rd generation, but there was also a 5th generation guy present 🙂 It is a great advantage that so many entrepreneurs paved the path, and we can learn from them and be inspired: thanks for that! Please find the book (series) at

Read here about:
Preparing for trade mission to Turkey
Trade mission to Turkey (1): to do or not to do?
Trade mission to Turkey (2): matchmaking
Trade mission to Turkey (3): women entrepreneurship
Trade mission to Turkey (4): Turkish businessmen about the Dutch

10 children and a Phd!

8 March women's breakfast    10 children and a PhD
Talent to the Top, a Dutch organisation for a better gender balance at the top levels of organisations, invited many top women to a breakfast meeting at 8 March, Women’s Day 2013. So I think we were more than 100 women in The Grant hotel in Amsterdam center, in a beautifull hall that was both large and cosy for our meeting.
Particularly impressive was the interview with Ms Sri Mulyani Indrawati, the director of the World Bank. She is a real example in her inspiration to create a better world. I liked the moment when the chair of the meeting asked her what she saw as the best investment in her career and she asked: “Do you mean for myself or for society?”. “For yourself, of course”, the chair asked but I think Ms Sri Mulyani Indrawati is in a top position of the World Bank because she has a broader, deeper approach. We can all learn from her! As her own role model, she mentioned her mother who had 10 children and still finished her Phd…
Thanks Talent to the Top for organizing this. There is a lot of work to be done, in all countries. The ambassador of Indonesia was present and she said that poverty and gender are the most difficult issues to tackle for countries worldwide. And she noticed that they are not one-to-one related: the Netherlands are much richer than Indonesia, but they are still struggling with gender problems. Reducing poverty will not automatically mean equal opportunities or equal rights for men and women. Work to do! When the 8 March breakfast was over, I felt full of motivation to go for it 🙂

Other blogs about career women:
Neelie Kroes saves us…
Few Dutch women in top positions: we need a Dutch spring!
Women, be the leader you want to be!

Women entrepreneurship: trade mission to Turkey (3)

women entrepreneurship  Women entrepreneurship

The trade mission to Turkey was brought to my attention by the foundation Talent naar de Top, a Dutch organisation that brings female top talent to the attention of politics and organisations in the Netherlands, persuading them to set concrete targets to improve the number of women in top positions in the Netherlands. I really thank them for inviting me as it was a very good idea for me to join the mission to Turkey.

In Ankara we met with Angikad, a very interesting Turkish organisation of women entrepreneurs (see also Turkey has quite some succesful women at top positions, for example 12% of the big companies have a female CEO. This is a figure that we can only dream of in the Netherlands, having maybe 1% female CEO in our top 100 companies. Also Turkey has much more female professors.

However, they have only 1 out of 25 ministers who is a woman, but that is politics and we will leave that out of our business discussions. It was interesting to meet the business women of Angikad. What is remarkable for me is that women are more often found in technical professions than in the Netherlands. For example the chair of Angikad is a chemical engineer and vice-president of this company.

Nevertheless, Turkish women face their own challenges. They have more top women than we have in the Netherlands, but less women working at all and the total amount of women working as entrepreneur is also less than average. Angikad is actively taking up the challenge for development, they are in many projects both nationally and on European level.

We were received very well in the Big Chef’s restaurant (a succesful chain of restaurants owned by one of the Angikad members), I can advice everybody to have lunch or dinner in a Big Chef’s restaurant, it was delicious!

Apart from general presentations, we also took time to talk individually on business opportunities; this was both very nice and inspiring, and I am confident the conversations we had will have a good follow up. Turkish business women proved to be energetic, concrete and ready to go on ideas: such a nice experience! I hope Angikad will grow, as well as the number of Turkish entrepreneur women and of course their business!

