20 Years of Girl’s Day – Interview with Payment & Banking

 

This article was originally published as part of a series by Payment & Banking on April 22nd, 2021 in German. You can find the original article in German here

In Germany, April 22nd, 2021, marked the twentieth anniversary of the nationwide campaign day, Girl’s Day (Mädchen-Zukunftstag). To mark this special occasion, Christina Cassala from German fintech blog Payment & Banking asked several leaders in the fintech industry about the importance of the day, as well as what their companies are doing to support the next generation of female fintech leaders. Among those interviewed was our Chief Risk Officer, Dr. Lea Maria Siering. 

For 20 years, the nationwide campaign day, Girl’s Day, has given girls a practical insight into occupational fields in which women have so far been underrepresented. This also includes the fintech scene, so we asked selected companies what contribution they make to getting more girls and women interested in the financial sector and entrepreneurship.

“In the fintech sector, the proportion of female founders is once again lower than in the startup ecosystem as a whole. Yet fintech startups in particular are strong drivers of innovation and growth,” says Franziska Teubert, Managing Director of the German Startups Association. Studies also show that employees of successful startups often found startups themselves.

We should make greater use of this cycle to attract more female founders: By promoting more women in management positions in startups and especially in scaleups, we will see more successful companies and more female founders in the future,” she continues.

However, according to current figures, social and cultural services continue to be 74 percent female, while in IT and science, women make up only about 24 percent of employees. “When I compare my socialization as a young person with that of my children, I can see a positive change. Nevertheless, we are still a long way from reaching our goal, and a lot of change is still needed, especially in education, when it comes to role clichés and gender stereotypes,” says Nina Pütz of the Berlin-based company Ratepay.

Some fintechs promote girls and young women

Who hasn’t felt this feeling: You have your secondary education degree in your pocket, but what happens now? You know the classic career paths like doctor, teacher, craftsman. But there is a need for better education and closer integration of practice and theory, i.e. of business, science and politics with education. “This is the only way to show students how they can use their talents and interests in professional life,” Pütz continues.

For exactly 20 years, therefore, the so-called Girl’s Day has been held annually, a nationwide day of action on which schoolgirls can get support in their career orientation process. The campaign gives them a practical insight into occupational fields in which women have so far been underrepresented. On this day, girls between the ages of 15 and 19 can gain an impression of everyday working or studying life by visiting companies and businesses, universities, research centers or public authorities, and discover their practical skills through – this year Corona-compliant (digital) – hands-on activities.

It’s that time again this Thursday, Payment & Banking has been asking around in the industry. We would like to know how much the fintechs are facing up to their responsibility when it comes to promoting young talent, especially girls and young women. And what contribution they make to strengthening the proportion of women in their companies. Because many studies prove: diverse teams are more successful!

“But we don’t just see considerable added value in founding and financing new ideas through diversity of perspectives in Germany: on the political and social side, too, many things would certainly change for the better,” says Dr. Lea Maria Siering of finleap connect. 

And this is what the companies have to say:

  • Dr. Lea Schroeder, Vice President Talent & Culture at Raisin.
  • Chris Plantener, founder and CEO of Kontist
  • Dr. Lea Maria Siering, Chief Risk Officer at finleap connect
  • Franziska Teubert, Managing Director of Bundesverband Deutsche Startups (German Startups Association)
  • Nina Pütz, CEO of Ratepay
  • Susanne Leiding, Business Development Manager Retail Banking at DKB

Today, boys become educators, girls IT specialists. Do role clichés and gender stereotypes still play a role at all in our society?

Lea Schroeder: “Unfortunately, gender stereotypes still influence career choices in STEM subjects. For example, women are still a minority in industries such as IT or finance.”

Chris Plantener: “Unfortunately, so far only one in seven IT specialists is a woman, so gender biases have not yet been eradicated. Many women say that they lack female role models to dare to take the step into a previously male-dominated industry. Boys probably feel the same way. That’s why we at Kontist are committed to female role models and hereby proudly refer to our female share of 50%.”

