Female leadership improves Rotterdam business climate

April 13, 2022

How two women make port city more inclusive, diverse and entrepreneurial

ROTTERDAM - Five years ago, American-born Melissa Ablett-Jordaan (36) launched the American Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) in Rotterdam. With her experience in building innovation communities in Boston, Miami and Philadelphia, Melissa saw an opportunity to open CIC's first international branch in Rotterdam. Melissa has since become COO internationally and travels the world. Her job in Rotterdam was over and she passed the proverbial baton to general manager Joyce Kornet-Vreugdenhil (35)

Melissa Ablett-Jordaan and Joyce Kornet-Vreugdenhil @CIC Rotterdam

Female leadership: Melissa Ablett-Jordaan

Getting Rotterdam on the map as an innovation hub posed considerable challenges. The experience she gained in America helped Melissa put CIC and Rotterdam on the map as an innovation hub. When Melissa successfully completed her assignment, she found that the community consisted mostly of men.

'We came to Rotterdam to support and accelerate the building of the regional innovation ecosystem, that it consisted mainly of men was a given, for my successor Joyce the challenge to become more inclusive and diverse in the broadest sense of the words!' Melissa Ablett-Jordaan, former General Manager CIC Rotterdam.

By 2025, more than 20% women

In 2019, Joyce assumed the position of General Manager. The challenge of making the entrepreneurial environment more inclusive and diverse took hold. CIC signed a contract from the Social and Economic Council (SER) setting the goal of housing more than 20% women entrepreneurs in its community by 2025. CIC also signed the Diversity in Business charter outlining a detailed diversity plan.

'If you mention a woman's first name in Rotterdam, everyone knows which company she leads. Women at the top are scarce and that has to change. Our partnerships with parties such as Diversity in Business from the SER, Female Ventures and Voice of All Women must change that. By literally and figuratively giving space to inspiring startups with women at the top, we contribute to an inclusive Rotterdam ecosystem."-Joyce Kornet-Vreugdenhil

A better reflection of the city of Rotterdam

Led by Joyce, CIC works on diversity and encourages inclusive entrepreneurship based on gender, ethnicity and background. The community which still consists of more than 85% male entrepreneurs focuses on inclusive role models and aims to become an accurate reflection of the city of Rotterdam. Joyce hopes that CIC will become the role model on diversity.