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Heleen Mees

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Economist & Public Policy Expert

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About Heleen

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Keynote speaker Heleen Mees is a Dutch columnist, economist, and lawyer. Involved with politics and public policy in the Netherlands and the United States, she gives fascinating keynotes on topics such as the global economy, public policy, immigration and China.

Heleen Mees is a former Adjunct Associate Professor at New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Policy, and before that Assistant Professor. Mees is a columnist for the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant and she writes opinion articles for international publications including Foreign Policy, The Financial Times, and Project Syndicate.

Having worked in Europe, the United States, and China, Mees has a unique perspective on world affairs. Her fields of expertise include China, the global economy, Wall Street, immigration in Europe, women’s issues, and the United States.

She is in high demand as a guest on talk shows and news programs and is the author of four books. In her latest book, The Chinese Birdcage – How China’s Rise Almost Toppled the West (2016), Mees explores China’s significant influence on western economies by focusing on the link between the labor market, corporate profits, and interest rates, using Arthur Lewis’ framework for economic growth with unlimited supplies of labor to argue that by 2010 the world economy – and political situation – had been set back almost one hundred years. In Between Greed and Desire – The World Between Wall Street and Main Street (2009), Mees discusses the different models for integration in Europe and the United States. While the global financial crisis showed that greed has had a destructive impact on the economy, the desire to build a better life is still the main source of social progress.

In 2006 Mees co-founded Women on Top, an organization that advocates more women in top jobs. As an opponent of glass ceiling and the old boys’ network, Mees campaigned for 30 percent representation of women on all company boards.

Mees graduated in both economics and law. She is fluent in English and Dutch and speaks Chinese, French, and Italian. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

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    Speaker Heleen Mees Keynote Topics

    • The Global Economy
    • Public Policy
    • Wall Street
    • China & the Chinese Economy
    • Women’s Issues
    • Immigration

Interview with Heleen Mees

Who or what inspires you most?

Women who step up and stand out inspire me most. I believe it is very important that women take up their space in the public sphere and influence policy decisions. Luckily, we live in a time where there are ample of women who do just that. There is a female chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, and a female head of the IMF. By 2017, the world may not only have a female German chancellor, but a female UK prime minister and female US president as well.

Do you have a favorite experience from your career?

Moving to Brussels in 1998 to work for the European Commission is probably my favourite, to at least the most formative, experience. In Brussels I realised how intellectually stimulating it is to work with people from all different nationalities and background. In 2000, I moved on to New York City, the ultimate melting pot. I would never want to give that up anymore.

How are your keynote presentations unique?

My presentations are unique as I combine a unique number of perspectives, having worked both for government as well as the private sector, in Europe, the United States and China, alternatively in the role of policymaker, adviser, researcher, advocate, and opinion writer.

In your view, what are the most pressing threats to the world economy?

The most pressing threat to the world economy is the failure of the winners of globalisation to redistribute the spoils of globalisation with the others. That’s why we see in a great number of advanced economies (the UK, the US, France, the Netherlands) that the working class is revolting, threatening the very post-war makeup of the global economy.

What did you want to achieve when you started Women on Top?

Women on Top set out to campaign for Dutch legislation for gender balance on corporate boards, both supervisory and executive. Once we had reached our goal, we liquidated Women on Top.

Can you give three tips for women trying to make it in the business world?

  • Start by picking out a bèta education.
  • Outsource a lot of home-making and childcare (or find a partner who is willing to do it).
  • Work hard and take credit for it.
See keynotes with Heleen Mees
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Keynote topics with Heleen Mees