“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.”   

This is how you radiate authentic power

Women, don’t copy the silverback, discover your own power instead!

To create an authentic strong and powerful appearance, there is no need to act like a silverback gorilla. The key lies in embracing both your masculine and feminine strengths. 

For thousands of years, there was no room for women in leadership roles. It hasn’t been that long since the first woman was appointed chief editor or the first female chairperson of a listed company. We are actually just now seeing the first generation of female leaders. The masculine leadership model, however, is still the norm. 

Rise above the masculine leadership model

Women have to work within a world and context where masculine characteristics such as ambition, targets, control and competitiveness are hugely appreciated, and even overrated. As a consequence, women feel that they have to adapt. Feminine qualities such as empathy, purpose-driven, trust, emotional intelligence, and the ability to connect people are not recognised and even suppressed.

You can only try to escape this ingrained dynamic when you become aware of this. Not by trying to act like the next silverback gorilla or simply copying male colleagues, but rather by reflecting on who you are, what kind of leader you desire to be and the kind of impact you aspire. It means stepping away from simply copying the masculine leadership model and start developing your own personal leadership signature. 

The body language of a leader

The volume at which you speak, the look in your eyes, the posture you assume at the conference table; it all comes from your body. When you don’t feel confident within your own body, you will never be able to reach your inner strength. It’s time to realize that sexism, #metoo and body shaming result in having a difficult relationship with our own body. While a healthy, loving relation with your body is essential for authentic leadership. When you learn to feel grounded within your body, this will impact on how others perceive you. Your voice will be naturally strong, rooted in your primal force. Your eyes will be clear and fiery. Your posture will radiate strength, without having to do the ‘power pose’. Or some other trick others are trying to teach you about ‘the body language of a leader’ and which will only fuel the imposter syndrome and a feeling of inadequacy. While instead you have a natural strength that is huge! 

What do you aspire?

You empower yourself when you are convinced of the value of your input. Think about what you want: what type of leader do you want to be, to yourself and to others? What will be your legacy? What matters to you? The answers to those questions shape your aspirations. Aspirations, or even desires, that match the core of who you are. Ambition is an empty shell when it is not fueled with desire. Stop focusing all your efforts on pleasing the boss, and waisting your intelligence and talents solely on other people’s goals. Start focusing on what matters to you. Which targets matter to you? What is it you aspire to achieve?! Answering these questions is how you develop inner authority. And no silverback gorilla tactics will ever be going to beat that

A powerful appearance

A strong appearance is created by this ultimate collaboration of mind, body, and soul. Because you  embraced your masculine ánd feminine qualities and developed your own personal leadership style; because you know exactly what you stand for and what it is you aspire to lead; because you are not afraid to use your entire body when you stand up for your vision, for your ideals and for the legacy you want to leave behind.

Do you sometimes feel that you have to act as a silverback gorilla to appear strong? That you have to suppress your feminine energy to radiate power? Where does this feeling come from? What might need to be reframed inside yourself so you can start accessing and radiating your natural strength? Let me know via carla@carlaclarissa.com 

Who is this ‘strong leader’ of the yellow vests?

It touches all of us, the personal stories behind the yellow vests. This is not about the agitators who are using this opportunity for destruction, theft and violence. This is about the ordinary people from outside the city. It’s about mothers and fathers who, despite working two jobs and a full working week are still not able to climb above the poverty line. It’s about stories of women prepared to die on those roundabouts because they’re confronted with the poverty in their children’s and grandchildren’s live and can’t think of a way out.

It’s about stories of people who work extremely hard without any prospect of a better future.

This weekend, it wasn’t the thousands of yellow vests that caught public attention, but five women. These were five activists dressed as Marianne, the national symbol of the French Republic. These women marched bare-breasted on the street in a silent protest yet saying all that needed to be said without uttering a word. 

  • Where is the nurture, the care for those who cannot manage on their own? 
  • Who takes responsibility for those who need this help? 
  • Who creates the social security necessary in the capitalist system?

The exposed breasts of the ‘French Mariannes’ is a reference to the deep feminine nature that uses her power to provide care and nurture to those who cannot do this themselves.

The article ‘Foster globalisation, but learn from the past’ from the Dutch publication the NRC Handelsblad of this weekend states how practically everyone all over the world benefits from market forces. Practically everyone: but there are those who lose out. 

