From its foundation and after the women’s rowing association Phecda was tacitly incorporated into the men’s rowing association Skadi in 1976, a male president has been at the helm of the association. Until this year, that is. Jolien van Haasteren (23, Medicine) is the first female president of Skadi. “But I feel it’s more relevant that there’s an international student on the board.”

How come there’s never been a female president in all those years?

“I think that people just took the conventional relationship between men and women for granted in those days, so women didn’t take the initiative to become president. Furthermore, it had long been the tradition at Skadi that the outgoing President appointed his successor. Many men then seem to choose other men to succeed them. It’s only been two years since members have been able to apply for the post of President, and the second year I got it.”

As a woman, do you have different qualities than your male predecessors?

“It’s more a question of personality than gender, in my opinion. For example, Mark Rutte scores higher on ‘classic’ female characteristics than Merkel. I also assume that I wasn’t chosen for my gender and that only personal qualities count for a new President. Because I’m not concerned with gender, more roles within the board may now fall outside the “traditional” division. The bar commissioner, for example, was often a woman and this year it’s a man. And the commissioner for external relations, often rather urbane men, is also a woman for the first time. But for me, it’s actually more relevant that we now have an international student on the board.”

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Skadi President Jolien van Haasteren Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

Why do you feel it’s so important to have an international on the board?

“The international students give the association more colour and substance, so it’s important that they are represented by someone on the board. We now have around twenty international members. Sometimes it’s difficult though. Communication among members who speak a different language is more difficult and the association has to adapt in some areas. For example, we’re going to translate the website into English and all international students are given a Dutch speaking Skadiaan buddy with an international background to promote their integration. Although we stimulate internationalisation, we want to retain the core elements of the association: the student aspect, the traditions. That’s why the language used at traditional events and when we’re rowing is still Dutch.”

What other plans do you have for the coming year?

“We want to renovate or rebuild our building. We now have nearly 700 members and this building was designed to accommodate 300, so we’re bursting at the seams. I also want to ensure that the association becomes more of a unit and that everyone feels at home here. And last but not least, I want to contribute to our aim to be the best rowing club in the Netherlands in 2025. That’s why Skadi will win the Varsity again this year.”