Today, women become Federal Chancellor, soldier or astronaut – but they do not (yet) become the chairwoman of a DAX company, as Melanie Vogel, founder & CEO of AGENTUR ohne Namen GmbH and Messe Women & Work, explained. She held a guest lecture on “Successful career strategies for women” at the invitation of Career Services. The fact that there is currently no woman at the DAX companies’s top was just one of many indications of different career paths between men and women.
A new era for women’s careers
“Modern working life should be at the women’s feet. In our globalized, highly communicative world, typically female strengths are more in demand than ever,” explains Melanie Vogel. In her professional life, however, she repeatedly finds out that women are diligent, but too modest. Especially when they are promoted, they are too often outstripped by their male colleagues: Although more women (51 percent) than men (49 percent) left universities with a university degree, only a fraction of women (15 percent) would succeed in advancing to middle management (men: 85 percent). The higher the management level is, the fewer women are in leadership: only 28 percent of the supervisory board members are women. “It is unlikely that this will be balanced out in the coming years. The UN even assumes that it will take 217 years before men and women are given equal economic status,” says Melanie Vogel.
Hurdles to career advancement
But where do the obstacles preventing women from making it to the top floors come from? It is important to bear in mind that most companies have male structures. The male leadership style tends to be characterised by a hierarchical structure focusing on the team’s results. The team leader clearly positions himself at the top of his employees. Female managers, on the other hand, tend to have a relationship- and content-oriented structure in which the well-being of the group is in the foreground. They are placed in the middle of the group. However, the latter concept is still uncharted territory for many companies.
“Women often make the mistake of handing over responsibility to men sending a clear signal against advancement to superiors. A role model for career women with children is often missing completely,” explains Melanie Vogel. Women also tend to perform worse in salary negotiations: If women were evaluated on the basis of their performance achieved, men would be judged on the basis of their (future) potential.
Tactics for career planning
According to a long-term study by Catalyst, female careers today are based on mentors and networks. Melanie Vogel recommends that women develop a vision for their careers and consider their goals, personal resources, potential employers and path early on. It would also be important to know one’s own brand capital, including strengths, competencies and knowledge, and to be able to play it out in interviews. In addition, it is important to establish sustainable networks at an early stage and to make an intelligent choice of employer. With regard to the women’s quota discussion, she advised the students to be calm: “Look forward to being a quota woman! As a quota woman, you do pioneering work and increase the visibility of your performance. I can assure you that after a short time it is no longer the quota but your performance that plays a role.