Where is it going wrong?

The general sense of powerlessness, dissatisfaction and hopelessness among many the ‘non-urban population’ has been made visible by the ‘yellow vest’. This vest, designed for visibility in dangerous situations, tells exactly what these people wish to make very clear: see me, because there’s a threat of danger. They are not sharing in the benefits of the new Golden Age created within the international knowledge-intensive sectors: 

  • They are not educated or trained to participate in the tech economy; 
  • as recipients of an intermediate vocational education, it is hard for them to access innovations and innovative subsidies;
  • they have had to leave their permanent jobs for successive (and sometimes daily) temporary contracts;   
  • Have seen their incomes fall in real terms for many years.

Where exactly is it going wrong? In my view, the imbalance is at the top. It’s politicians who polarise instead of bringing people together. It’s executives who exploit and take advantage of human capital instead of balancing their capital returns with welfare and social security for those people who have been entrusted to their leadership. 

The imbalance at the top is not working. What is wrong, is a lack of feminine values in leaders, in leadership and in policy. 

The natural midpoint within the leader

Societies in which the difference between the haves and the have-nots is increasing or in any case becoming more visible have led to the global rise of right or left-wing extremism, and mainly authoritarian leaders. 

Both the left and the right are also calling for a strong leader. The danger is that this will end up being an authoritarian leader, or a dictator. I have different advice for this: choose a leader with strong balance.

Choose a leader with the personal capacity to connect (with) people, to listen, and to truly see people. Choose a leader who will allow all stakeholders to share in this Golden Age that has dawned. 

Leading a society into balance ultimately requires leaders who have found that balance within themselves, who have developed both their masculine as well as feminine qualities.

Carla clarissa

The feminine force of making connections, showing empathy and sharing are now more vital than ever. 

This force has inspired managers to take responsibility for the impact of their business on people’s lives. It motivates people to simply pay taxes in the country in which they are active. It goes without saying that a balanced leader should not only use labour and capital, but also invest in it proportionally. This cyclical way of thinking, in which you are responsible for what you consume and use, is deeply rooted in the feminine mindset.

With Carla Clarissa, I focus on developing this feminine power in leaders. We start with women with the talent and ambition to grow into a role in top management. Balanced feminine (and masculine) leaders are highly capable of bringing about connections, project themselves into roles, thinking in terms of the big picture and making good decisions. They form the natural midpoint in our society. They build bridges between technological growth and investment in education and training for the employees they lead.  

Are you a bimbo? A bitch? Or one of the boys?

Written by guest blogger Marit van Gijtenbeek from tribecalledrest.com. 

Let me tell you a personal story.

About why I started tribecalledrest.com and about the process I’ve been through to get here. Four years ago, I started working in the financial sector. I loved my colleagues and I loved my job. But I was also young and insecure, being only 24. After a year, my former manager told me something that stuck with me for a long time. He pulled me aside one day and said: “Look. You’re a sweet-looking girl. But the goodwill you’re receiving will diminish after some point. So you have to work on your image. Will you always be regarded as that sweet blond thing? Or will they remember something else?”

The three categories

By ‘they’ he meant the upper management which almost exclusively consisted out of males. However, I can see the logic in his advice. Even now. Why? Because I believe that most young women, at the beginning of their careers, are offered three choices to position themselves:

Are you the bimbo? The bitch? Or one of the boys?

I chose the latter. I quite liked it for some years. It was working for me. But colleagues and even some of my friends noticed that I toughened up. I grew more distant and business-like. I myself however, still had the feeling I had to prove (or excuse) myself every day for working there. I noticed that, when in a meeting with men only, I felt I had no room to speak up. To make a point. I did however, but I usually would say: “I would like to add a few details.” Seriously woman, how small can you make yourself with words! After that, I changed my vocabulary a bit, but the feeling remained.

A different view on things

About a year ago, something happened that completely changed my view on things. I had an accident and was diagnosed with a concussion. The only way to recover from a concussion is to have ab-so-lute rest. So no reading, no Netflix, no visitors. I couldn’t even do the groceries. My brain couldn’t process such a simple task. For someone who always trusted on her brain, it was a very difficult period. But during my recovery, in the safe environment of my home, something happened.

