Female leaders – a vacant position?

Over the past decades, Austria has followed a slow trend towards more female leadership, resulting in a country, governed by a majority of female ministers. Nonetheless, many women are still at a critical disadvantage compared to men when it comes to working conditions, salaries, and their roles in companies.

2020, the year of the corona crisis, has shown, just how much of a disparity there still is as the unemployment rate amongst women has been significantly higher than that amongst their male colleagues. Why? Because it is still the women that take care of family and children.

Home office, often a double burden

In November, four leading women spoke about this topic at a webinar organised by karriere.at, which DreiKreis joined for you. Here is a summary:

Presenter Lisa-Marie Linhart, Content Manager, karriere.at and her guests Julia Fandler, CEO Ölmühle Fandler, Tanja Buratti, Store Manager IKEA Wien Nord, Nina Kaiser, Co-Founder and CEO 4Gamechangers Festival and Sibylle Nowak, CFO karriere.at as well as most of the participants joined from their home office.

Working remotely, though well-known from the spring lockdown, is particularly challenging for female employees. A whopping 97% of the participants and most of the panel agreed during a real-time poll presenter Linhart created that women are more involved than men in additional family organisation. On top of the usual workload they organise family, relationship as well as the household and communication with social infrastructures such as kindergarten, schools, and other parents.

97% think women have more responsibilities at home during lock down!

CEO Fandler presumes, this could be down to a difference in thinking. “Evolution has given women better organisational capabilities,” she says. Therefore, an even distribution of tasks may not be needed.

Ask for help!

However, Fandler continues, it is important that women learn to ask for help, voice exactly what they need, and then accept support. CFO Nowak adds: “I have learned to lay aside my own detailed plans. When I let things happen in their own time, I find things work out too.”

DreiKreis CEO Johanna Kerber knows the double burden of job and family only too well. Originally, we had planned to both attend the webinar. But the mother of two found keeping the scheduled appointment on the first day of the new lockdown with both her kids at home impossible.

“Even though my partner and me organise ourselves and the family well and distribute tasks fairly, it is unthinkable to support two children of different age in their studies, prepare breakfast and lunch, get ready and focus on the event,” Kerber says.

Perfect organisation und positioning is key when it comes to a balance between home office and home schooling, knows Johanna Kerber too well. (c) DreiKreis

“Over the next weeks, we have decided to send the kids to school for the morning period. This is how other mothers at DreiKreis do it too. It is much easier to concentrate on work if you get a couple of hours when no-one wants anything at home,” says the CEO. She also recommends to schedule appointments were they truly fit in for you.

“You need a structure that works and that you can rely on. Also, don’t expect too much during this phase, it doesn’t always have to be three course menu for lunch. I know exactly what I’ll cook for my kids next day, even if it’s only a cheese toast. That way I don’t need to think about it anymore.”

Management support

The four leading women agree that what employees need is the wholehearted support of their management in this difficult situation. A special focus should be good communication. This could be a daily video message, regular telephone conversations or comprehensive information about government support.

“During the first lockdown I noticed that my grasp of how my employees were doing was slipping,” reports Nowak. “While I see even subtle changes in people when they are in the office, this is much harder at a distance. Therefore, it is important to ensure open communication, to ask and to really listen!”

Systematic support, open communication

Kaiser adds: “We need a culture in which employees dare ask for help. We, the management, need to provide maximum safety and respond to our employees’ difficulties with the greatest possible flexibility.”

At DreiKreis we all pull together when it comes to communication. “We talk much more, where possible, use video telephony. Every morning the operative team has a stand-up meeting,” says Kerber. “However, it is important to accept that not everything will go smoothly, and that children might burst unexpectedly into a telephone conference.”

The executives on the panel agree that there are positive aspects to the crisis. Especially that even traditional companies have been forced to jump into the deep end of digitalisation. This year, they underline, shows that new working models, agile, flexible times and workplaces aren’t just possible but the way forward.

Be self-confident, dream big and join women’s networks

The webinar also provided information and support for future women leaders.

It takes courage, Fandler, Kaiser, Nowak and Buratti agree, initiative and self-confidence, frequently a thick skin to follow your dreams, achieve success. They encourage women to accept setbacks not to throw the towel easily. “Failing every now and again is almost inevitable. Relish a challenge and don’t shy away from responsibility!” We should also look for positive role models and use networks of other like-minded women.

“Be bold!” Nowak advises and Fandler adds: “Dare to be female, dare to be emotional. Be yourself and don’t copy men!”

We want to thank karriere.at for organizing this interesting webinar!
Read more about the even here.
Picture credits: title (c) karriere.at

You are interested in women and IT as much as we? DreiKreis offers a variety of articles on this topic, introducing fascinating women. Why not read about what Lori Beer, CIO, JP Morgan has to say or check out our article on the Hedy Lamarr award.