Lea Maria Siering: “Unfortunately, role stereotypes still play a very large role in our society. That shouldn’t be the case, but as long as terms like “working mom” or “power woman” are still circulating, we still have a long way to go. They make it clear that gender stereotypes are still firmly anchored in our thinking, actions and communication.

We believe that such still entrenched stereotypes and stereotypes not only harm women, but also affect men as well as the entire LGBTQIA+ community: They condition ‘Toxic Masculinity’ and can lead to things like men not being able to talk openly and honestly about their emotions, admit mistakes, and be sensitive.” 

How do you contribute to giving young people an orientation in their professional life, which, as we know, is not always straightforward?

Lea Schroeder: “We feel it is essential for career orientation to give young people an insight into the exciting (professional) world of financial technology. We are involved in job fairs and offer internships and working student positions during their studies. In addition, we support young people financially through scholarships so that they can concentrate fully on their studies and get to know financial technology at an early stage.”

Nina Pütz: “We are an official training company. With this, we not only want to create more apprenticeships, but as a tech company that is strong on women, we want to show young women in particular that tech is not just a male domain.”

Chris Plantener: “We at Kontist, and especially our colleagues at the Kontist Foundation, never tire of campaigning for better framework conditions and more education around self-employment. When it comes to career prospects, self-employment in Germany is often still dismissed as a kind of stopgap solution or, conversely, equated with founding a start-up, for which you first have to raise 5 million euros in seed capital. But women in particular start up very differently, often as sole proprietors, and very successfully.

We should do a much better job of communicating to young people what forms of employment there are out there, what the economic and legal framework conditions are in each case, and that great career happiness is not necessarily synonymous with a permanent position. At the same time, we should give young people the good news that the working world of the future will be extremely flexible and that you shouldn’t let temporary disorientation drive you crazy.”

Lea Maria Siering: “We have launched various initiatives in which we try to address existing grievances and proactively change them within our company. We want to be a role model when it comes to such issues. But we also realize that it takes longer than expected. Our mentoring program, which we launched last year, is particularly exciting for young people. We currently employ almost a dozen working students, who are thus actively supported by our mentoring program in their orientation to professional life. Many of our previous working students have become junior managers at finleap connect, for example, or have stayed on at other companies in the finleap ecosystem. Within the teams, we also make sure that we actively offer support for young talent by always having experienced colleagues available as contact persons. 

To this end, we have what we call a Diversity Community Initiative, which is led by our People & Operations team, and the WomanX Initiative, which is just starting; the initiative is aimed exclusively at women in finance and technology, both inside and outside the company. We want to use this to give women more visibility, but also to expose, challenge and change existing stereotypes, role models, expectations and prejudices. Our goal is to achieve at least a 50/50 in all areas of our company.” 

Franziska Teubert: “In the Startup Association, we offer female founders various stages: Our committees have equal representation and we deliberately give the German Startup Awards to both male and female founders in a separate category. We have also launched the #startupdiversity initiative to draw attention to the hurdles and obstacles faced by female founders, to highlight possible solutions, and to give female founders greater visibility.

Susanne Leiding: “We consciously support campaigns like #girlsday to show the different perspectives that exist. In doing so, we just want to show the girls: These days, nothing really works without an understanding of technology, and we provide practical insights into the Digital Products area, the DKB Code Factory and the Business Intelligence area, among other things.

Colleagues with different backgrounds show their way and give an impression of their work. In addition, we have been involved in the Hacker School initiative with other fintech players for two years now. Children and young people learn how to program (in a fun way) from volunteer developers.

In concrete terms, we then offer various training opportunities ourselves: Apprenticeships, different trainee programs and a Junior Expert program. Motivation is often the deciding factor, rather than pure qualifications on paper. In my experience, the CV – whether straightforward or not – says little about the suitability of applicants.”

Do you focus on promoting young female talent?

Lea Schroeder: “Promoting young women is very important to Raisin. When we advertise jobs, we make sure that the wording is inclusive and attractive to women. We promote our team through our Talent Program, various trainings specifically for women, and even our Female Empowerment Forum.” 