I could not reach my brain, but I could reach my heart.

I noticed I softened. I became nicer. After a while, I started missing my job. But I did not miss the feeling of managing a nice project. Instead, I missed my colleagues. I missed their jokes in the morning. I missed building up relationships with people you work with. I missed human interaction.

How ‘Tribe Called Rest’ came to be

With a new sense of what I found important in working together, I got back to the office. I felt that I knew what I deemed important, but I couldn’t appreciate my ideas just yet. And that’s where Carla Clarissa  helped enormously. She taught me about a woman’s worth and how to connect with my femininity. I learned that the company I was working for had a dominant masculine culture. Which isn’t bad, but in my opinion it needs to be counterbalanced by feminine values. If not, women and men alike, start to feel disconnected from the company’s goals. Start to behave in ways that do not feel natural. Start to feel unappreciated. Start to feel exhausted…

A Tribe Called Rest

In my search for finding different ways of working together and with my new insights, I started A Tribe Called Rest. Because I believe there is wisdom to be found in the way communities in different cultures organize themselves. Because I think that a common, collective goal, might provide a starting point for a new model of how to cooperate. Because I hope that these collectives have a set of shared values, both masculine and feminine, that might be the answer to why people feel connected to the community.

Eventually my personal goal is to feel that, when I start a new job somewhere, I can be the bitch. Or one of the boys. Or a bimbo. Because I choose that role for that moment. And it doesn’t define me, because I am so much more… I am a woman.

Originally published at tribecalledrest.com/bimbo-bitch-one-boys/.

Time to challenge yourself: what is it you want from life?

Conscious women also make conscious leaders!

Highly educated, qualified women hesitate to take on executive management roles. How can this be? It’s manifested when a suitable role is announced; women do not clearly sign up to apply, do not visibly come forward. For many board members and HR officials it is not even clear if this highly qualified woman has that kind of ambition at all!

Do we, intelligent, hard-working, talented career women, still secretly suffer from the Cinderella syndrome? Are we all waiting en masse for the fairy godmother to stop by and send us to the ball? Have we internalised biased opinions on how a career is supposed to turn out? That if we work hard enough, and achieve good results, they will indeed come knocking on our door? Or do the opportunities that occur simply not suit us? Are we still too busy with building our dream house, with our beautiful children, with that great guy, with caring for our parents? Might next year suit us just a little bit better? All of the above is true. But their is one reason that to me strikes out the most: we hesitate because we don’t know what we want from life, from our jobs and from our leadership roles.

Raise your consciousness. Reflect on your leadership purpose.

Okay, so powerful women do occasionally hesitate. Nothing wrong with that, basically. As long as you don’t confuse hesitation with insecurity or unwillingness! I really believe that all too often, we think that we are insecure, or we let others talk us into thinking this. Bullshit. We are simply not aware of what we really want from life. We don’t take enough time to reflect! 

Once in so many years you enter a new phase of your life. This doesn’t always have to do with external changes like the arrival of children. A new phase can also be marked by an inner urge for personal growth. Use this new phase of your life to grow your leadership!

Ask yourself questions such as ‘what’s my leadership purpose?’, ‘how do I want to live my life?’ and ‘what do I want to mean to other people?’ Recognise certain things you’re longing for, in relation to your career, what you want as a mother, as a partner, and all other roles from which you derive happiness.

Distinguish between your own desires and those that have been instilled in you.

I long to make a social impact, for example. Everything I do fits with my purpose of guiding women leaders to wholeness. This is my contribution to a more balanced and enriched business world and society. This is what I love to do.

Also on the weekends, when I choose to. Because I know WHY I am doing this for. Regarding motherhood, I really needed to take stock in order to figure out what kind of a mother I desire to be for my children. Not ruled by society’s standards, but by my own. Being a daily taxi service to and from school was not part of this at all. But playing tennis together, bedtime rituals, and stimulating my children’s personal development was a major part of it. And I know I will have to rethink this again when either my children or I enter a new phase.

Think about who you want to be, what you want to signify, and what would be a meaningful life for YOU.

