When I started working in recruitment back in 2001 (not sooo long ago), customers regularly said “I want a chief accountant, it should be a man between 35 but not older than 50”. Today, politics implement women’s quota, there are business clubs for women only and even job boards for female senior executives. I wanted to know more about female executives and women’s quota and interviewed Nicole Bernthaler, founder and CEO of Exxecta, a newly launched platform for female senior executives:
The following questions will tell us more about women in business and answer the question if quota are a good thing or pure discrimination of men:
Jorg Stegemann: Nicole, you are a woman and you are senior manager. So what? What’s so special about this and what is the buzz about women’s quota all about?
Nicole Bernthaler: As long as there is such a huge discrepancy in relation of female Senior Executives to male Senior Executives in management positions and boards in the business world and even more the discrepancy in the remuneration of female and male employees, I wouldn’t simply call it a buzz but a logical discussion we all need to have – regardless whether we are male or female leaders or decision makers. Simply believing in the self-regulating forces of the employment and recruiting market is not a solution, therefore I strongly believe that a quota would be a good first step to make the change happen, a change that can only be implemented top-down.
Jorg Stegemann: Isn’t this discrimination? Should not the BEST candidate win?
Nicole Bernthaler: Sure the best candidate should win. But still for many vacancies women are not even considered to fill this role, neither included in the placement process. So in order to actually find the best candidate female candidates need to be considered right from the start. There is no proof that the best candidate has to be a male candidate. So if we are using the term “Discrimination” it rather describes the situation of the working women today then the situation men will find themselves once a statutory quota will be implemented. A quota will lead us closer to equality, not to discrimination.
Jorg Stegemann: The world is changing, “faster than it used to” as Linda Hill, president of Boeing, put it. How will the role women play in business evolve?
Nicole Bernthaler: The role model of women in our society is changing over the last decades. If you look at the role model most of us grew up with, there was a clear differentiation between the tasks of a woman and the tasks of a man. Women were managing the family life, men were in charge of the business world. But the boundaries between female and male tasks have started to dissolve, women have their own professional perspectives now, they are as well educated and qualified like men and most of them are not satisfied with staying at home and raising children. In addition, the days where people start their working life, make their career until they retire in one company are gone. There is no job security any more, neither for women, nor for men. To leverage the risk of our modern professional world, where being made redundant can happen to everybody and where crisis is a common situation, women are contributing to the financial welfare of a family much more nowadays. Last but not least we will see a huge growth in highly qualified women, as already today there are more female students than male students. So to put it in simple words: I believe the future is a woman.
Jorg Stegemann: Why should companies have more female managers? Please don’t be banal and talk about more than emotional intelligence or empathy only”.
Nicole Bernthaler: Leaving all the “banal stuff” aside, one reason to me is more than obvious: Companies are selling their products and services to customers of both genders, male and female. So to really succeed they need to be able to develop their products according to the needs of both customer groups, should speak both languages, understand different requirements. A product that was designed, developed, sold and managed by male managers only will certainly not make it on top of the consumers’ purchase list, which is – we all know it – mainly in the responsibility of the women.
Secondly, female managers are more than vital for a company because they often care more. This is maybe a genetic heritage, carried over from the areas when men still went out hunting and women stayed at home guarding the fire, which was a vital requirement for the survival of the whole group. This sense of caring is still a female characteristic, so hiring a woman on the right job will result in a manager who is fully committed to her job, and she will give much more than the regular job demands. And yes, this leads us also back to the “banal” soft skills of a woman, emotional intelligence and empathy. Not to forget, women are multi tasking specialists. Whilst working on her management tasks and projects, female managers are very likely to be at the same time involved in much more things that are going on in the background, something a company can largely benefit from.
Jorg Stegemann: What is the advice you can give to women leaders on positioning, job search, gaining their real potential in a (still) mens-driven world?
Nicole Bernthaler: My main advice is: Don’t try to be a better man. Being a woman is different than being a man, and you can also be successful as a woman. Listen carefully, try to understand the male language, which is often very different to our female language. Use your charms, but don’t exaggerate. Stay focused and objective and don’t take everything personal. Convince with you skills, your expertise and your female way of doing the job. If you are looking for a new job and you are afraid of a men’s world or a boy’s club, then don’t take the job: If you’re not ready to compete with men, you’re not yet ready to compete on this level of management at all.
Jorg Stegemann: Thank you, Nicole, for your insight! One last question please: anything that has to be managed by quota is bullshit, right?
Nicole Bernthaler: The answer to this question is still open – and often depends on what chromosome set you were supplied with…
Jorg Stegemann: I see. When I argue with my wife, it always ends like this too. Why is that so…
On the interviewee:
Nicole Bernthaler has over 15 years of management experience. She has worked in several senior management roles, e.g. Managing Director Germany lastminute.com and Chief Marketing Officer at Worldhotels. Nicole has started her own consulting company and is the founder of the newly launched platform for Female Senior Executives www.exxecta.com