One of the wonders of technology is that the Best of Both Worlds podcast has listeners all over the world! And so we are also trying to have guests from around the world. Today’s guest, Sharon van Herel, comes to us from Rotterdam in the Netherlands. She’s an executive in the insurance industry — in charge of 300 people — and she’s the mother of two children.
We talked about her transition from law to insurance, and how she organizes her day to do focused work, invest in her relationships with her direct reports, play tennis, and do school pick-ups on Friday.
We also discussed Dutch part-time culture. Issues of work and life vary around the EU. The Netherlands, for instance, van Herel tells us, does a 4-month maternity leave, with many people taking some of that time before birth. This varies from some other countries (e.g. the longer Scandinavian leaves) but then Dutch women are far more likely to work part-time than women in other nations. Indeed, it’s so expected that women will work part-time that van Herel says she didn’t even question it, even though she was out-earning her husband.
But at some point, she also realized that she was spending her time “off” doing housework. This was not an economically efficient use of her skills. So she scaled back up, and as she took on bigger leadership roles, she saw the result of so much part-time work: a huge glass ceiling. For a time, the leadership team she was working with was all men. She has now changed that!
Anyway, lots of fascinating insights (including glimpses of other bits of Dutch culture, like biking everywhere). We open the show with a discussion of Sarah’s decision to scale up to 90 percent as she takes on new leadership responsibilities. Then, in the question section, we talk about a plot point in This is Us (spoiler alerts!) Why does it feel like it’s always the woman who has to bend when family issues come into play?
Please give this episode a listen, and let us know what you think!