Ingrid Kersten, Managing Director of Accenture, calls this having an inner compass. She says: “I think that all of us still regularly struggle with the balance between work, friends, family and time for yourself. And that is clearly not only a simple question of organising your time or giving priority to a particular objective. I know of myself that I am ‘on’ at work, for example, I don’t do it by halves and I enjoy it. But outside of this, I also want to give meaning to my other roles. I want to know myself well, and know my purpose, but also simply know what makes me happy and what devours my energy. Particular being okay with this has been the key for me to use my inner compass successfully. It enables me to set boundaries and make decisions that contribute to what I feel is important, but also how I take on the journey and who I want to be.”

My advise to board members and HR officials when stimulating women’s careers.

I advise board members and HR officials to challenge their highly qualified women employees to contemplate themselves and their personal leadership skills, so that they can take on their next leadership role from a place of greater awareness. Conscious women who know what they want also make conscious leaders!

How to develop from being ‘one of the guys’ to your personal leadership signature.

It’s okay not to be sure right away. It’s perfectly normal to hesitate and to express this. This is not a sign of insecurity, it’s actually a sign of personal strength. It is also an invitation to get to know yourself better. In particular who you are as a woman! In my line of work, I often see that career women in our patriarchal society* frequently experience that feminine qualities are not permitted. Qualities such as presence, giving meaning to something, reflection, empathy. In the earlier part of our careers we learn to suppress our femininity and become ‘one of the guys’.

Anja Vijselaar, Director of Petersburg Consultants: “I received the ultimate compliment from one of the board members, namely that our collaboration was great because I had the same competences as all my male colleagues. With the pleasant incidental circumstance that I looked like a woman. That was actually the first time I thought ‘hmm, there’s something up with that.” 

We are often completely unaware about how we let ourselves be ‘masculinised’. But at what price? If you ignore your femininity and are unaware of your feminine power, this will lead to a sense of imbalance in your life. And you continue walking around with a chronic bellyache, the feeling of never being enough, fearing a burn-out. You might decide taking a ‘step back’, to find out this doesn’t make you happy either. And before you know it you’re stuck, and you have the idea you’re just going round and round in never-ending circles. Hesitating every step on the way. This doesn’t simply go away as time passes. You need a pro-active approach on restoring your own balance. Starting with raising your awareness.

Ignoring our femininity leads to a deep, unconscious imbalance.

How to lead in balance with greater character and more wisdom.

1. Balance your masculine and feminine strengths first

Start with increasing awareness about yourself. Balance in masculine and feminine strengths is an important quality for senior and executive roles. Motivate yourself to develop such an integrated leadership style. This will enable you to lead your business with greater character, better balance and greater wisdom.

2. Make conscious career decisions

This enriched level of awareness will also help you make conscious decisions about your career. No longer just using the opportunities that come along, but creating opportunities for yourself and thus taking matters into your own hands.

3. Develop your own leadership signature

The women I work with in The Women’s Leadership Program are already well aware of how their careers challenge them to grow internally. They no longer wish to copy the masculine leadership model unquestioningly. They long to develop their own, unique leadership signature. These female leaders are ready for what I call a “Journey to Wholeness”. Wholeness is a way of experiencing yourself and your life. In this process it’s crucial to get to know yourself better as a woman, knowing what you want from life and developing balance in your masculine and feminine strengths. It’s a journey that will bring you closer to yourself. A journey that frequently starts with ‘I just don’t know …’.

* The patriarchal society is a society in which men exert power in all areas of politics, economics and religion. 


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How women leaders move beyond #metoo

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s with Madonna, Melissa Etheridge and Salt-n-Pepa singing ‘Let’s talk about sex’. Movies like ‘Working Girl’, ‘Erin Brockovich and ‘Thelma & Louise’ showed me strong women who regained personal power and stood up for injustice. I had parents who loved me and believed in me, a big brother who protected and guided me, a mother and grandmother who raised me with a sense of self-love and appreciation for being a woman. I felt honored for who I was, I felt respected and I felt inspired to do great things.

In my early twenties, something slowly changed inside of me. It felt like ’something’ had gotten under my skin, though I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what that was at the time. Instead of gaining self-confidence as I grew older and started my career, that ‘something’ was slowly yet forcefully eating away at my self-esteem. To make up for that undeniable sense of lacking some sort of ‘worth’, I studied harder, worked harder and fought harder.

