Michele Mees & FEMCO
Passionate about advancing wom


"We can earn millions here if we keep this up for the next five years you know", Micheles colleague said.

Both him and Michele were partners at a marketing consultancy company. The company had known a continuous steap growth during the 7 years Michele was on board. The company was now a player to be taken seriously, a leader in the market. Money was rolling in. And yet Michele was having serious doubts about the way forward.

For some time now she had this nagging feeling inside. Questions such as "Why I am doing this? Is this what I want? Am I contributing to society?" were constantly lingering in the back of her mind. Maybe it had something to do with Michele turning 40? She had serious doubts about what she wanted to do with the next 10 years of her life. If she would continue working in this high paced environment she could earn big money. But it would mean continue working more than 70 hours a week. Was it worth it?


When Michele started studying Sociology and Marketing at university in Belgium, she was expecting to finally learn what made the world turn. She was the first in the family to embark on a university education. Her mother (who had stayed at home to raise Michele and her older brother) had told her to strive to be independent as a woman. Her father had shown her that there was more to life than work, that engagement for fellow workers and the local community were important as well.
It was only logical that Michele would express her social engagement in student groups at university. Most of the members of these groups were male students, and all the important positions (chairman, secretary, spokesman...) were filled in by male students. During meetings Michele would want to say something, but often wasn't able to, being too nervous and anxious to speak up. Most of the other students in these groups were young men, eager to show off and take the floor.
One night Michele was walking home with another young female student. This girl said "you always look so confident during these meetings, so in control, I would like to be like that".
It was as if a light was switched on inside Micheles head. It suddenly struck her that perception and reality are not the same thing. She may have looked confident to the other female student, while she wasn't  feeling confident at all. She was also surprised to hear that other young women were also struggling to get heard in these student groups.
Michele made 2 decisions that night.
  1. Firstly, to start speaking up more in meetings. Why bother being shy if everyone was thinking she was confident? She decided to give it a try by telling herself it was comparable to acting in a play
  2. Secondly, she decided to set up a women's student group with other women, to explore how gender affects our behaviour and values.

Professional issue 
The discussions with her fellow partner at the consultancy firm made it clear to Michele that she was out of sync with her values.
She had worked hard to put the firm on the map. After a career in advertising and after having taken part in the set up of 2 internet companies, she had chosen to work for this marketing consultancy because of the values of the company and the potential it offered to grow and co-create its future. 
It used to be all about developing something special with a great team. Now it seemed to be all about the money that could be made. For Michele, this was not a motivator. She needed to engage in a meaningful project again. Make a meaningful contribution to society, instead of to her bank account.
She was confronted with extremely low participation rate of women in the decision making teams she worked with at clients. And asked herself "Where are all the women?" Why were they not in management teams, in executive committees, in boards?
Michele realized she needed to re-connect with her motivational drivers again: her social responsibility, her engagement for other women, her need to create and start up her own business. It quickly became clear in her mind what she wanted to do: help companies and teams realize a better gender balance, and profit from this diversity of views, talents and insights.
She had met a woman who was trying to achieve the same thing by coaching and training women in management positions. Together they decided to create a company (Femco) offering an integrated approach to establish a better gender balance: by working both top down (analysis, awareness, action plans) and bottom up (coaching, training, networking).
For Michele this meant saying goodbye to a blooming business in an industry she had known for 18 years. It also meant entering a new domain and quickly building up expertise in it. She started by following an extensive course on diversity and a training in business coaching.
Michele started her new business in 2009: the worst possible year to start (economical and financial crisis was hitting business hard). She gave herself and the company a full year to build up expertise, to set up pilots at clients, to prepare everything in order to be ready when the economy picked up. That happened in 2010, which was an excellent year for Femco.