Women follow Women

Our path to more women in leadership positions

An article by Verena Mayer - Founder & Managing Director.

This year we were able to fulfill one of my personal goals and I'm particularly proud of that. Our share of women was merely 35% in 2020. I was the only female in our leadership positions. My personal goal as CEO was to take a big step forward and to empower and further develop women. Today we have a balanced ratio of 50:50. Now we have four more women alongside me in our leadership circle. This female energy is palpable and valuable for the whole Company.

How do you succeed in attracting women to management positions?

Here are my learnings and personal tips:

Women follow women. Women attract other women. Where women already work successfully other women follow. On the other hand, women also leave when masculinity dominates too much. I often hear that women feel uncomfortable when leadership positions are solely occupied by men. Whoever is the first woman to join, always has it harder, since there is a double role to be carried out: On the one hand the professional, on the other hand the role of the woman who has to position herself. Its always easier when women are already there. Personally, I have heard time and time again from female applicants that they consider it very positive that Mirco Wüstholz and I are a male-female owner duo and that there is already a woman at the top with me.

Empowering women in their strengths. We need femininity to maintain a good balance. I wish everybody would recognize how strong female leadership is. The biggest difference between men and women in my eyes is that men are more factually oriented and women are more people oriented. And especially now in times of war, crisis and uncertainty do we need exactly that: The orientation towards people. With more femininity in companies, we achieve a good balance of energies. The study from Zenger Folkman "Women are better leaders during crisis" shows, that companies lead by females are extremely stable. Femininity connects and stands for initiative, motivation, integrity, trust and harmony. Especially ow we can make good use of these qualities. We should consciously focus on them instead of expecting women to be better men.

Create flexibility and infrastructures. In all honesty: there are still too many people today that think "I shouldn't hire a woman, she'll just get pregnant anyway". And? Wouldn't it be  better to say: We will create infrastructures, so women feel comfortable enough to know, that they will be a valuable addition to the organization even as mothers? Flexible working models, mobile working, part-time and job sharing offer parents great benefits when they want to pick up their children and look after them partly at home. How about we help with childcare as well? An in-house nanny with a nursery at the company (we have one of those!) is a pretty great option. This way, children can also some along to work sometimes and experience what their parents to during the day. Or we can simply enable parents to receive subsidies for the daycare center or pay the daycare center fees completely - this offers a tax advantage for both sides compared to a salary increase. These are all ways that make it easier for women to recommend themselves.

Making women strong for other women too. When we combine our strengths and bet on other women as women, that has an enormous impact. So let us motivate, inspire and give feedback to each other - only then can we grow. Keeping each other down can not be the solution. We should collectively trust each other more to master big tasks together, to recommend other women and to selectively refer each other. Because female role models are the best marketing for women. We need more role models and personalities who inspire young women in particular. As stated above: Women follow women.

Women. show yourselves. With this tip I want to encourage women: Show yourselves! Women often do not offer themselves for leadership positions. They put themselves at the back of the line and allow themselves to be kept down - or keep themselves down. Women often believe they are only good enough when they trade in female attributes to become tougher, stricter - more masculine. You don't have to be the better man as a women to get ahead. There is enough masculinity in our organizations. We need your authentic feminine strength.

I am very excited to enter the new year with my strong Female Leadership team around Katharina Ghafoor-Zadeh, Sandra Kimmel, Katrin Kehrer and Karen Frohnwieser. And I am convinced, that with our now balanced male-female strength at VON HELDEN UND GESTALTEN GmbH we have the biggest power to be sustainably successful and conquer hearts.

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