Misogyny is basically a deeply rooted lack of respect for women

The last couple of weeks we have found a common phrase which captures the ‘something’ that grows under a woman’s skin and eats away at her sense of self-esteem, self-worth and the ability to feel safe in her own body. We have come to learn to call it #metoo.

In these last weeks many women – and men – stood up to denounce sexual assault and harassment, invited by actress Alyssa Milano to do so. She encouraged women to write #metoo on Twitter to demonstrate the widespread nature of misogynistic behavior. Misogyny is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. Misogyny (ref Wikipedia) in our society is manifested in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism (being centered on males or masculine values), patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification.

The publication of millions of people that came forward and stood up is both confronting and heartwarming. Heartwarming because the public sharing opens the door to support, empathy and the joint processing of deeply buried grief. Confronting because the widespread and repetitious misbehavior of certain individuals questions why they were allowed to get by for so long. It makes almost everyone in our modern society a bystander.

75% of women in management have been sexually harassed

For me and I believe almost all other women, the extent of this behavior is no surprise. The data* I share in The Women’s Leadership Program show that in Europe 55% of women have experienced sexual harassment since the age of 15 (data based on an EU-wide survey done on request of the Council of Europe). 75% of women in qualified professions or top management jobs have been sexually harassed. 32% of all victims in the EU said the perpetrator was a boss, colleague or customer. After every woman’s circle that I have been in so far, we could have filled a few Twitter pages with real life experiences of misogynistic behavior.

Do you know what it does to a woman’s self-esteem, her radiance and her charisma when she has experienced sexism, assault and/or general disrespect for who she is? 

A loss of self-confidence, a growing insecurity and feelings of vulnerability, anxiety and depression are the psychological consequences women living in patriarchal societies and patriarchal business cultures have to deal with. Cultures that subtly yet consistently signal to women that both their minds as well as their bodies are worth less than that of a man. It takes consciousness to look beyond the signals. It takes courage to stand up and voice your own truth. And it takes self-worth to inspire the people around you to transform. In other words, it takes leadership to change a dominant culture.

4 Practices that support women leaders in moving beyond #metoo

In the rest of this blog I would like to share with you a few of my experiences about how we, both women and men, could move beyond #metoo and lead our businesses towards a culture of mutual respect and inclusion.

1. Invest in women’s leadership development

Global Human Capital Trends 2016 by Deloitte states that of all respondents, nearly 50% report that little to no investments are being made in specifically developing women leaders. Even though personal leadership is developed differently in women than it is in men. First of all because a woman’s and a man’s psyche operates differently. They have different inner forces driving their behavior. In a patriarchal society and business culture it’s the male psyche that is dominant. Women need to learn about their own inner forces if they want to understand themselves and effectively use these forces. Secondly, as we’re all starting to see, the forces in our society act out differently on women than on men. A woman needs to become conscious about the external pressure that is put on her, so she can consciously make decisions. Thirdly, charisma is developed differently. Charisma is like an energy source that we carry with us in our bodies. It’s connected to our life-force. Developed through a grounded sense of self-love, self-esteem and finding joy and safety in one’s own body. Without a healthy, loving relationship with our bodies we experience difficulties connecting to our life-force, intuition and charisma.

2. Establishing women’s circles

Women only open-up, and share experiences with misogyny in the warmth and support of other women. It is no surprise that Alyssa Milano called on other women to come forward, and when a few brave women followed suit, millions of others dared to follow. Centuries of misogynist behavior, also deeply rooted in our business culture, have taught women to hide and bury these experiences in order to fit in. It takes a lot of security, warmth and support for women to open up. It takes what I call ‘Sisterhood’: women standing up for other women. If the statistics are right, there are hundreds of millions of women who still haven’t spoken up! In order for all of them to feel seen and heard, I believe women need to stand together and start sharing in small groups that I call women’s circles. There are great books about the importance of women’s circles for more inspiration like The Millionth Circle by Jean Shined Bolen. When a critical number of people, referred to as the millionth circle, change how they think and behave, a new Era will begin. Part of Carla Clarissa’s Women’s Leadership Program is that the participants form an intimate women’s circle both during the program and afterwards in the wider alumni community.