Read also about:
Turkish businessmen about Dutch entrepreneurs: trade mission to Turkey (4)
Matchmaking: trade mission to Turkey (2)
10 children and a PhD
The daughter also rises

President in the warm heart of Africa

president in the warm heart of africaPresident in the warm heart of Africa

When her Excellency President Banda from Malawi returns to her country after a visit to Nigeria, this doesn’t pass unnoticed. Along the road to the airport, police officers are frequent. At the airport itself, there is a large line of ‘guards of honour’ (no idea how to call them, you see them at the picture in red). Apart from luxury cars, at least seven Hummers are waiting and ten motorpolice officers, as well as a great bunch of army officials.
And then there is the public, dressed in her political colour orange, singing and blowing the vuvuzela and dancing for this President they love. President Banda, once she arrives, only walks on the red carpet, not on the cold and hard airport cement. The ceremony takes maybe 20 minutes, not too long to become boring, not too short as if it were just a necessity.
It must be fun to be welcomed like this after a journey abroad! Malawi is called ‘the warm heart of Africa’ and makes that name true in many aspects 🙂

Other blogs about Malawi you might like:
Aid for orphans in Malawi
Dead aid in Malawi
Malawi Fever Tree
Stage fever is an English invention
When inclusiveness met apartheid

Neelie Kroes saves us from Mercer’s way of analyzing women’s fate

Applause for Neelie Kroes, the Dutch European Commissioner who can translate women’s affairs in real issues instead of traditional conventions. Two days ago, Mercer published another of its research results: women in top positions and at middle management level earn less than men: in the Netherlands 14% less. That is a lot for the same work!
In a blog a few weeks ago, I already criticized Mercer for its way of analyzing research results. To explain the fact that there are few Dutch women in top positions, Mercer found excuses like these and I quote my former blog: ”The Netherlands is a progressive nation but, like the UK, has very high levels of women working part-time”. However the UK still has a score of 28% of women in top positions, much higher than The Netherlands. Half of the high educated women in the Netherlands do not have children and do not work part time… so that can’t explain the figures.
Now how does Mercer analyze the new research results of women earning 14% less that men? Merel Verwoest, Head of Reward Consulting Benelux at Mercer explains that although discrimination could be the case, it is also because women quitted work for a few years to care for their children and that they work parttime more often than men do. Oh boy… here we are again… Mercer is fixated on women having children and working parttime….
A better reason Merel also gives is the fact that women in the Netherlands are more often into marketing or HR, functions that pay less than direct operational functions. Nice that they add this, but apart from this it it tiring to see Mercer repeat old-fashioned arguments again and again.
Neelie Kroes, commissioner in the European Union, was on Dutch television today and she was asked for her opinion about this subject. She came up with an explanation that showed much more insight in the matter: ‘women are less able to negotiate about salaries’, she said. Simple and true, applause for Neelie Kroes to be direct and concrete like always! The word ‘able’ in the negotiation is well chosen because it is two-sided. Any man with a parttime job and children will still obtain the maximum salary, but women don’t. Money is not about children or parttime work, that is a political correct excuse used by people who ‘do not want to accuse anybody’; like Mercer.
Neelie Kroes is not accusing anybody, but she helps us further by just telling the truth and encouraging society to learn something. If Neelie Kroes was not yet European Commissioner, Mercer should ask her to be their new top manager; they’d definitely learn and flourish that way.

Other blogs you might like:
The daughter also rises
Few Dutch women
Women entrepreneurship: trade mission to Turkey
Simone Veil: une vie
Powerful photographs for women

Women in top positions: we need a Dutch Spring!


Women in top positions: only few women have top positions in the Netherlands, Mercer reveals today based on data on 264,000 senior management and executives in 5,321 companies across 41 European countries.
Eastern countries like Lithuania, Bulgaria, Russia, Kazakhstan and Estonia lead the list with percentages like 44 – 37% women in top positions; somewhere down the list, still better than Saudi Arabia (0%), Qatar (7%), Egypt (16%) and United Arab Emirates (17%) we find The Netherlands: 19% ! Wow.
Read this for yourselves at:
I quote the Mercer site where Sophie Black, Principal in Mercer’s Executive Remuneration team says: “For a gender comprising over half the global population, women’s representation in senior corporate roles is woeful. The cause is complicated. It’s cultural, social, in some cases it is intentional discrimination but it can also be unconscious – the desire to recruit people like you. This unconscious bias is hard to eradicate. The end result of all these issues is a creation of a ‘pyramid of invisibility’ for women in corporate life.”
However, when it comes to an explanation about the Netherlands, she finds excuses like these: “The Netherlands is a progressive nation but, like the UK, has very high levels of women working part-time”. However the UK still has a score of 28%, much higher than The Netherlands. Like child care, parttime work is often used as an excuse for the lack of Dutch women in top positions. But half of the high educated women in the Netherlands do not have children and do not work part time… so that can’t explain the figures.
Countries like Turkey and Morocco where women are supposed to have a more traditional role (at least in the eyes of many Dutch), beat the Netherlands (19%) with scores like 26% resp. 23%. With a score in between the score of the group of Middle Eastern countries, I think there is only one way to go for the Dutch. They had their Arab Spring last year, now it is our turn: we need a Dutch Spring!

