July 6th, 2017
On Saturday, I attended the PANDA Leadership Contest in Berlin.
Here’s a bit about my experience…
I took some interesting points from the leadership contest this weekend, where I was kindly elected by my peers as one of the Top 10 Winners. It is such an amazing energy to be around 200 woman who all are focused, motivated and ambitious. I also really liked the context that one was being voted for through online voting by the ladies actually present on the day and I very much enjoyed the instant feedback given afterwards face to face by every single group member.
The keynote speaker Tanja Wielgoss from the Berliner Stadtreinigung was a really positive example of someone who has a great career, worked really hard but still has a personal life she tries to maintain a healthy balance.
Here are the most important or surprising aspects that I took from the day:
No one likes an alpha woman
The women who truly excelled on this training day where the more empathetic, compassionate leaders, who were encouraging and did not enforce their own views on others.
There comes a time when we all look for someone to take the reins but that person shouldn’t feel the need to be constantly profiling themselves, or reassessing their actions. It is really important to find one’s own voice but still be a team player. That dominant alpha female is not popular and certainly does not create an environment of creativity and openness.
Having children is still a source of concern for an ambitious career woman
I was sat at a round-table where motherhood was being discussed and the issues surrounding this (how to balance a career and family, when is the right timing, how will my partner and my workplace respond) are still as current and relevant as 20 years ago.
I was struck by how meticulous these women were in planning the right time to have a child, and was also struck by how negative the experience had been amongst mothers. They felt disadvantaged, side-lined, and actively tried to gloss over being a mother at work.
I must say, it did make me feel quite sad and very concerned. When speaking to those in the group who wanted children (of course, not everyone does) I said that, for me, having children has been the most enriching experience of my life. It is certainly tough, but it helps you become more resourceful and decisive about your career. It has also forced me to really consider my priorities, making me far more efficient (with considerably less procrastination!). Do I see having my kids as a trade-off to an inferior career? Absolutely not!
With regard to my career, I have 30 + years to reinvent, rethink and reshape into what will best propel me forward. Of course I want to maintain an interesting career that continues to move in the right direction, but would that enrich me and make me feel complete when i am old? This may well be the case for some but for me, most likely not!
Children are for life; they are emotional, they are a part of you, and they teach you about yourself in ways no one could have before. After a bad day at work I go home to my family, something that will love and cherish me (or so I hope) for my entire life. Others may find this in a pet, their partner, or something else, but for me personally, it is my kids. They are a source of passion and love I never thought I needed, and I strive because of them, not despite them.
Speaking to this incredible group of women also made me realise how lucky I actually am! My partner is actively involved in our childcare and we truly are living a 50% split without guilt, question or hesitation. My husband is a reliable partner in the family unit and I did not have to sit him down and talk that through; it was simply understood that we were equals. I am also very fortunate that my work has enabled me to be flexible. It doesn’t always work out but most of the time I can find balance.
My advice that day was: if you want children, go for it! There will never be a ‘right time’, only the knowledge you want them.
Social Media is still an awkward tool for most
One of our tasks during the weekend event was to begin formulating a social media campaign and think about how we might implement it. I was struck by the limited knowledge that the people in my group had about social media, on either how to use the different networks or what to do with them. I still think Germany is trailing behind on using social media intuitively and involving it effectively in a campaign.
No one really knew how Twitter is used, what Facebook is for or what to do on Instagram. What was most surprising was that even simple things, such as how to post on Twitter or how to check if your profile is private or not, were still relatively new areas for the group.
I wonder why in Germany so many people are still reluctant to use social media rather than seeing it as an essential part of business. Relatively, we spent very little time on using social platforms (at least with the hashtags) considering that there were 200 of the brightest female leaders, aged from 20-40 years old, in one room. That definitely surprised me.
I am over the gender debate, despite knowing there is still such a big disparity
Discussions around gender inequality and the leadership gap have been going on for such a long time now that it has almost become a boring topic. I know this is controversial to say and see below some fabulous posters created on our leadership task from the day. Check it out
Of course it is still relevant, and it is still a big issue (I believe we are at 18% in Germany), but I am so fiercely optimistic when I see so many wonderfully talented women emerging in business that I think it is simply a matter of time. One idea that came out of the discussing the gender debate, is why don’t we have a female members club in Germany? A space exclusively for women to make business (maybe to counter the golf or cigar culture). Perhaps we should be creating more spaces for women and profiling more female leaders so the next generation have role models to look up to and aspire to. I also always bring up to the LGBT community and ethnic diversity and wonder why there are no imposed quotas on those at senior level. Great to see PANDA doing a LGBT contest! https://RAHM | The World’s First LGBTI Leadership Contest
I think an enforced quota also has its dangers: not always the best person perhaps gets the job.
All in I had a great day, I look forward being part of the PANDA community and meeting many more inspiring female leaders in years to come.
If you are interested to know more about PANDA, check it out and the coming initiatives (in German):