Women in Leadership: The Strengths of Women Must Be Utilized More Effectively

Dagmar Henkel moved into a management position early on after completing her studies. She jumped in at the deep end and seized her opportunities with courage and ambition. She took advantage of the opportunity that many women still have to actively seek today. As a human resources professional, she emphasizes: in a changing society, diversity and the development of women as leaders can and should be pushed in a targeted way – with legal impulses, with greater openness on all sides, and not least with work organizational measures by companies.

Women are still significantly underrepresented in the IT industry. A look at the management level in particular reveals that things often still run according to ‘old patterns’ – just as in other industries. As a woman in a leading position at Babtec Informationssysteme GmbH, Dagmar Henkel is an example of both: that it is indeed rare, but also that it is a matter of course – and above all desired. The HR manager can look back on 30 years of professional experience in human resources at IT companies. In her various leadership roles, she has always been the only woman, or one among a few. “In the past, I still thought that women would prevail over their competence in any case and that a quota system was superfluous. Today, I see things differently,” she says.

Stereotypes Still Play a Role

Competence, expertise and ongoing training are indispensable factors for a professional career – regardless of gender – but in fact old role models are often still prevalent, especially at management levels. What is needed here is an opening from all sides – the companies, the colleagues and the women themselves. For some years now, a change has been noticeable in German society and adjusting screws have been turned: parental allowance, parental leave, equal pay discussions and quota regulations. “These measures are necessary and productive, but there is also still a lot of need for action to ensure that women develop professionally in the same way as their male colleagues,” says Dagmar Henkel. And that needs impetus.

Increasing the percentage of women in companies pays off. Diversity promotes better leadership and better overall performance.
Dagmar Henkel

Recognizing the Potential of Diversity

Many companies have yet to realize the benefits of having women in leadership, but some have already – like Babtec. “We want to become more diverse,” says the HR manager. Diversity in top management sends a signal to the outside world, she says, and increases employees’ willingness to develop within the company. “It promotes better leadership and better overall performance,” Henkel says, citing studies. With the proportion of women in the IT sector up, albeit relatively low, compared to last year, the company has set itself the goal of increasing its attractiveness as an employer in the highly technical environment and specifically targeting women. In addition to modern working conditions, which follow the New Work idea with open creative spaces and light-flooded workspaces, the measures include, for example, flexibilization options for employees. “Flexible working hours and self-determination of work location and time pay directly into satisfaction and promote the willingness of people in an organization to restructure themselves,” says Henkel. And that makes access easier for women.

Create Conditions for Development

“Anyone with a good education and professional experience brings a lot of potential to a company. This should not only be used, but also promoted – regardless of gender,” says Dagmar Henkel. The development of specialist career stages at Babtec is designed to meet this demand: “We direct the focus on the individual employee, looking at him or her against the background of our value chain. We want to recognize and use every single piece of know-how and expertise as potential for our company,” says the HR manager. Clearly formulated job requirements, transparency about the development stages and the criteria for achieving the stages provide orientation and the scope for development. And this not only appeals to specialists as such, but also promotes the further development of women.

This article was first published on Bergisch Competentia, the website of the Kompetenzzentrum Frau und Beruf Bergisches Städtedreieck.

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