Today, on the 8th of March, we celebrate all women. The women who we look up to, who we love and cherish so deeply, those around us and those further away. On International Women’s Day, we show them that their existence and efforts are valued, despite the gender bias, negative stereotypes and discrimination they face. In honor of women around the globe, we want to shine a light on the importance of female CEOs and the positive shift they bring to the corporate world.
We sat down with Caroline De Coker, CEO of the iconic denim brand Lee Cooper, and Anneke Crauwels, the woman behind the self-titled interior brand. The main topic of our conversation? Female empowerment in their positions as CEOs and why honoring women on the 8th of March is still much needed in 2023.
”To me, International Women’s Day means female empowerment, but most of all, equity.
What kind of challenges have you faced as a female CEO in your industry, and how have you overcome them?
Caroline: “I’ve definitely felt the pressure to prove myself more because I’m a woman and my leadership has felt questioned before. There’s no denying that the corporate sector is still a man’s world, and it does not yet seem obvious that a woman can also be CEO of a company. Despite these challenges, women leaders have made important contributions in various fields, which is something we should be proud of. ”
Anneke: “In this harsh male dominated industry, I sometimes feel like men perceive me as emotional and soft. Rather than hiding that part of me, I actually try to bring out my soft, feminine side. I’ve noticed that my approach can ‘soften’ a man’s sharp way of communicating. In my opinion, showing emotion is everything but weak. Saying what you feel is strong, and can be a major asset in managing a team.”
Gender equity is of great value in both of your companies. What tips can you give to other employers to uphold this principle in their companies?
Caroline: “Pay extra attention to everyone’s personal strengths and special skills, regardless of who they are. This creates a more open and diverse working environment in which people are hired solely based on their professional skills and added value to the team, without observation of gender, origin or other accessory aspects.”
Anneke: “I would advise any company leader to focus on eliminating all unnecessary differences in treatment between people in a working environment, especially by equalizing salary for similar positions. I still see salary differences between men and women. That must change radically.”
Do you think there’s a fundamental difference between a man or a woman overseeing a company?
Anneke: “Definitely. Men are biologically more confident, while women like to reflect more on situations and decisions. When I started my company ten years ago, I might have wished I was a man. But now, I truly don’t anymore. I have learnt to embrace my softer feminine side and am proud to be managing a business as my sensitive & emotional, but strong & efficient self.”
Caroline: “Women might be more empathetic than men, who have a rather dominant and rational way of overseeing a company. The most important thing is to make sure your business is successful, no matter how ‘emotionally driven’ you manage it.”
What does International Women’s Day mean to you? And do you think it’s still something that should exist in 2023?
Caroline: “When I think about International Women’s Day, I think about the women in places like Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who have no right to education and self-development. In some places, crimes against women stay unpunished. For those women, I think we should keep International Women’s Day relevant and loud, because it can mean change in a positive direction.”
Anneke: “To me, International Women’s Day means female empowerment, but most of all, equity.”
Although progress has been made in recent years, women worldwide remain underrepresented in leadership roles. Their more inclusive and collaborative mindset positively impacts participation in teams and consideration of diverse perspectives when making decisions. For all of these reasons and many more, we fully stand behind every girl with a dream to make it big. Whether it’s in a leadership position, as part of a team or self-employed, every successful woman can serve as a powerful role model for others. Together, we can break down gender barriers and embrace equity.
Read more about International Women’s Day 2023 via https://www.internationalwomensday.com.