International Women’s Day 2017 at the WBII

by Deborah Valentine
Be Bold for Change was the theme of 2017’s International Women’s Day. And, at the WBII ‘bold’ subjects were chosen to mark the event – during the afternoon, as well as the evening. A more intimate affair than 2016’s 10th Anniversary celebration, this year the women, and men, who gathered at the newly refurbished The Hague Marriott Hotel had plenty of opportunity to reflect and discuss the themes covered, and network with one another.

The afternoon

The event started with an afternoon programme during which two workshops were held. The first which made the participants work, and think hard, was about “Critical Thinking in the Workplace” – and well, the concept of critical thinking itself. Dr. Giedrė Vasiliauskaitė, a lecturer, trainer and researcher specialized in critical thinking and cross-cultural communication skills development for academia and business, reminded us, that in a fast paced world, more than ever the principles of critical thinking were necessary. For ourselves, as well as our businesses.
We all have decades of experience in reasoning and thinking, but, do we acknowledge and recognise the process behind it; do we reflect on our process of thinking?  Are we aware of the impact of our biases, and how these can be obstacles to rational judgement?
Thinking critically takes energy, time and training.
It can be an overwhelming, and therefore possibly paralysing process: which is why Giedrė strongly suggests starting small, and placing these learnings in a larger context later. Critical thinking is not, she reminded us, about criticising. Rather it is an approach which allows us to judge; be able to evaluate; it is about reasoning and argument. The process of critical thought is thinking logically, free from bias or fallacy, making a claim, providing evidence for that claim, reasoning the claim based on facts and applying intellectual filters.
In her words, “critical thinkers are healthy sceptics,” and “being knowledgeable about the biases which affect our thinking makes us more resilient in the long run.” This enables us to build clear messages and resist faulty ones.
Communicate effectively with clients, customers and people around us.
A self-evaluation provided by Giedrė indicated that many of us the room still ‘had room for improvement’ but, I am sure following the discussion, many were also emboldened to consider changing their approaches to this.
The second workshop was another ‘bold’ move on the part of the organisers. Marian Koek a business coach and an accountant was invited to share her thoughts on “Change your Money-mind-set”. I wondered when I saw the programme, why money-mind-set was written that way – but Marian quickly clarified her thinking on the matter. Namely, that our individual set of mental thoughts about money – in general – can and do influence how we approach making money as entrepreneurs.
Her talk was in fact about three elements: money, our minds and how our thoughts are fixed and can result in limiting beliefs.
Marian continued along a similar thread to Giedrė and confirmed what many may have heard: that 95% of what we do is in fact subconscious. A good thing to, it turns out, as the brain allows us to do this in order to ‘save’ us the energy it would take to consciously think about any and everything we do. It is in fact one of the reasons change is so difficult, it is a very conscious process, requiring greater effort and energy.
Another self-reflective tool engaged us with Marian’s talk and her message about money – and its role in our lives. Leading us all to appreciate and see fairly clearly that there is a relationship between how we think about money, what it means to us, and how we approach entrepreneurship and what drives us in our pursuit of business ‘growth’. Looking back on my worksheet is very revealing, and actually explains a lot.
While her Creating Value Cards and her Bizzroad Map can provide additional value to anyone wanting to explore how their money mind set impacts on their business, she concluded the workshop with five key areas in which change could make a significant impact on our businesses.

These were:

  • Setting boundaries – knowing how far you can go, giving things away for free for instance, and reflecting on what that means, in practice, to your income potential.
  • Raise prices: if we do not value what we offer, how will others? And, if we keep our rates low then the only way to increase income is to work more – and time is a finite thing, so, a limiting option. Yes, this is in part a self-esteem issue, but in order to earn more we must value ourselves more.
  • Focussing on money goals, targets, leads to different actions, actions which are directly related to achieving those goals. Another message we hear regularly, and was reiterated by Marian was: know who your ideal client is. This not only makes working more pleasurable, it is also means it is more likely to be rewarding. And, finally, work on your sales conversation. Ask insightful questions which will help clarify what you do, why you do it, and how you can succeed

The intermezzo

In between the workshops and the evening programme participants had the opportunity to network, discuss what we had learnt from our two speakers, and support the work of the Bijlmer Project. This initiative, very close to the WBII’s heart is a “research and intervention based project focusing on the psychosocial needs of victims of human trafficking, who were bought and sold for sexual exploitation.”
It was also an opportunity for our photographer Martine Sollie to capture the mood, and appreciate the support for the event provided by Taste and Noordman Wijnen.

The evening

Professor Jean Paul van Marissing, Director of Webster University, one of the WBII’s longest supporters, shared some personal as well as professional observations about the theme of IWD, and said, there will be no change, if we do not “stand up and take the initiative, dare to be bold.”
But he said, this is not a woman only action point, what women who stand up and take bold steps need men – “who are bold enough to be unafraid of strong women.”

Nava Hinrichs, Managing Director of The Hague Process on Refugees and Migration was this year’s keynote speaker. She started her speech by asking why “is change associated with the virtue of boldness?” For those who had been at the workshops, an answer may have started to form in our minds, but, Nava went on to explain how her work, with migrants and refugees, is irrefutable proof, that change is indeed, a bold action.
A desperate action in the case of the people her organisation works with, and for, worldwide and one often motivated by fear. And courage. It is the courage of the many, many, people – 55% of which are women – who take the bold action “to leave all that (they’ve) ever known, no money, no safety, no guarantees, hope for better, often with children.” These women, she went on to share, in preparing to take on this courageous act, often have to also prepare for the additional challenges they know they will face in their journeys. For, women know that along the way, additional horrors and challenges are in store.

She recounted the case of a young woman who opted to keep the result of such a horror, a baby, precisely because of the horror. This courageous woman would raise her son to be respectful of women, her daughter to be bold. This courage is what motivates Nava to continue in her work, and what makes her realise that change, however painful it is, needs the ‘pain’ to be effected.
Giving birth, she said, “seems terrible and horrifically painful, but pain is necessary for the change from pregnancy to motherhood.”
“This is where,” she sees “the link between boldness/courage and change: if we want change of any kind, we need to be courageous enough to withstand the pain/discomfort that comes with it and persevere through that challenge.” Lasting change does not come overnight, or easily, but we all have a “purpose, skill or talent” which we can tap into to contribute to lasting change, and progress.


“In fact, the only time advances have been made in societies or families or communities, is when individuals have tapped into their purpose, apply their skills and sacrifice what they have in the service of another. That is when we have lasting change and ultimate progress.”