Women’s Day: How to reach 50% women in leadership as a tech company
eyeo’s COO Jutta Horstmann shares her winning formula for setting up a diverse leadership team.
Jutta, today is International Women’s Day, a good opportunity to look back at the development of women’s rights and gender equality. What is your impression, are we on the right track?
Jutta Horstmann: I definitely think we’ve made some progress in the last 20 years; back then, I was often the only woman at many industry events. Today, this is fortunately more uncommon, and at eyeo we’re also trying very hard to set a good example – but the tech industry as a whole still has a long way to go here.
However the reasons for the shortage of women in technical professions and in leadership positions are not only to be found in the companies, but also in the baseline societal set-up. From childhood, girls are systematically discouraged from showing strength, claiming space, and dealing with technical issues. We, as entrepreneurs, must succeed in giving impetus to society in order to break these molds.
The overall number of women working in the IT industry is currently 16%. You started “female leadership at eyeo” with the ambitious goal to get 50% of women in leadership positions. Can you tell us more about the results and what you learned along the way?
Jutta Horstmann: In 2006, I started my own software and database development company, and I set myself the goal of hiring 50% female employees – a goal which I was able to attain. Having a female CEO was incredibly helpful and showed me that role models are one of the key measures to hire female employees as a tech company. When I decided to join eyeo in 2017, I knew from the outset that I wanted to continue the task of bringing more women into leadership positions here. In 2020, we hit the 50 percent target at eyeo, a fact of which I’m very proud. This milestone shows that, with the right tools and company culture, this success story can be replicated.
A lot of tech companies are struggling to hire more women, especially for leadership positions. Can you share your advice?
Jutta Horstmann: Create a framework in your company that takes diverse lifestyles into account. This can take many different forms: for example, more home office options or more flexible working hours. If you don’t know where to start, talk to the people in your company who don’t represent the classic middle-aged computer scientist and ask what would help them. Set yourself binding goals, because veering off the beaten track can initially be somewhat uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Also commit to your goal externally and showcase your role models. Offering a platform to diversify leaders in your company not only encourages young women and girls to take this path, but will also motivate more women to apply.
You initiated “corona family care” to support caretakers at eyeo during the pandemic. What does it include and what was your motivation as a COO to set up this program?
Jutta Horstmann: During the Corona crisis, parents can take family time by the hour or day. Corona Family Time is not deducted from salary or days of leave. Insufficient child care structures prevent especially women from going back to work when they’ve had children. That’s why we do not only financially support daycare but we also decided to start corona family care. It was important to us to give parents greater flexibility, but at the same time the work in the respective teams has to function. This being the case, while Corona Family Care doesn’t have to be applied for or approved, the absence must nonetheless be made transparent in the team and documented.
I see the company management as having a duty to provide its employees with a working environment in which their mental and physical health are not impaired – and, of course, where their working capacity is also not compromised. It also makes more economic sense for colleagues to be rested and able to concentrate on their work with a clear head. I’m convinced that satisfied employees are also ones that are motivated, and I think the positive development of the company in the last year confirms this and shows that we are on a good path at eyeo.