International Woman’s Day 2017 – Interview with Stephanie Meyer – van Breukelen

Author Miriam Kuepper
March 13, 2017

Taylor Root is proud to be supporting International Women’s Day 2017. We have interviewed a series of our female clients asking them how they have been bold for change #BeBoldForChange

Taylor Root interviewed Stephanie Meyer – van Breukelen Managing Director Legal Northern Europe and EU Regulatory Affairs at FedEx Express & TNT.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
I am fortunate enough to work for a true “equal opportunities” company where bias of any type is just not present.
Like any prejudice regarding “the other”, I would say that barriers to female leadership can be based on preconceptions that of course have nothing to do with facts. The perception that they will be less dedicated to their jobs than men for instance.
That they will stay at home if their children are sick, or will have to pick them up in the evening. In the world that I live in, roles tend to be split more and more fairly between parents in situations like these. So why would anyone be refused a job/promotion, based on the belief that they will not be available as if it were a universal truth that would impact their daily lives, when in fact nothing evidences that this will happen in reality.

Who inspires you and why?
Cliché as it may sound, I have a pretty positive outlook on life and I love the beauty of small things, simple daily moments. As a result, many people inspire me; some famous, others not. I admire courage, resilience, anyone who in the face of adversity can think positively. Every day heroes. Men or women working three jobs to make it for their family. Anyone battling with cancer, or struggling with mental health issues. That outlook on life makes me feel very humble. 
And then there are the obvious major role models that most people would quote. I am very impressed by the determination of such a young person as Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala for instance. 
On the professional front, I have a number of female leaders I look up to. Most notably of course, the head of our Global Legal Department. She has been at the top of our organization since 2005 and has one of the sharpest minds anyone will ever meet; the kind of leader that inspires people within the Legal Department and beyond.

How do you achieve work life balance?
A difficult one for most people, including me. For a while, I was under the impression that I had to stay connected pretty much all the time. Especially working for a 24/7 company… Of course, this is not the greatest setup for yourself and for your family… 
A couple of years ago, some life events took place that made me rethink pretty much everything I did. When I had never had any interest in sports my whole life and I started trying to exercise a bit, to support my body and mind. I started with very little, with the conviction that I would be immune to the “sports addiction” that people talk about. 
Before I knew it, I have started focusing on a healthy, balanced diet –which had not been a priority either before- and started trying all kinds of sports. 
After a while I realized that to feel good, mentally and physically, I needed to exercise no less than three times a week. These days I practice Yoga, French Boxing and Pilates weekly. 
The benefits of such activity, and nutrition, are more than known. But in my case I have realized that this all worked better for me, I feel like a better person, and those close to me at work and in private life have seen a positive impact in more than one way. 
And really, it is not about ‘having time’, but ‘making time’. So although my phone is always within hand reach, I may not let myself be stuck behind a computer or smart phone screen as much of the time; but my work is no less efficient, on the contrary!

What were the main drivers in helping you succeed in your career?
What I think has played an important part in my career -and in my life-, is keeping an open mind. To go way back, when I joined Erasmus as a French student preparing to study abroad, my original plan was to go to London. I have only joined the Dutch program upon insistence of one of the professors. The career I have had derives first from that choice, and then from a series of others that have followed, as an arborescence.
So in my case it has been less a result of having a career plan with a vision set in stone, than keeping an open mind for opportunities coming your way. Sensing whether something, even unexpected, is the right choice for you. 
Remaining curious and passionate. Not hesitating to move to a different location, be agile, learn new things; leave your comfort zone –albeit within reason-. 
Embrace new challenges and welcome anything you can learn from others, while helping them succeed. As I always tell the people on my team: I view it as an integral part of my job to make them successful.