3. Creating diamonds

Some of the individual experiences that women have encountered need the support of professional therapists. However, in many cases women can find the strength in themselves to overcome emotional distress and anxieties despite the fact that these experiences have for many years deeply impacted the behavior, development and self-esteem of women. In my program I teach women how to create ‘diamonds’ out of their experiences so they connect to their inner strength and wisdom. Sharing personal experiences in the intimacy of the women’s circle, letting go of the fear, pain, anger and frustration. Choosing not to be a victim but instead understanding how specific experiences turn you into a wiser woman and grow your personal leadership, is what makes me deeply grateful to do this work. Every time I am taken by the power and positive energy for our society that women possess and demonstrate when they put their mind to something and dare to stand up for it.

4. Show you feminine side

Misogyny is basically a deeply rooted lack of respect for women. A universal wisdom is that you should treat others in the way that you would like to be treated yourself. In our predominantly patriarchal societies, men and women are not always treated equally, with the same respect. Mothers who have experienced disrespectful behavior teach their daughters how to survive. Boys learn disrespectful behavior from their role models. Awareness that this is what’s happening and that we, men and women, are both proponents and witnesses of misogyny in our society can be the start to taking another look at behavior, examples and incidents. I believe that deep within us all we know when we are not treating others with respect or when we see that happening around us.

If we don’t dismiss these signals, and we allow the feminine side in ourselves to develop and speak up, we all become more balanced, inside and outside.

This would lead to a gradual disappearance of misogyny from this planet, which is what should happen. At Carla Clarissa I teach women business leaders how to develop and value their feminine side, so they become more balanced and powerful as leaders. I look forward to working with both women and men to do so as well.

* Data I share on misogynistic behavior:

Women still make 79 cents on the dollar that men make. Or actually I have to say ‘white women’. Because black women only make 67 cents to every dollar made by a white man. Independent of education, occupation or working hours. (source: Economic Policy Institute)

Out of 109 heads of state in the world, only 9 are women. Most of the world’s nations have never had a female leader. (source: Pew Research Center)

Only 7% of the top-grossing Hollywood movies were directed by women. (source: Center for Study of Women in TV and Film)

1 out of 3 women worldwide have been sexually, physically or emotionally abused. (source: Council of Europe)

Every year, 15 million girl brides are married before the age of 18. More than 1 in 3 – or some 250 million girls – were married before the age of 15. As we speak 700 million women living on this planet were married as children. Child marriage means stopping education, vocation and usually the right to make own life choices. (source: UNICEF)

4.5 million women and girls are being sexually exploited and are forced to work as sex workers. (source: International Labour Organization)

More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to genital mutilation, in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. (source: World Health Organization)

Why burn-out hits women leaders twice as often

It was a beautiful Monday early morning in Spring, I was in bed with the curtains still closed. Staying in the darkness actually felt good, really good. Because it was exactly how I felt inside. I remember calling my boss that morning. I didn’t want to, however, I had no choice. On the Friday before I was still hoping that the weekend would give me enough energy to keep going for another week, but it didn’t. I told my boss literally: “I am throwing in the towel”. While saying this I was actually surprised. Apparently I was in a fight, but whom was I fighting?

I was mainly fighting myself. I had been exhausting myself and I didn’t know how to end this painful behavior. How to return to my energy, my radiance and connect to my inner wisdom. I only knew how to push on, how to be strong, and how to not give up.

I had learned how to keep on going, but I had never learned how to contemplate and return home, to myself.

This happened in Spring 2012. And as I found out, I wasn’t the only female leader that hit a wall. Until today I am meeting women who are fighting their way through, burning themselves down, struggling to find the right balance inside.

Staying on track – running on two legs 

Research shows that female managers experience burn-out twice as often as their male colleagues, and typically ten years earlier – in their late thirties. (NEA 2015, CBS). The period in which talented leaders move into their first senior/ executive leadership roles and family life is peaking. Why does burn-out hit women leaders twice as often? Here are my thoughts.

From my experience many women leaders are running on one leg i.e. only using half of their powers: their masculine power.

The use of feminine power is ignored or obstructed in the intricate design of our society, our organizations and leadership development programs.

Using only one leg just isn’t enough – even with a lot of hard and dedicated work – to keep women on their designated leadership track. Women leaders and women with the desire to lead need to be taught how to also use their natural, feminine power so they can authentically develop themselves as leaders.

