“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
― George Orwell
The Guru has always had a soft spot for this lady. Since my arrival to the fur trade her enthusiasm and leadership grasped me. Mette is that kind of woman that shines while making people accomplish high goals. She likes to command but she does it with grace and dignity, she doesn’t impose or abuse her power. She is a true leader that shares her ideas but also, she’s a good listener, therefore identifies other people’s strengths and encourages them to flourish. The Guru also loves when people talk to your face and tell you things as they are. Nowadays (it appears) it’s a talent difficult to find, so she appreciates that Mette still offers this refreshing quality in the highest ranks of the trade. With her, what you see is what you get and darlings, what you get are responses jam-packed with truth, with impartiality. Her approach to politics is a reflection of who she is: she fights for true, fact-based issues. She doesn’t run around the bushes and always combats with commitment. Her cause is also close to her heart, she knows very well this industry; the people, the process and the heritage behind it. So, she gives them voices and she represents them, because she truthfully believes in them. So, dear readers, the Guru is closing this project’s first stage with one of the strongest and clearest voices of woman power (and our industry). Get ready for a dosage of forthright responses because with Mette Lykke Nielsen what you see is what you get.
The Fur Guru has always met Mette in the working field, so she thought it would be a good start for this interview to find out what she does when she’s not at work. Mette told this Guru that she enjoys going out with friends, seeing family, going out in the nature hiking or riding, reading books and updating herself on politics and recently also doing quite some running.
The Guru found out that what makes this bold legislator shake are… pigeons. Mette explained: “So afraid that I once in Sarajevo jumped under a table at a café on the main square. Bring on horses and cows, but pigeons is apparently my fear in life.”
Mette is well-known for her passionate safeguard activity for the fur trade but the Fur Guru has noticed in some conversations with her that she’s also quite passionate and proud of being called a European. So, she wonders what else makes Mette’s heart tick regarding identity and politics:
“I am very interested in everything related to the European Union. Everything related to globalization and internationalization. I like the relationship and networking part of politics as well. Also, I find European history very interesting and that we were able to create this community with common rules in Europe to end the wars between us. That we today can travel across borders without an obstacle.”
Mette has been a big voice for the trade but, to have a big voice requires a lot of risk as it implies putting in the mix a lot of what you are (some of us call it “heart”). So, the Guru asked her what part of Mette’s heart and dreams are put into lobbying and politics: “Definitely the ability and possibility to change and influence the world we live in. For me lobbying is a negative word – but what I really do is to try to get influence over the things that shape our everyday life as European citizens.
I like being able to see results and with lobbying you see results – both in legislation directly but also more hidden in the way your network responds to your policy needs.”
This woman has difficult tasks at work every day. Her job demands her to put a strong front given the nature of her work. The Guru ponders how does her activity shape her as a person and affects her everyday life and when does she allow herself to put the walls down?
“I think I am quite stubborn as a person – that is both good and bad. I do not easily take no for an answer, but on the other hand I am also able to be convinced by good arguments. I would also say that I use humor quite a lot in my daily life – if things get hard it is always good to have a good sense of humor to take a break before things gets serious again.
The walls come down when I am with friends and family – they do not get any fronts – they still get the bad sense of humor though :)”
Mette has always stroked me as the “I put my heart where my mouth is” kind of lady. Sincerely, the Guru has perceived a considerable decline in the group of people who live by this philosophy. So, what does she have to say to apathetic people in our industry regarding fur bans?
“I have had from the beginning a very open mind. People are allowed and entitled to their own opinion – so even if I find it hard to believe that people can be against fur I find it ok and I also think I have to accept it. As long as they take their decision based on facts and as well do not tell me what I can eat and what I can wear.
Being in politics and interested in politics makes you a bit of a discussion animal, so I also cannot say no to a good discussion around fur – that be in the supermarket line or in a Parliament. So, if I meet a person against fur or expressing views on fur I cannot help it – I need to start a discussion. That sometimes takes quite a lot of time when you meet new people. Last weekend I attended a yoga class in the local park and one lady was talking about the medieval market taking place in the park and said that she was afraid of going because their might be fur there… even if I just came for a relaxing yoga class I could not help it and went to her, presented myself and ended up inviting her to a fur farm…”
Oh, come ooooon! No clashes with any legislator then Mette?