Other blogs you might like:
Women entrepreneurship
Women, be the leader you want to be!
Diversiteit in Marokko en Tunesié

Iron Lady – too soft a movie

Iron Lady is a surprising, rather disappointing movie. Years ago, I read Margaret Thatcher’s biographie. I found it very interesting to read about her own views on what she stood for and how she wanted to achieve her goals. She was one of the first women at the international stage. In the Netherlands, until now, we never even had a female Prime Minister. So Margaret Thatcher is a woman we can learn something from.

In the movie The Iron Lady, however, we learn little about her views; the movie doesn’t even explain or pay any attention to the question how she could achieve at all to become Prime Minister as a woman in an ‘all men’ environment. On the contrary, we see most of the time an old woman who is having memories about her past life in short parts and sketches. She is already confused in a starting dementia, imagining her deceased husband around her most of the time and talking to him, sometimes even thinking that she is still Prime Minister.

In the various scenes about her life we see in the first place a woman who is Prime Minister, rather than a Prime Minister who is a woman. The focus is on her style much more than on her ideas, policies, views. Especially for a Prime Minister who lead a country through many changes, this is a surprising and also disappointing focus.

Research has shown that this treatment is reserved especially for female ministers. Journalists for example ask them two to three times more often about their private life and children than they do to their male colleagues. When they report about women in government positions, they report first of all about their style; however for their male colleagues, the main attention is paid to the content of their politics.

Nobody can say that Meryl Streep did not do a good job, because she was brilliant as ever. But she is not responsible for the script that chose to show one of the most influential Prime Ministers of the 20th century from a vulnerable side that is at least partly based on phantasy of the maker rather than as a strong and powerful person with ideas and the competence to realize them. Let’s hope another, more visionary movie maker will stand up and do the work that the Iron Lady movie has neglected to do.

Other blogs you may like:
Turist and the myth of heroism
Lore movie that silences the public
Simone Veil: une vie

Powerful photographs for women


Press photographs make men look more powerfull than women, new research findings show: (in Dutch). It seems to be a new finding, but I remember that I learned it in a course about 14 years ago. The course was given by Maaike Meijer (and others), who were working on the book Effectief Beeldvormen that is now free downloadable from Maaike’s website (in Dutch again):
The course and also the book afterwards were great. I remember how they analyzed commercial messages, for example the campaign to make people drink more milk: the boys and men introduced in the campaign drank milk to become strong or famous, the women were encouraged to drink it to become beautiful women and lovely grandmothers. It opened my eyes for the way the world around us pushed men and women in different roles.
They also showed how men were usually photographed from a position down under, so that the observer would look up to them; the position would be an affirmation of their power. Women were usually photographed from a position where the photographer was up: women would look smaller and less powerfull, just by the way they were portrayed. I found that kind of research outcomes amazing. It seemed that not just men and rules and the way power was shared was against us women, but also the way media shaped images in our world. It was surprising and also fun: because image and photographs were created to amuse mankind, and changing them looked like a game of joy!
And yet, in 2012, the original findings are re-affirmed by new scientists. A nice advice that an editor gave with it is: women, just don’t allow photographers to take pictures from above 🙂 Do-able and very practical because any woman can be aware of this in all circumstances.
Two years ago I had photographs taken for the front page of an employers’ magazine, in the midst of balloons. I thought it was a great idea. I think for the front page (see on top of this blog) the picture was taken from the position that makes women powerful, but on the inside (see aside it was not, but isn’t the effect neutralized by the idea of the balloons? I leave this to you to decide, but I like to re-affirm the general advice: take care that photographs express the real, more or less powerful position you are in!

Other blogs you may like:
Neelie Kroes saves us
The daughter also rises
Women, be the leader you want to be
Women entrepreneurship: trade mission to Turkey