Nina Pütz: “We are involved in initiatives such as the Hacker School. It’s about introducing young people, especially girls between the ages of 11 and 18, to programming and getting them excited about it. Just recently, we launched another Hacker School initiative together with DKB and Solarisbank. The interest was huge.”

Susanne Leiding: “Of course, supporting and specifically promoting women in and for management positions is very important to us. There are a wide variety of measures and initiatives for this, such as a cross-mentoring program, the TogetHER women’s network, or even an LGBTQ+ community. After all, it is DKB’s clear goal to empower and inspire women – also and especially because the proportion of women in management positions is to be increased.

Do we need more and more visible role models to encourage them, and parents, educators and teachers to help young people challenge constricting stereotypes? And along with that, do we need more women in leadership positions?

Lea Schroeder: “Above all, we need role models for women who show that career and family are also compatible in management positions. Managers at Raisin set a good example and actively support people with families, for example through mentoring and a high degree of flexibility for a better work-life balance.” 

Nina Pütz: “I agree with all the points. Role models are some of the best education, because they show us what is possible, and that releases incredible motivation. When girls see that strong women in leadership positions exist and they sympathize with them, they are also less likely to shy away from pursuing that career.”

Lea Maria Siering: “Absolutely, that shouldn’t be a question at all about whether we need it. The question should rather be how to implement it successfully in our society. Role models are certainly important – people who don’t fit into these images: the male secretary and cleaner, the female CTO, the male educator and the female CEO. In terms of leadership positions, a legal quota is certainly a kind of lever here that can be used to accelerate development. Likewise, consider paying the 14-month parental allowance only if the man also takes 7 months of parental leave. Only in this way can an equal society be formed.”

Why should business and society do much more to focus on true potential and talent, and break down traditional role stereotypes?

Lea Schroeder: “In the current ‘war for talent,’ companies can no longer afford to do without half the population. Politicians and companies must manage to create attractive working conditions for women and mothers in order to ensure the actual compatibility of ‘child and career’.” 

Chris Plantener: “The German economy and society have no choice at all, otherwise we will lose our prosperity in the next few years. Our world is becoming increasingly networked and digital with a simultaneous shortage of skilled workers; in Germany, we urgently need to think about how we can better manage the transformation from an industrial to a knowledge society. This clearly involves prioritizing talent and potential over formal degrees, hierarchical levels and outdated role models.”

What do you think young people need to make a self-determined career and study choice?

Chris Plantener: “Young people should be shown much more impressively where our working world is heading in the next ten to twenty years, and that they will always have to learn more anyway in a digital, networked world. Degrees and certificates are becoming less and less important, expert knowledge more and more important. For career decisions to be truly self-determined, similar framework conditions must be created for all forms of work and life. In Germany in particular, there are still a number of bureaucratic hurdles in the way.”  

Lea Schroeder: “For career orientation, successful role models, confidence in oneself, and practical insights into lesser-known occupational fields help me decide what’s right for me.”

Lea Maria Siering: “This is an exciting question that is difficult for us to answer: what is important is a good, fair education, sometimes equal opportunities. Here we observe the developments in the past with great concern. The Corona crisis – and this is currently already evident from studies – reinforces this in that children from educational households have a massive advantage over children whose parents are currently either unable or unwilling to make up for the shortfalls due to missed classes.  

What is also important is helpful information about career and study opportunities. These should not become an issue just before the end of the school career, but sooner. School internships are certainly a very good start, but it needs to go deeper. For example, universities and colleges could conceivably make information days better known and more accessible to a wider audience.  And as a society, we should discard existing expectations: anything is possible today, and we should discard the corset of a classic career.”

Susanne Leiding: On the one hand, better overview of the possibilities and an understanding of the content of possible courses of study and jobs.

And on the other hand, above all, role models; they can often serve as orientation and support young people by means of experiences, stories and the passion for their respective job description.

Last but not least, self-reflection should become a school subject and be given greater importance.

When a palette of possibilities has been shown: what do you want to achieve for yourself, what is important to you, and what do you identify yourself with? What is the impact I want to have on myself?

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