“This is a very hard question – when you talk to politicians you go in with the aim of not having a clash. Nobody wins with a clash. The task you have as a lobbyist or an influencer in politics is to figure out where there are common grounds. Sometimes that is of course hard, but in most cases, you actually find some common ground. I was meeting a politician last week and he was not a big supporter of the fur sector – mainly because he believed that it is not really a product you need. However, where we did find common ground was on what is needed for protecting our environment and using our resources better. So, in the end he got a new perspective of the fur sector and that we actually have a fully circular natural product, where e.g. the animals are fed with waste products from other industries that cannot be used for human consumption.”
May this be a lesson on how to keep it cool my darling readers (yes, I’m taking note as well, don’t you worry).
But, lets get back to our main topic: women, leadership with a heart and Mette. This means, that The Fur Guru wants to find out how this recipe works out with other (male) legislators:
“In Europe and working with the European Union it is quite normal to have female lobbyists. I do not see that as a special thing really. Today you also meet quite many female politicians in the European Parliament. When the Parliament started in 1970, just 16,6 percent was represented by women. Today there is around 37,4 percent. In the Member States/national level, the percentage of women in the European Parliament is now higher than in the national parliaments, with the exceptions of Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Portugal, Poland, Lithuania and Cyprus. I do not think legislators respond differently to women lobbyists today.”
Well, that’s fab news then! It might be then, that some of my fellow sisters want to join this movement too. So, what is it for Mette that makes politics so engaging and exciting?
“I think it is important to be open and talk about what we do and also to de-mystify the European Union. I often meet people thinking that it is very complex and difficult to get influence over the politics, but in reality, the European Union political scene is quite transparent and it is very easy to get meetings with politicians and stakeholders.”
You know the Guru is the Guru because she knows it all… meh, not really. And it had to be Mette (of course!) who gave her a bit of a reality check. But a good one! Because this Guru was mistakenly believing that women aren’t as involved as men in politics and legislations referring fur. She approached Mette with this query and this is what the legislator responded:
“I am not sure I actually agree with this. If I look to Europe many of the associations leaders are actually women. Look at Isolde in Belgium, Marja in Finland, Sandra in Latvia, Alessandra in Italy, Barbara and Susanne in Germany, Anna in Hungary, Pavlina in Bulgaria and Danielova from Slovakia . These are only a few examples and you will find many more if you look around Europe. So, I do not feel alone with the political passion in Europe and I also think there are more women than what you just see at first glance.”
Mette is a powerful voice and woman but, she is quite humble about the position she is in nowadays. You would assume that someone with her experience in regulatory and legal matters, as well as her Fur Europe CEO position could make her quite out of touch with people around her. You see, all the commitments, travelling and responsibilities… but, more importantly, what and who she represents. She is a female leader with a voice that is eager to help others to step up and participate in more dogmatic practices. She knows that and her response was very Mette’s style:
“The only thing we can do to get more women involved is to be active and show a good example.”
Mette is a positive thinker. So, The Fur Guru has been wondering all throughout this interview how does this lady see women input to open new doors for fur in the future? The Guru expects a promising response:
“I think it is actually the same for both women and men. I believe the future of this sector lies with the people being active in it. With the family members that run the farms, with the retailers that sell our products, with the furriers that have been furriers in generation after generation. If they tell their story openly to people, to media and to politicians we will kill off some of those myths that are going around about fur. But only if we dare to stand up – not being afraid of saying that we work for the fur industry and we walk to work every day being proud of the sector!”
The most outstanding quality of Mette is her commitment with the fur industry. She’s not alone (thankfully!) but there is still a lot of work to be done. Mette is aware of it and her motto is the search for people to stop feeling afraid and start feeling proud of being part of this trade. She works hard every day to represent with transparency and truth our industry and she’s looking for more people who think alike. The Guru approached Mette thinking she will meet a woman with an iron fist, standing bold in a male dominated industry – politics – but through the process and the discussion, I found a woman empowering other woman standing humble and open to transforming one of the most difficult topics in this industry – legislation. Mette Lykke Nielsen represents the regeneration that truth incites, the exoneration that comes from heart-felt principles.
P.S. My dearest followers, hope you loved as much as I did the beginning of this fabulous journey full of inspiring, heart-felt stories. I hope on this ride, you learnt how important it is to listen to our stories and learn from each other. It has been an absolute pleasure to meet all these powerful female voices and their stories. The Guru is grateful and humbled. Expect more stories in the second stage of this amazing project. Until then, keep safe.
The Fur Guru xx