What does “choose to challenge” mean to you?
Dare to dream big.
Who is a woman you admire as a challenger, and how do you carry on her legacy?
My friend Bibian Mentel. In the late 90’s, Biban dropped out of law school to follow her dream to become a professional snowboarder – not an obvious choice for a Dutch girl. Aspiring to be a professional snowboarder myself, I looked up to her as a role model.
My admiration for ‘Bieb’ grew even bigger when in 2000 she was diagnosed with cancer, leading to her lower leg having to be amputated. Bieb was back on her board 4 months after surgery and immediately she started to pursue a career in adaptive snowboarding, resulting in 128 gold medals (!). She also spearheaded the lobby to get snowboarding included in the Paralympic Games. She succeeded, and in 2014 Bibian won the first ever Paralympic snowboard gold (and winning 2 more Paralympic gold medals in 2018). In addition to her impressive career as a snowboarder, Bibian also was a mother of son Julian and founder of the Mentelity Foundation, which encourages kids with a disability to pick up sports.
Unfortunately, Bibian continuously had to deal with cancer ever since she was first diagnosed, as the disease kept coming back – 15 times in total. But this has never kept Bibian from doing anything she put her mind to. She took part in the TV show ‘Dancing with The Stars’ even though a tumor in her neck forced her to start using a wheelchair right before the training for the show started.
Bibian has showed me, and so many others, how grit and positivity can turn challenges into opportunities. A true example of a challenger. Bibian passed away on March 29th 2021 after a 20 year-long battle with cancer.
With the status quo being challenged more and more, in the past 10 years, what have been the biggest changes you’ve noticed for women?
Female leadership is steadily being viewed more positive, as more women are slowly but steadily taking up higher positions and bigger roles – in politics and in business.
What advice do you have for a woman starting her career?
Set yourself up for a marathon, instead of a sprint.
Can you tell us about a time when you challenged a colleague and/or client? How did you handle the situation? What was the outcome?
Nothing makes me happier than seeing my colleagues be the best versions of themselves – and making sure they get the credit when they’ve done great work. If they don’t do it themselves, I’ll make sure they receive the credit they deserve. I think this is something women don’t do enough in general and something which could really help them move forward.
How do you build your inner resilience?
Snowboarding and surfing keep me grounded. Spending time in the mountains or the ocean builds physical and mental strength and helps me completely clear my head.
What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of women?
Not wanting everything all at once - some things just take time. Also, finding a work-life balance that works for you, for whichever life phase you are in.
Do you think it is important for women to challenge one another? How do you challenge other women around you?
It’s up to us to inspire other women. The biggest compliment I ever received was ‘you showed me it could be done’ (this concerned having a career and being a mother at the same time).
What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received in your career
“Considering the amount of time you’ll be spending at work, better make sure you do something you really like”.