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(Hanneke Takkenberg, 49, Professor (Cardiothoracic department) Erasmus MC)

“After finishing my medical degree, I spent several years working in Los Angeles. I had an amazing time, but everything is done very differently there than here in the Netherlands; very long shifts and a massive workload. I worked in the heart transplant department. Quite often you might have to climb into a helicopter in the evening to go and fetch a donor organ, travel all night and then start the day shift next morning. The turning point came when I met a colleague on the stairs one morning. She had just finished the night shift, so I asked her if she was on her way home. “No,” she replied. “My husband is outside with the kids and I’m just going to give them a kiss before they go to school – at least that way I get to see them for once.” That’s when I knew it: that’s not how I see my career. I didn’t have children myself at the time.

Back in the Netherlands, I was given a research role in the Cardiothoracic department at Erasmus MC where I’m now a professor. As Chief Diversity Officer, I am involved in promoting diversity at the university. Too often I see women – as well as non-native students and staff – adapting to the established order, while the main strength lies in diversity. I am a great supporter of having more women at the top, but I also want to see equal opportunities in other areas too. That means creating a balance between parenthood and career. I now have 4 daughters. I may be quite down to earth, but I find it easy to combine my career at Erasmus MC with life at home. I do this by relying on my own strength and by good management. When I’m home, I’m home. Then there’s no work, no laundry basket, no washing up; I’m there for the family. That’s a luxury my former colleague in LA didn’t have!”

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