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Rudolf and Vréneli with Mette Frederiksen and BoTengberg. SUR
'Women must be able to make the big choices about healthcare and abortion'
International Women's Day 2024

'Women must be able to make the big choices about healthcare and abortion'

Vréneli, 61, co-founded SheConsult in 2007 in her native Amsterdam and the company has coached thousands of professional women over the years

Jennie Rhodes

Cómpeta

Friday, 8 March 2024, 12:13

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When the Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen and her husband, film director Bo Tengberg, spent a holiday in Cómpeta in the Axarquía last month, it turns out that feminism was among the reasons for their choice of accommodation.

They stayed at Málaga Hills boutique and wellness B&B, which is run by Vréneli Stadelmaier and her husband Rudolf, and the PM was attracted not only to its eco-ethos and the promise of peace and tranquility,but also to the fact that it is described as a 'feminist' hotel.

The Dutch couple bought the place in 2018, signalling a change in career for Vréneli after 17 years of empowering women and helping them break the infamous glass ceiling.

Vréneli Stadelmaier.
Vréneli Stadelmaier. SUR

Vréneli, 61, co-founded SheConsult in 2007 in her native Amsterdam and the company has coached thousands of professional women over the years.

The idea to start her own consultancy came to her because she was "so frustrated" that women still had trouble "getting a place at the table" and this came from her own personal experience of being director of a major health company.

Vréneli says she felt excluded from decisions being made by her fellow directors - all of whom were men. "There were things that were happening that I didn't understand." She admits that she started to doubt herself but realised "it was the system", not her.

TEDx talk

This was the inspiration behind a TEDx talk that Vréneli gave in Delft in March 2018 on so-called 'impostor syndrome', which according to the Cambridge dictionary, is "the feeling that your achievements are not real or that you do not deserve praise or success".

During the talk Vréneli speaks candidly about being a young mum of three children and how she saw for herself the experience that so many women go through of ending up at home with the children, while the husband "works more".

Vréneli thinks things have moved on since she set up her consultancy, although there's still a long way to go in her view. "There are more women working and more opportunities, but still it doesn't go fast enough." She adds that there is still a lot of sexism, unconsciousness bias and microaggressions in the workplace.

She says that it still seems to be the case that when a couple has a baby, it is still the mother who takes a step back from her career and considers it "very important that women are financially independent because that gives them a choice". She goes on to say that women "must be able to make the big choices that countries make, like abortion and women's healthcare".

Award

She has also written two books, Sure She Can (In Dutch and English) and A Smart Girl Is Prepared for Her Future (in Dutch). Vréneli won the Joke Smit award in 2015, a biannual award organised by the Dutch government recognising those who help to "advance the position of women in society". The prize is named after the Dutch feminist Joke Smit (1933-1981), who played a prominent role in women's emancipation in the Netherlands.

Vréneli has now sold half of the company but will continue in the role of adviser and ambassador, meaning she has more time to focus on the hotel.

With regard to Frederiksen's stay, Vréneli highlights, "We really had a good time, we had breakfast together, we did a lot of talking with her and her husband. There were a lot of discussions about her being a female leader."

The hotel certainly provides plenty of inspiration for conversations about women's issues. The rooms are named after prominent women: Beyoncé, Malala, Oprah (Winfrey), Leymah (Gbowee, Liberian peace activist) and Irene (Montero, the former Spanish equality minister who introduced the 'only yes is yes' sexual consent law and paid period leave.

The bar is named after French philosopher and writer Simone de Beauvoir and there is a large library with an extensive collection of books on feminism and by female authors.

Vréneli says that there could be another book at some point, but for now she can share her feminist (and environmental) philosophies "here in the hotel".

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