Investing in the feminine side of leadership

On top of that, Global Human Capital Trends 2016 by Deloitte state that of all respondents nearly 50% report little to no investments are being made in specifically developing women leaders. These findings correspond with my personal experiences. Many organizations pay little specific attention on how to retain and develop their talented women. In these companies it can feel very uncomfortable to raise awareness regarding women-specific leadership programs. Especially as a woman! And then we haven’t as female leaders even spoken about the unease of talking about the feminine side of leadership. Yet, if we don’t, we’ll end up investing in business education and gaining (more) titles only. In the end, this is not what creates balance in our lives. This is not what creates balance in us as leaders. Natalia Goncharova, senior performance manager Corporate Banking at ABN Amro and president of Women in Financial Services (WIFS), highlights in a recent interview with ‘Topvrouwen’ the importance of finding balance between feminine and masculine values.

A huge misunderstanding is that women believe they can only make a difference by what they do. The reality is – as a leader – you make a difference by who you are. People notice your leadership presence when they are interacting with you.

To excel in leadership positions and prosper as female leaders, women need to learn how to connect to their full powers. Don’t rely on the one-sided masculine power only. This will only tempt you to ‘man-up’, to join the rat race that eventually will drain all your life force. Develop your feminine power and learn to balance yourself. This will also bring back the balance in your life. As we grow our feminine side, we unconsciously give men space to do the same. And together we will bring back the balance in our organizations, our communities and in our society.

As we need women leaders to stay on track in our society and in our organizations, we need to acknowledge the feminine side of leadership.

That’s the reason I started The Women’s Leadership Program: because developing leadership in women truly works different than it does in men. I’ll write more about this in my next blog. If you already like to learn more, please visit my website.

I would love to hear your stories and your thoughts! Hope you will share them with me.

Fighting your natural way of being: who do you deprive of your authentic expression?

How do you make a difference when you feel something is holding you back and how do you stay true to yourself instead of fitting in?

These questions might be on top of your mind. Are you alone in this? The answer is no. Many other women leaders feel the same. Here’s part of my own leadership journey:

In 2006 I became corporate secretary to the Executive Board of a Dutch energy company. It was part of my management development process and I was trilled that I got this opportunity. It was the year in which “An Inconvenient Truth” was released, the documentary of Al Gore about climate change. And I was working for the executive board, people who had the power to make a positive impact. At first sight my experience in working directly with top executives was a disappointment. I expected to meet leaders who were driven by purpose, who wanted to make a difference in sustainable energy. Leaders who could balance steering for profit, people and planet.
I decided to share my findings and thoughts on leadership with one of my professors at Nyenrode University who teaches about purpose-driven leadership. The next day I unexpectedly received a phone call from my boss. It appeared that I had sent the email to my boss instead of the professor! What a mistake! What I could not have foreseen was that my boss actually was impressed with the email I wrote. He had forwarded my mail to one of the board members who invited me the same day for a meeting to share my thoughts on leadership. 

Ignoring my inner voice

The mistake I made changed the course of my career. But even more so, it helped me to realize how often I was actually holding myself back. How often did I nót voice my beliefs, my deepest truth? What I found out is how totally normal it was for me to ignore my inner voice in business. And whom did I deprive of my contribution by doing so? My fear of being different, of not belonging, kept me from opening-up, sharing and participating. And how many women voices are acting similarly under these circumstances? I mean the true, deeply authentic, inner voice that has the power to make a difference. That voice! I honestly believed at the time I was the only woman that did not voice what she deeply felt, but that appeared not to be the case at all!

Hitting the brake

Do you also feel the desire to make a difference as a woman leader? And are you satisfied with your contribution? Or do you, just like I do, often feel like you are fighting yourself? Do you know what this ‘fight’ is about? This is your deep longing to stay true to yourself; the need to stand up for what you believe in and to stick to your way of doing business. And this longing is suppressed by the idea that as a business woman, it’s better to adapt and try to fit in.

The moment in a meeting you feel different or you feel you don’t belong, that is an emergency signal for stepping into your leadership! This is where you release the brake! This is the moment where you can make a difference as a female leader.

