The digital and Internet industry has proven to be a driver of jobs, even in times of crisis. Every day, new innovative business models and exciting professional fields are created that offer excellent prospects and that will significantly shape society’s digital future. However, all too often, women across the globe are still missing out on the lucrative career opportunities in the Internet industry. In the United States, just 25 percent of tech specialists are women – and, in Europe, this is even lower, at 18.5 percent. Yet, the call for female colleagues is getting louder and louder in the tech world. Because having more Women in Tech is not just a prerequisite for innovation and creativity, but is also essential for building trust – both internally within the company, and externally with customers. Ultimately, with the rising significance of the Internet industry’s role for society and the economy, there is simply no sector for which a full representation of society is more important.
To boost the numbers of Women in Tech and to give these women the visibility they deserve, in spring 2019, eco Association launched the German-based “#LiT – Ladies in Tech” initiative. The core founders of this initiative were Oliver Süme, eco Chair of the Board, and Lucia Falkenberg, eco Chief People Officer. In this interview, Lucia Falkenberg provides valuable insights into how to gain and retain trust for Women in Tech.
Hanna von der Au: Ms Falkenberg, you are Chief People Officer at the eco Association and DE-CIX. What are your top three arguments for a career in the Internet industry?
Falkenberg: First of all, there are the diverse and superb career opportunities. The IT sector is not only looking for programmers and developers but also, for example, is seeking lawyers in the field of data protection or experts in digital marketing, and controllers who make sure that the numbers add up.
In the digital industry, numerous new and crisis-proof jobs and job descriptions are emerging, such as Chief Digital Officer or Chief Information Officer. These positions are being newly created and new departments are being established. This means that, when women hold such positions, they can move up the ranks relatively quickly and have a lot of room for manoeuvre.
Another important factor is the excellent compatibility of work and family through New Work factors such as mobile working and diverse working time models.
Von der Au: What career tips do you have for Women in Tech?
Falkenberg: Make yourself visible and audible, take a chance and leave your comfort zone. Be open-minded about technical applications, focus on the pragmatic benefits of these solutions, and stay curious. The flourishing tech industry with its top-notch economic prospects offers great opportunities, not only for female programmers, but also in almost every other job sector and discipline.
Von der Au: How can employers in the industry succeed in attracting women – and in retaining their trust?
Falkenberg: Companies are clearly called upon to further improve the framework conditions for women: for example, to ensure fair pay and to promote female career paths – also at board level. Ultimately, however, it is a challenge for society as a whole to ensure that everyone has the same career opportunities, even after starting a family, and that responsibilities are shared in a fair manner.
Important levers lie above all in the area of human resources: our international “Women in Tech” study, which is available for download free of charge, contains many concrete measures ranging from personnel recruiting to management development. Managers are the most important drivers of diversity and equal participation of women in management positions.
Role models and visibility are what are absolutely essential. Companies should put their female experts and managers up-front in communications and external presentations. Female role models attract more female applicants, act as mentors for their female colleagues, and have a positive impact on the company’s image.
As part of eco’s #LIT initiative, we’ve recently published a white paper on “Women in Tech in Germany: Status Quo, Strategies, Best Practices & Success Factors”. In this paper (see the extract below), we’ve further spelt out these tips for employers in the industry.
HOW IT COMPANIES CAN ATTRACT WOMEN: 5 TIPS FOR EMPLOYERS
1. Role models are the be-all and end-all: get your female experts and managers in the front row.
Whether in internal or external meetings, at trade fairs, in job advertisements, in employer branding, or in PR and communication measures: The increased visibility of your female specialists and managers pays off positively for your image, both internally and externally, and attracts further female talent.
2. Create a corporate culture characterised by diversity – at all levels.
Heterogeneous teams are demonstrably more successful than homogeneous ones. However, people are still too often recruited, hired, and promoted based on the “principle of similarity”. To achieve diversity, you need to get all managers on board, because they play a key role in shaping and implementing a diversity-oriented corporate and HR policy. Promote a corporate culture that consciously promotes diversity and organise diversity training for managers and supervisors.
3. Provide framework conditions that make it easier to reconcile work and family life.
Are part-time work, sabbaticals or parental leave a career killer in your company? For many women, the compatibility of work and family plays a central role. What counts here, for example, are agreements on flexible working hours or mobile working as well as team meetings that take place in and not outside of core working hours. Adjust the framework conditions if necessary, and specifically highlight your company’s advantages for a good work-life balance when addressing women. Keep in mind that a good working atmosphere, flexibility, and freedom for personal life plans have been proven to increase motivation and employer attractiveness – for both women and men.
4. Create space for networking, further education, and mentoring formats.
Initiate an internal women’s network or mentoring programme or, alternatively, affiliate with external initiatives. On the one hand, mentoring is a proven personnel policy instrument to support onboarding. On the other hand, in connection with female mentors, it also makes role models visible. Staff retention and career development opportunities are closely linked. On the strength of transparent company processes and rules, career development should be clearly foreseeable for employees interested in advancement.
5. Take a new approach to employer branding and recruiting: target female applicants.
Seek recommendations from female professionals and managers, ask female company ambassadors to share a job advertisement in their networks. Make your benefits clear – for example, in terms of work-life balance. Always keep in mind that a job is not unattractive for women because it is in the digital industry, but because the opportunities in this branch are not communicated in a way that is appropriate for the target group.
Read more on this topic in the 2021 eco Association white paper "Women in Tech in Germany: Status Quo, Strategies, Best Practices & Success Factors", which can be downloaded free of charge here.
Lucia Falkenberg is Chief People Officer with eco – Association of the Internet Industry and DE-CIX Management GmbH. Having joined eco in 2012, Lucia became Head of the eco New Work Competence Group in 2014. Falkenberg is the founder of eco’s #LiT – Ladies in Tech initiative, which campaigns for more visibility for Women in Tech. Prior to her role at eco, the Business Studies graduate managed her own human resources firm, where she successfully supported numerous clients in finding and retaining talented personnel. Lucia also previously worked as an international HR representative for an American IT company. Her extensive experience and know-how across the entire human resources spectrum is of particular benefit when it comes to advising executives and developing and implementing targeted personnel marketing and recruitment strategies. As a professional mother and woman working in the digital sector, Lucia benefits directly from the opportunities offered by the digital world of work.
Hanna von der AU is PR Manager at eco – Association of the Internet Industry. She is responsible for the development of communication strategies and concepts, content marketing activities, social media channels, and press releases. The topics closest to Hanna’s heart are diversity and Women in Tech. She leads the activities around eco’s German #LiT – Ladies in Tech initiative and loves getting in touch with more women in the industry. Her aim is to make the Internet industry more colorful and diverse. Before joining eco in 2019, Hanna worked as a digital campaign consultant with a focus on content generation at a digital consultation agency (for customers like NRW.INVEST, GS1 Germany, Peek & Cloppenburg, Coop, Lufthansa).