dotmagazine: Jutta, you’re not only eyeo’s COO, but you also advocate for women in leadership and are a speaker on this core topic. At the current time, 50 percent of eyeo’s C-level management positions are occupied by women, and you are actively striving towards at least 50 percent in other management positions company-wide. What culture and tools have been instigated in order to work towards these goals?
Jutta Horstmann: At eyeo, we share three basic beliefs. One, in all aspects of running a business, diversity does improve the outcome. Two, women should equally take part in all decision-making processes. Three, this does not happen by itself, you can’t just will it into being. It needs conscious efforts.
This generally describes the culture at eyeo, and we made it very explicit by adding “Inclusivity” to the list of our company values. We also set ourselves the goal of 50 percent women in leadership positions and ensured support from shareholders and company on that goal.
Next, these values and goals need to be fully put into action. Here is an incomplete list of the measures taken:
- Train people managers for unbiased hiring and performance assessment
- Ensure balance recruitment pipelines (the hiring manager gets presented the same amount of female and male candidates)
- Investigate the gender-related pay gap, understand and eliminate the reasons
- Invest into family-friendly working conditions (trust-based working hours, no late company-wide meetings, paid time off – e.g. for Corona-related family care, paid child care, unlimited home office)
- Encourage male employees to take parental leave
dot: Do you believe that there is now more room for optimism – in other words, do you see the gender imbalance starting to shift somewhat?
Horstmann: Looking at the overall industry, I do not see real progress that would make me optimistic, especially not in Germany. The gender ratio in STEM studies is frozen at a very low level, and even in areas where women are equally represented when entering the job market, their ratio drops over the course of their careers.
What makes me most concerned here is that, especially in young companies, in startups, the female ratio is alarmingly low. The situation gets even worse in times of crisis, like with the pandemic or the war in Ukraine, where women and other marginalized groups are always the most negatively affected.
Still, this is not a given, and at eyeo we are able to shift the imbalance continuously to the better. We’re proud that, over the last 10 years, we doubled the female ratio of employees from around 20 percent to now over 44 percent, which is above and beyond the average industry numbers – the tech industry as a whole still has a long way to go here.
dot: Increasing the number of women in tech isn’t just something that companies can manage by themselves; it’s also a matter of having enough girls and women who are interested in applying for these jobs, either now or down the line. Do you see particular societal patterns that are thwarting girls’ interests in entering tech professions?
Horstmann: The reasons for the shortage of women in technical professions and in leadership positions are not only to be found in companies, but also in the baseline societal setup. From very early on, girls are systematically discouraged from showing strength, claiming space, and dealing with technical topics. We, as entrepreneurs, must succeed in giving impetus to drive one of the biggest and long-overdue changes our society has ever gone through.
dot: In order to break these molds, what tips might you offer to various stakeholders, whether it be employers, policymakers, teachers, parents (the list can go on)?
Horstmann: The only way to overcome systemic discrimination is affirmative action – the active effort to improve employment, educational, and other opportunities for women. For decision-makers, only paying lip service will not change anything. We need to put money where our mouth is and really invest into creating equal opportunities.
For people who help raise children, like parents and teachers, my wish is that we can overcome outdated stereotypes that limit both genders in their proper development. Unfortunately, especially modern marketing and advertising strongly reinforces these stereotypes. This means that everybody in charge of caring for young people needs to counteract the messages sent by advertising and mainstream media.
dot: If you were currently a teenage girl, are there one or two initiatives out there that you imagine would really spark your interest for a tech career?
Horstmann: As a bonus parent to two teenage girls, I see that today’s situation does not differ too much from when I was young. Teenagers are cautious about any special treatment, program, or anything that sets them apart from the mainstream or their peer group.
This means that this group often is not very much interested in affirmative action yet, or any specific “for girls” offerings. Nevertheless, these offerings are still very helpful, as they can provide a safe space for any girl who would like to get into tech topics, but feels they can’t learn and excel in a male-dominated environment.
But I think the only thing that really helps is showing kids (of both genders) real women succeeding in real jobs. Not as outliers, but as normal and mainstream as possible. Representation matters. This normality will lower the threshold for girls’ entry into the tech realm and encourage them to choose a job in one of the most interesting fields available!
As a computer science graduate with over 20 years of experience in the IT sector, Jutta founded her own software development company and grew it over a decade. She then moved into IT consultancy and organizational transformation, bringing this experience to eyeo in 2017. Today, Jutta co-leads eyeo as one of its two Managing Directors and holds the role of COO. In organizational development, she aims for excellence in execution, based on high-performing, self-organizing agile teams. Her technological focus centers on exploring what ad filtering can and will be in the future as it moves from desktop to mobile and beyond. She is also dedicated to ensuring a welcoming, friendly, and inspiring environment across the company, where diversity is appreciated and people feel valued, further cementing the strong sense of culture at eyeo.
This interview with Jutta Horstmann has also been published as a core part of the eco Association white paper “Girls in Tech: A Call to Action,” which was launched on the occasion of Girls’ Day, 28 April 2022. The white paper is founded not just on top-notch research studies, but also on insights from 15 role models from IT & tech companies and associations in Europe, the US and Africa. The far-reaching paper not only sets out lessons and recommendations for companies, but also key guidelines for policymakers & educators.
Please note: The opinions expressed in Industry Insights published by dotmagazine are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the publisher, eco – Association of the Internet Industry.