Diversity in leadership and mentorship 

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we sat down with Helen Belshaw, Associate Partner in Digital Strategy at Valcon Nordics and Mechteld Kirpensteijn, Senior Manager at Valcon in the Netherlands. Their accounts offer a window into the nuances of female leadership and mentorship.

Helen Belshaw, Associate Partner, Valcon Nordics

What drew you towards being a leader?

Stepping into leadership felt like a calling. It was never about seeking titles or the external trappings of the role. My inspiration came from a poem ‘The Leader’ by Roger McGough I studied at school. This poem taught me that true leadership transcends the pursuit of power or prestige; it’s about embracing the responsibilities that come with it. My leadership journey has been driven by intrinsic motivation to lead effectively and responsibly.

How do you define the qualities of an effective leader?

This quote from Simon Sinkey resonates deeply with me, “The greatest contribution of a leader is to make other leaders.” I gauge my success as a leader by the growth and advancement of those I’ve mentored and get great satisfaction seeing them exceed their own expectations. To me, an effective leader shares successes with their team and takes accountability during setbacks, as a coach celebrates victories and navigates through challenges with their team.

What’s your view on gender roles as a leader?

I’ve always avoided gender stereotypes in leadership. My perspective is shaped by a variety of experiences, from my upbringing in Australia to international engagements and playing team sports. It’s vital to include diverse voices in decision-making processes. While I make a concerted effort to mentor individuals of all genders, I dedicate a significant portion of my time to supporting women, driven by a commitment to enhance diversity and create an inclusive environment.

Mechteld Kirpensteijn, Senior Manager, Valcon Netherlands

Can you pinpoint any significant leadership or mentorship experience you’ve had and its impact?

I am fortunate to have worked with colleagues throughout my career who recognised my potential and nurtured my growth. This support and the opportunities provided to me were instrumental in building my confidence. I’ve learned the value of mentorship first hand, as I have been lucky to have lots of different leaders and role models who have given me guidance. 

How do you lead or mentor others as a woman in a managerial role?

I focus on creating an environment where team members feel confident and empowered. I believe in empowering individuals to tackle challenges independently while being around to support them. Challenging my team is important, as it uncovers opportunities for improvement and personal growth. I encourage learning from mistakes as a pathway to development.

How do you empower and advocate for other women in the workplace?

I strive to set an example for other colleagues and people in my team, especially in a field where women are underrepresented. By advocating for women’s advancement and creating opportunities within our organisation, I try to contribute to a more inclusive workplace. Acknowledging and valuing different leadership styles enriches our team dynamics and ensures a broader perspective in our approach to challenges and opportunities.