Susanne van Suylekom
Susanne van Suylekom is stakeholder manager at Vattenfall. Before joining Vattenfall, she has been working with HIER, a Dutch foundation promoting climate awareness.
Susanne is a powerful storyteller and passionate about making a true impact in the world of sustainability.
After many ups and downs, sustainability…
Some people know, when they are eight years old, what they want to be when they grow up.
I am not one of those people. Quite the opposite actually: I had no clue in high school what I wanted to do with my life. And then in my early twenties, after trying out some different studies, I thought I wanted a career in theater marketing. Then finally, and luckily, just before I turned thirty, I was engaged in the world of sustainability. Pretty quickly I knew I wanted to stay. It is such an interesting, dynamic field to be working in. There is so much to learn and do!
Storytelling to accelerate the energy transition
To create a sustainable world to live in, many people have to be convinced to act, and their worries about change and costs need to be addressed. And this is where I come in. Just half a year ago I realized how I want to lead the course of my life. By creating support for the changes we have to make, I am accelerating this transition.
You might ask how I do that. The answer is: by storytelling. I do not tell fairy-tales. I sketch the future, without promises I can’t keep or wishes I can’t fulfill. I don’t diminish uncertainties but set the foundation with facts and realities.
I will keep researching the energy transition. This is a system that is complex and evolving, so it is changing on the go. I keep learning what we could do best, while all the time, taking as many people as I can along with me, to speed up this transition.
Gender balance for all industries
I believe in diversity, but in general and not specifically for this industry. When diversity is promoted, any industry benefits in terms of effectiveness. In the case of the energy industry, more effective operation means faster transition. We are in serious need to increase the speed of energy transition thus we should work on diversity.
The thing is: I am in a very good place when it comes to gender balance. Our new CEO at Vattenfall, Anna Borg, is a woman. The new CFO is a woman, and the new Head of Business Area Heat, where I work, is also a woman. At Vattenfall, there are several programs emphasizing the importance of gender balance, like a female talent program. And in recruitment, there are clear goals in reaching a balanced ánd diverse workforce. This awareness is reflected by the very pleasant work environment.
The challenge arises when we consider the technical compartment of the energy sector, which is also a dominant aspect of it. When it comes to technical aspects, gender dis-balance is more pronounced. One way to deal with that is to break stereotypes. Topics such as mathematics, physics and chemistry are not gender specific and we should increase the awareness among schoolchildren .
Also, in high management roles, we see fewer women as compared to men. If we clear the path for women to reach higher positions, it shows the possibilities of an equal playing field to the younger generations and creates progress regarding gender balance.
Embracing differences, endorsing ambitions
This is a subject of interest for me and my boyfriend, which we discuss regularly. What you immediately notice in a female network is that women act differently. There is no hierarchy, and the connections are mostly informal. Also, women do not “automatically” provide the support to each other. There is more consideration towards whether it is correct to support the other, morally or otherwise. A network like 75inQ helps to create frameworks to officialize the support. We learn how we can help each other.
It is, however, important to note that we do not need to turn into men to be successful. The main goal is to increase diversity and embrace differences.