“Strength and mildness can go hand in hand.”

Femme Inspiratrice: Suzanne van Nieuwenhuijzen – General Counsel Stedin Group

Strength and mildness can go hand in hand, as Suzanne van Nieuwenhuijzen discovered during her Journey to Wholeness. This insight affects all aspects of her life.

What did you hope to find during the Journey to Wholeness? “Growing up as a child, there always was a real focus on masculine characteristics. To give a few examples, I am straightforward, a hard worker, and determined. And these traits have made my life successful in many ways. Even so, I started to think more about who I am when my two daughters became teenagers. What did I want to pass on to them as a woman? How can I stay connected with them? Especially the latter proved to be an issue for me. I felt a longing to connect with people from the heart.” 

What is the most important thing that you’ve learned? “I learned that my masculine and feminine sides truly can go hand in hand. Not only do I know that now, but I can also feel it. Over the years, I started to resent my masculine character traits, the ones I grew up with. On the other hand, I considered the feminine side as woolly and soft. I thought that I had to choose, but that didn’t feel right either. Now I know that it is not a matter of either-or, but of and-and. You can be powerful or strong and mild at the same time.”

How do you notice this change in your daily life? “I believe that it has made me more complete as a human being. It affects everything in my life, within my family as well as in my job. But it also is something that I have to keep working on. Sometimes, when I’m busy at work, I notice that I tend to revert back to my old mode. When that happens, I now know that I have to press the pause button on myself and I also know how I can return to my core, and to move on from there. It gives me a sense of peace and calmness.”

How do you manage to go back to that core? “By creating these moments consciously, and by surrounding myself with people who inspire me. Even the other day, for example, I went to a Female Impact dinner, on my own, where many inspiring women told their stories. At first, I felt totally out of my comfort zone but, ultimately, it gives me a huge amount of positive energy. I also read a lot. I recently finished the book ‘Vrijgevochten’ [Liberated] by Mirjam de Blécourt. And via F-EMPOWER, the women’s network at Stedin, I brought together women working for our company and we talked about our personal leadership within Stedin. In particular, we discussed how we can demonstrate our own leadership skills within our company. Together with Carla, I organized a workshop that had the women leave the room excited and ready to act. That gives me energy as well! The fact that we can achieve so much more together. 

The program also taught us methods on how to stay present to what happens and in-tune with our own feelings and intuition. For example, through meditation and Embodiment practices. And in September, I’ll join Carla on her retreat to Ibiza; I went last year also, and it was an amazing experience!” 

How do these insights help you in your job as general counsel and company secretary at Stedin? “As general counsel, I’m responsible for legal affairs, compliance, and privacy. As company secretary, I support and counsel the Executive Board and the Supervisory Board when they need to make decisions. I manage a department, but I also try to make the decision-making process run smoothly, So I’m not just busy organizing the agenda and minutes, but I’m also an acknowledged contradictor and a ‘board whisperer’. I keep an eye on the company staying on course and whether decisions are in line with prior decisions or with the path we want to take. When I stay close to my core, desires, and feelings, I notice that I can have a bigger impact. That I find it easier to calmly sit at the boardroom table and say what, in my opinion, ‘must be said’. My added value grows.”

“During Carla’s program, I heard a quote that has always stuck in my mind. It epitomizes exactly what the word ‘wholeness’ means to me. The quote is: ‘Lead with a calm and clear mind, warm-heartedly and on fire’. That is what I pursue in everything I do. Peace and calmness in my mind, a heart that can open up, and a body that’s grounded, present and connected to her intuition and charisma. And this is what I want for everyone because if you feel and experience these things deep within yourself, you are the best version of yourself.”   

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