About Petra Meijer

To get to where I am today, I first had to break away from what others thought I should be. Then, I had to let go of what I thought I was supposed to be. Being a woman was always at the heart of this journey. I grew up in a small village, with set norms and values. The role of women in my environment was mostly the traditional ‘caring’ role. Even as a child, I sensed that there was so much more for women to do. I felt my generation in particular had the opportunity to discover this. This search for my own journey, ‘being a woman’ and ‘being free’ taught me a great deal and finally made me decide to start Femconnect. 

My career path has been a string of choices driven by the feeling that I had more up my sleeve. I therefore made my personal development the highest priority in my life. Courses, master classes, coaching programmes: name it and there’s a high chance that I was on the list of participants. In my job, I grabbed opportunities for promotion or new positions with both hands. Especially when I had children, I often had to justify this to other mothers, colleagues and friends. Isn’t your highest priority your role as a mother? I firmly believe this isn’t the case. I adore my girls, but I have never wanted ‘motherhood’ to be my employer. 

Not good enough

In the healthcare sector I was often told I was too business-like and in the financial sector they thought I was too involved and passionate. In the schoolyard, I was the mother who rarely came to pick up her children herself. While at work I sat at the boardroom table with men who never had to justify why they weren’t in the schoolyard. Those same men also found it sometimes difficult to accept a woman on the board as an equal partner. At the time, I often felt a split between who I was and who I thought I should be. I sometimes think that the only reason I did my Master’s degree was to be taken seriously. I thought: now that I have my title, they can’t ignore me anymore. Only later did I understand that it doesn’t work like that. There is always a job, a position or qualification that others label as ‘better’. Being taken seriously starts with taking yourself, and everything that comes with it, seriously. 

My place in the system

A few years ago, everything seemed to be going smoothly for me, but nothing was further from the truth. My job gave me zero satisfaction. There was stuff going on in my family and it felt like everything I had worked so hard for was in jeopardy. I was stuck and, for the first time in my entire career, I didn’t know which step to take next. Working harder and studying didn’t help me. The problem went much deeper. I had put it aside once before, but now the world of Systemic Work once again crossed my path. This time I was open to the approach, and I am still grateful for that every day. By being aware of the place I occupied in the different systems (family and work), I was able to start up another movement. I confronted patterns and beliefs that had been taught. And, more importantly, I learned how to relate differently to those patterns in the system, in order to become strong again. 

The future is female”

A woman who stands firm helps other women do the same. It starts with my girls. Yes, they sometimes had to wait for attention from their mother. And yes, they have complained about this. But I wouldn’t have been a nicer or better mother if I had made motherhood my priority. In doing so, I would have taught them that it’s okay for others to determine for you when you are good enough. At least I made sure they didn’t have to look far for a woman who followed her own journey. Fortunately, they are both choosing their own path and don’t let anyone (and certainly not me) tell them what to do, and who or what to be. They too will have their own struggles, but it makes me feel positive that these women are the future.

My personal mission is to help as many women as possible be proud and confident when setting their own journey. My story isn’t unique. I meet many women who for years have been conforming to the standards of their environment (at work and elsewhere). Most of the time they aren’t even aware of this – with all its consequences. Uncertainty, stress and anxiety present themselves in various forms and you lose your grip. With Femconnect I want to offer women the tools to get a grip back on their journey.