19 september 2019

The fresh produce sector is dominated by men. In the commercial department in particular, women are strongly underrepresented. Reason enough to ask fresh produce women how they survive in this men-dominated world. This month Maaike González. She has noticed that the traditional composition in the industry is changing.

Maaike grew up in the fresh produce trade. Her father, Miguel González, was the founder and owner of Hispafruit. "I've thought about getting into the business, but my mom didn't like it because of the big responsibility," she notes. In the summer of 2012, Maaike moved to Spain and also visited a number of fresh produce companies during her job search. “At the Cultivar company, I took up the challenge to start a new export project with them. This brought me into contact with many other importers and exporters, including Dutch companies. It was interesting that the daughter of Miguel González, who had officially sold Hispafruit that same year, had become active in the fresh produce world. Companies saw perspective in me as "the daughter of" and the fact that I operated from Spain. In the end, I chose to have an office in Spain for Roveg Fruit. ”

Maaike returned to The Netherlands four years ago. Her father suggested setting up something new together and MG Fruit was founded in November. “The first year we mainly acted as a broker, but that did not really fit us. Together with Jacob Aktalan, who came to strengthen us in the field of sales, we decided to do the import, storage and sales ourselves. We like to have total control and to be able to serve both suppliers and customers in the right way. ” The company has been around for four years and says it grows every year. Maaike is mainly concerned with PR, communication, HR and finance.

Traditional thinking and acting changes

According to her, the fresh produce branche, like many others, is a traditional men's world. “Branches in which a lot of hard work is central, such as working on the land or commercial functions, have traditionally been seen as real male professions. The women ran the household, which was socially accepted. Today, this traditional way of thinking and acting is no longer accepted. You can see that the composition within the fresh produce sector is gradually changing. More and more women are active. In general, I think they have more administrative and organizational functions, but the number of women in the commercial departments is also increasing. “For my master's thesis on women in politics in Mexico, I once dealt with the issue of emancipation and I still don't know what to do with it. On the one hand, I am glad that there has been a hard fight for the rights of women or other minority groups. On the other hand, I sometimes find the discussion to be a bit tricky. Men and women are equal, absolutely, but we are different. In general, men have more affinity with commerce and women with organization. That doesn't make one better than the other. It makes one complementary to the other. Together you form the team. The strength of the team is the strength of your company. ”

MG Fruit's office has a rather traditional atmosphere. “That was never an issue, it was born that way. When the women go to get coffee and tea, they also take this for the men. This is not self-evident for men and it is not necessary. Usually they come back with the wrong thing. Me as a person, but maybe that is the feminine caring side, I like to be able to do something for someone else and I don't have to get anything in return. In short: everyone has their own strength and you can learn something from everyone. ” She would like to say to other women in the fruit and vegetable sector: believe in yourself. “It is not important what others think of you. After all, we're all a little crazy. Make sure that you know your business and what you are doing and then be satisfied about it. Gender, origin, religion, fat, thin, long, short: everything is good as long as you believe in yourself. ”

What particularly appeals to her in the fresh produce sector is working with fresh products and the international character. Maaike says she is a fairly fanatic athlete and likes to eat healthy. “This was given to me from home and I am grateful for that. The Netherlands is ahead of other European countries in terms of exercise, but not in the area of