Programme Update: Wendy & Marjolein

The Leadership Programme (LP) consist of 2 main parts: the professional training sessions and research by the participants. Currently, the LP members are executing their ambitious researches. These studies have a focus on either one of these TopFem goals: ambition, empowerment, network, mentorship and leadership development. To give you an idea on what the LP members are investigating, you can gain some insights on what kind of research is being conducted and who the (young) women behind these projects are. This time, we interviewed duo Wendy Smeets and Marjolein van Vliet.


Wendy (27 years) and Marjolein (25 years) are two ambitious women who both joined this year’s TopFem Leadership Programme. While Wendy came into contact with TopFem by searching on the internet, Marjolein found out about TopFem via Facebook. Wendy is currently following three Master programme’s: Financial Law (Leiden University), Constitutional- and Administrative Law (Leiden University) and Private Law (University of Amsterdam).

She hopes to start with an interesting job in the financial world to pursue an international career in the legal profession soon. Besides a great interest and passion for the financial world, Wendy loves to go to the gym to work out or to do some yoga. She also loves to be creative and extend her boundaries by means of extreme sports. She believes that every leader should be excellent at personal leadership: take the lead in and the responsibility for his/her own life.

“After a few events I had interesting and useful new contacts and even some job offers.”

- Wendy

Marjolein graduated in January 2017 from her Master Biomedical Sciences, where she did both the research as the management specialisation track. Fun fact is that she has done an internship at the commercial department of Albert Heijn’s headquarter, which is pretty unusual within her profession. Her hobbies are traveling, doing sports, having fun with friends and keep on discovering new things.

She is currently looking for a job in communication, marketing and/or management in a company with a biomedical touch. Marjolein believes that every leader should be an authentic person who is eager to help other people to get the most out of themselves.

“Sometimes it is good to do things totally out of your comfort zone, that’s the place where I learned the most.”

- Marjolein

Wendy and Marjolein first decided to perform the research project together after they came up with their research idea. They were brought together because of their beta-background. Before Wendy switched to studying Law, she did the bachelor Psychobiology where she performed neuroscience research. Therefore, both women are very analytic. Moreover, they both think outside of the box and are very willing to get the most out of their research.

“It is nice to work with someone who also sees a lot of connections.”

- Wendy

Wendy and Marjolein decided not to focus the research project too much on the inequality between men and women. They wanted to have a more positive oriented approach for their project, as they believe women have a lot of competences for leading positions. The aim of their study is to find which female characteristics are the key to success.

The project focusses on the (bio)medical/pharmaceutical sector and the financial sector and has two parts: a survey and some interviews. The survey consist of a list of characteristics. Depending on whether somebody filled in to have a top position, they get to see a different survey. On one hand, somebody with not a top position get the question whether this characteristic is more female or more male. On the other hand, the person with a top position gets the question in what extend they possess this characteristic.

“By using our own professional network and asking other networks to promote and distribute our survey, we already got 68 reactions!”

- Marjolein

Eventually, Wendy and Marjolein want to develop a practical model for young ambitious women who wants to pursue a career at top level in either the (bio)medical/pharmaceutical and the financial sector. This model will give an insight into which female characteristics should be embraced by ambitious women. They hope they can give young women at the start of their career useful information that will help them get to the top.