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WOMEN: GENDER DIVERSITY AND EQUALITY


Curiosity, two cats and a recipe for success

By Irine Gaasbeek, Managing Director Financial Services, Accenture, Amsterdam
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"Off the beaten track”—that’s a phrase that characterizes both my life and my career. I enjoy leaving that track, not only professionally, but also personally. For instance, I love traveling to unusual destinations. In the past few years, I’ve visited countries such as India, Tibet, China and Africa. My most recent trip was to Alaska.

Traveling brings out the explorer in me. Curiosity is my main motivation: How do people from other cultures live? What values do they have? It broadens my world view and lets me look at myself through different eyes. In the long run, it helps me keep both feet on the ground and my own life in perspective. I often think: “Do I really need to worry about this?” 

Consciously looking for diversity

I’m also a pioneer in my work. Every couple of years, I energetically dive into another position at work, with new customers and new colleagues. I enjoy building things, taking risks. If you manage to successfully finish such a job, it gives you a great deal of satisfaction and self-confidence. For instance, I love giving a boost and new motivation to a team that’s not performing to the best of its abilities. I also enjoy setting up a new team, such as the Financial Services one for which I’m now responsible. 

The financial sector is in the midst of a culture change, and the composition of my team reflects this. It’s a real mix: men and women, classical consultants and IT people, those with and without financial experience—all coming from a variety of backgrounds. The banking and insurance industry has always been an elite one. I very consciously put together such a diverse team to help further drive and realize the culture change now going on. Here too, I like getting off the beaten track.

Enjoying human dynamics

A variety of different backgrounds creates a great deal of human dynamics in a team, but that’s exactly what I enjoy so much. I find people and their interactions absolutely fascinating. I’ve always been people-oriented. During my time at university, I was very active in a student association—it was a nice counterbalance to the technical program I was following.

In my current job, working with people provides the same attractive contrast with the consultancy work, which is primarily brain work. I’m happy to see this kind of diversity increasing within our organization. In the past few years, my company has made great strides in that respect. We’re no longer a company of just men in suits, even though the outside world may sometimes still regard us that way. On the contrary, there’s a lot of room for authenticity! And we’ve also switched to an output-oriented way of working, which enables people to combine work and life even better.

"There’s a lot of room for authenticity!"

Reading the newspaper at the kitchen table

My private and professional lives are seamlessly integrated. In principle, I can work when I feel like it, as long as I make my deadlines. If I have a customer meeting in Amsterdam, I sometimes do a bit of shopping before or after. On the other hand, on a rainy Sunday afternoon I’ll often get on my laptop at home. I don’t have children, and I work full-time. I’ve outsourced all my household chores—including grocery shopping and ironing—so I don’t have to worry about any of that. I use the time that this saves me to have a relaxed start and end of the workday, during which I can read the newspaper at the kitchen table, or check my e-mail.

A passion for colors and styles

My work is my biggest hobby, but I also have other passions. Besides traveling, I love architecture and interiors. I live in a beautiful house from the 1880’s in the center of the Dutch town of Baarn. I completely restored it to its former glory and decorated it with modern furniture—so it’s a great combination of old and new. In a different life, I could see myself doing this as a profession. My interest in fashion—which is also about colors and styles—is an extension of this.

Discussing the day with Bruno and Karel

I used to work pretty much non-stop. These days, I take more time to relax. I lead a healthy lifestyle and do fitness and cardio on a regular basis, which keeps me feeling good. I also enjoy eating with family and friends. I don’t have a big circle of friends, but a couple of long-term, very loyal friendships. Every year, I go on a weekend trip to a European city with the girls from my old student club, and once every five years we go to a more far-off, sunny destination. We always have lots of fun together.

But what relaxes me the most are Bruno and Karel, my two grey cats. Because of them, I never come home to a cold and empty house. It’s always wonderful to pick them up and feel their warmth when I hold them close to me. I can tell them all about my day, and—unlike people—they’ll always listen.

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