The Women’s Leadership Program is for women who know they have so much more to bring into their leadership: the ability to make a difference with who they are. Feminine leadership and wisdom is about Presence. Presence to what you see, feel and notice, both inside yourself as in your environment. When you have completed the program you’ll have learned how to lead from this presence and make a difference with who you truly are. 

What you’ll learn:

•You’ll come to learn about the power of your feminine energy and how you can use this energy to accomplish more with greater ease, flow and better results. On this journey, you will be guided back to the essence of being a woman, so you can access the powers of your intuition, the wisdom of your heart and the passion of your body at any time.

•Understand where your radiance and your magnetism comes from and how to ‘turn your light on’.

•Develop your own Personal Leadership Vision and gain clarity on your leadership identity, purpose and goals. Read my blog on Why a Personal Leadership Vision is so powerful.

•You’ll learn to speak up for your ideas and your wisdom powerfully and authentically. Also in front of groups. Want to get inspired on how that could look like? Take a look at the speech of Sara Kuis, one of the first alumni of The Women’s Leadership Program. She gave this speech at Carla Clarissa’s Graduation Ceremony January 7th 2017.

Carla Clarissa Graduation Speech vimeo play


Why a Personal Leadership Vision is so powerful

What I was most afraid of is that I would spoil my chances, that I would not succeed in grabbing the right opportunities that come along once in a lifetime. This fear was real to me.

I often was clueless, I didn’t know whom to trust, I couldn’t follow my natural intuition. In worst times I didn’t even know what my intuition was trying to tell me.

Still, I had my Personal Leadership Vision. I had a clear vision about my leadership role and my purpose, but also about me: being a woman, a mother, a partner and a friend.

Losing my Fear of the Unknown

It took me years to unlearn and unwind everything that kept me from living the life I longed for. And this also kept me from stepping into the leadership role I desired and wrote about in my personal leadership vision. But here’s the thing: although it took me years before I felt empowered enough to follow my heart and trust my intuition, I had something to cling on to along the way.

My Personal Leadership Vision works threefold:

• it is my light in the more darker periods of my life

• it serves as my beacon when I am wandering

• it helps me to see the chances and grab the opportunities that come along, the ones that I write about in my vision.

Your Inner Guide

What I’ve come to learn is that creating a Personal Leadership Vision is like awakening your inner guide.
She fuels your journey, empowers you to move towards your vision, even when you are unaware of your next step. You have awakened your inner guide and she won’t be put to sleep until she brought you to the place you long to be.

Are you ready for change?

Learn how to lead with greater ease, flow and better results

Leadership works from the inside. The essence of The Women’s Leadership Program is that you’ll learn to familiarise yourself with your inner world first. From a woman’s perspective.

What do I mean exactly?

• You will learn how the Mind, the Body and the Soul of a woman works;

• You will come to learn about the internal forces that drive you, as a woman;

• You will understand why you experience many more stimuli than male leaders, how repressing your feelings represses your radiance and how you can process your feelings so you can translate what they are trying to tell you;

• You will experience that your body holds one of the greatest sources of your radiance. Knowing yourself, owning your mind, body and soul is what gives you your natural leadership presence.
Then comes the time in which we are going to write our own Personal Leadership Visions. So we’ll have our own guide with us, at all times.

How my Personal Leadership Vision looks like

I wrote my first Leadership Vision in 2012 and in the last couple of years it has come to fruition step by step. Last month I felt it was time to make further refinements. And you my dear, you are the first I would like to share a part of my Personal Leadership Vision with:

I live my life from a calm mind, a turned on body and a full and warm heart. I love practicing what I ‘preach’ and turning these practices into rituals that fulfill me, leaving me calm, energized, healthy and radiant. Thanks to exercising in the outdoors and a healthy diet I have plenty of energy to enjoy all the beautiful things that life has to offer me. I am o.k. with making mistakes, with learning. When I fall I smile, dust myself of and continue on my path. That is how I keep on growing.

My purpose is that every woman business leader knows and feels that it is she that inspires change. That it is the feminine energy inside of her that has the power to elevate the people around her. I am a trusted guide for women leaders who unconsciously know this truth and are ready to embrace it. I create space for them to discover this power, to make it hers, a place also where she can enjoy the presence and inspiration of other business women leaders who are on the same journey. Space where they can reconnect, re-energize and feel reborn to continue with their purpose.

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