Willemien van Musschenbroek Greve joined the Female Ventures team as City Coordinator (Delft – the Hague) a little over a year ago. Willemien is currently a senior account manager at InnovationQuarter, where she facilitates the establishment of innovative (high) tech companies in the West Holland region, as well as being a soon-to-be-second-time-mom, marathon runner and future children’s book author!
We checked in with her recently to find out more about her experiences in the past year as City Coordinator for Female Ventures. How did her journey start? What are her views on gender equality and female empowerment? What have been her biggest takeaways volunteering for Female Ventures? Read on to find out more.
The journey from the start – how did it all begin?
At the start of my career, I was not bothered by the differences between men and women. My corporate management trainee group consisted of two males and eight females. Yes, people differ, but I preferred to not put this in relation to gender.
When I became pregnant, my image started to shift. This was mainly caused by my fear of missing out; being absent for a few months meant letting go of exciting projects and challenging trainings, while my peers could continue. It especially struck me when I came back from my maternity leave and was often asked: “How many days will you remain working?” whereas my male colleagues, who were also young parents, or my husband were not.
What was your drive to spend time working in Female Ventures?
Ever since I started working, I’ve loved taking on voluntary positions in order to boost causes that I believe in. As mentioned, I’m not a fan of the Men vs Women discussion, but in my current thirties phase, I did start to see differences in career paths (my initial peer ratio was long gone). It was around this awareness, that I spotted a post of Female Ventures seeking volunteers. When I read that the focus of this organisation is on empowering females (with business discussions and men welcome too), I felt that I found my next volunteer cause!
After meeting with Dieuwke, January 2018 marked the beginning of my Female Ventures journey. The Delft focus is a great fit with my job, as is the current expansion of our Female Ventures’ activities to The Hague. I am happy that we can empower an additional group of females.
After every event, our team spends the remainder of the evening sending WhatsApp messages saying how we’d enjoyed the evening. It gives such positive energy and motivation to see our attendees leaving inspired, making new connections (even finding new jobs!) and to feel empowered to take the next step in whatever field they are in.
I really like the fact that we give the floor to female speakers, for they will bring diversity to the role model pool.
How do you combine your job, with Female Ventures? Does your role at one organisation help to boost the other (and vice versa)?
InnovationQuarter is the regional development agency for the South Holland province. Our aim is to strengthen the economy and create an impact. We do this by investing in innovative companies, stimulating collaborations to create innovations and assisting international companies with their establishment in this region. I focus on the latter, where my focus is on (high-)tech companies.
InnovationQuarter has an extensive network, so I regularly pick the brains of my colleagues to find potential speakers or locations for Female Venture’s events. Of course, I am also very proud that InnovationQuarter’s investment funds IQCapital and UNIIQ have been significantly outperforming the market average in supporting females: 15% of the portfolio companies are lead, by a female or have a female co-founder.
I truly believe that diversity benefits the innovative potential of our region and I am happy that we are all contributing to this goal.
What has been your biggest takeaway from your time so far with Female Ventures?
The main challenge that comes with every volunteer position is that you have a lot of ideas, but face limitations in terms of resources, money and time. This can be frustrating. Focusing on a step by step improvement is very important. I am happy to see that Female Ventures is slowly growing impact and visibility, and empowering more and more attendees through our events. The main challenge is to keep the energy and motivation of the volunteers high because I feel that is our most important asset.
What are your thoughts on gender equality and female empowerment?
Generally speaking, females tend to be somewhat risk-averse. I believe everyone knows the statistic that men typically apply for a job when they meet 60% of the requirements, whereas women only apply when they meet 100%.
Whatever the reason behind it (may it be confidence, effectiveness, etc), women need a small push to feel empowered and change differences like this. Learning more about the experience of the speakers at Female Ventures’ events – where they typically also share the choices they made and challenges they face – is meant to lower the barrier and make the attendees feel empowered to do the same.
Emphasised by my personal status quo, I believe we have a lot to gain from accepting equality when it comes to parents taking care of their children. It should be just as common for the non-birth parent to spend time with their little one(s).
Lastly, if you see someone in your environment struggling (these can be males too!) do give them a cheer that they can do it. Everybody benefits from a pep talk once in a while!
What are your team’s 2019 upcoming plans?
We are only two months in, but we really jump-started the new year.
We kicked off 2019 with an intention setting workshop in Delft by Lana Jelenjev. The workshop element was a first for us and received very well. We hope it will get the attendees into the active mode and are very curious to hear the outcomes during the online 90 days follow up in April. Also, we have represented Female Ventures at the ‘Feel At Home’ fair in The Hague during the first weekend of February.
From now until summer, we will have our next event in The Hague (in April, details will appear on the website soon) and around June we will have another event in Delft.
Where possible, we also like to link up with social food companies to provide the snacks for our events. By this means, we can support their initiatives. We were very happy with Haagse Zwam’s mushroom bitterballs at our event in October 2018 and hope there will be more in 2019!