International Women’s Day 2021 #ChooseToChallenge: Djonie Spreeuwers

April 13, 2021

Disclaimer: Please note that all commentary and opinions provided in this interview are those of the individual and not the organisation/company they are employed by. 

What skills and attributes do female leaders bring to create diverse leadership at management level? 

I believe that successful female leaders bring an exquisite strategic vision into room. Thinking ahead, anticipating what’s next and keeping a helicopter view throughout the process on different aspects and levels. With a strong sense of purpose and a healthy dose of persuasiveness, they encourage that kind of thinking all around them.

What does “choose to challenge” mean to you? 

Life is full of challenges. We need to make choices between the difficult and the easy path. Although it is not always necessary to take the difficult path, the easy path will definitely not get you out of your comfort zone. And out of your comfort zone is where the magic happens! Choose to challenge for me is about choosing to use my voice and to speak out, it is about choosing to make an effort and it is choosing not to be afraid of failures. Choosing to take on challenges that help me and the people around me to grow.

What is one lesson you learnt the hard way? 

That proving yourself has two sides of the same coin. Ambition, determination and the strong drive to pursue success pushed me to go the extra mile and search for boundaries. It brought me to who and where I am today. But the same behaviour is not always driven by positive motivation and high level of energy. It is also manifested by a self-limiting belief that says ‘I’m not enough and need to continually prove myself’. I have learned that every action is defined by thoughts and beliefs. And when replacing my self-limiting beliefs, actions will reflect positive. By starting to develop my self-awareness to identify what drives me (motivation, ambition, limited beliefs etc.) I can change the situation and create an opportunity for improvement.

How can female leaders ensure they get a seat at the table? 

Trust, first and foremost. When (female) leaders are able to establish a climate of trust, teams will perform better, there is more willingness to take risks and be creative, more commitment to goals, communication will improve and people around you will be more open minded, more open for change. Trust is not only doing what you are saying you are going to do. To ensure a seat at the table, you need to be able to show people who need to trust you that you have the skill, ability and motivation to get the job done. This obviously starts with believing in yourself, but even more in believing the purpose of you having that seat at the table.

What impact could Kamala Harris’ appointment to Vice President have on the next generation of female leaders? 

It opens the door for the future. It inspires us to use your voice and helps to understand that their voice matters.

Why is it important that we “choose to challenge” and call out gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping?  

Because it is still out there. Sometimes out in the open, but even more frequently quietly hidden in comments, answers, strategies, jokes…. Not being the only one to have seen this in practice, I choose to challenge this. As much as this should not be necessary, I have personally experienced that the only way to get attention for this is to call out specifically on this topic. Because as much as gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping is hidden in jokes, for most people it is even harder to look it in the eye for what it is.

Click below to read the full edition of IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge: Female Leaders Across The Globe.