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the future of diversity - interview with mahdis gharaei

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

Imagine the following scenario: A new Corona Tracking App is presented in a media-effective manner. The developer & CEO of the app, as well as the head of state and the minister of health will be present at the corresponding press conference. Now describe for yourself what these people look like; how old are they? Which gender are they?

Experiments like these repeatedly show which role models and gender-specific prejudices continue to subconsciously influence us. Today, Daniel and Markus talk to Mahdis Gharaei - Co-Founder & CEO at the female factor in our last podcast episode before the summer break - on this topic, as well as about dual leadership and why you shouldn't be a Nutella glass.

Co-Founder & CEO at the female factor

© Tamás Künsztler
© Tamás Künsztler

"Bringing diversity to businesses & empowering & developing female leaders", these are Mahdis' motives for the career platform the female factor, which she launched together with co-founder Tanja.

Already in her school and university days, Mahdis dealt intensively with the topic of the gender gap in management positions, and unfortunately had to realize that little has changed in the numbers.

In Europe, women make up almost 50% of the workforce, but at around 8-9% they are still far from being present in top management positions. With the female factor, Mahdis and her team are trying to close this gender leadership gap, particularly in middle management.

The new leadership culture

But why doesn't it happen by itself? The reasons for this are complex, believes Mahdis, and include a social, organizational, and individual dimension.

At the individual level, women are often very well trained and sometimes have mentors and networks available, but at the social and above all at the organizational level, female workers often lack sponsors and the necessary opportunities to break traditional gender biases and power hierarchies.

But here Mahdis also sees the pandemic as an opportunity to redefine leadership. Where previously only experience and years of work played a role in filling management positions, now much more potential and social skills are required in decision-making positions.

Even the male stereotypes of a successful manager who brings the money home but has to neglect partners and children are long gone. Professional and private responsibilities are being shared more and more equally between mothers and fathers - why shouldn't managers also share their roles?

Dual leadership is the name of the concept that Mahdis and her co-founder Tanja also apply to the female factor - working hours, tasks and responsibilities are shared. This also gives both of them enough space and time for private life and family.

Don't Be a Nutella Glass - The 3 Cs

But how does a woman even get into a management position?

Confidence: Be aware of yourself - what are your strengths, what are your weaknesses? “Deal with yourself, because leadership always starts with yourself,” says Mahdis. Only if you know yourself well, you can learn to assess other people and their potential.

Competence: One never stops learning in life. Also as a decision-maker, you should be both a teacher and a student at the same time, and make sure that you constantly develop yourself further, especially with regard to digital and social skills.

Connections - Network: You rarely do it alone. Build a network of like-minded people, those who share your experiences, but also of people and mentors who come from completely different life situations and backgrounds, and learn from their experiences.

Advantages and disadvantages of diversity

But of course, diversity comes with its challenges - decision-making processes can take longer and where different perspectives meet, conflicts can also arise.

But for Mahdis it is not a weakness as a manager to get external help in such situations when it is necessary in order to communicate jointly defined values ​​more clearly and learn to listen sincerely.

Nevertheless, numerous studies show that diversity can lead to financial success and also has positive effects on the prevailing corporate culture and the working atmosphere.

For startups in particular, at the end of the day, the advantages that a diverse team brings clearly outweigh the disadvantages, “The innovative strength is a lot [...] stronger when the most diverse perspectives meet. Especially when developing new services and products, because you understand the consumer better."

This article was published by Future Weekly and was translated from German.


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