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03/08/2024

International Women’s Day

WHU educates many successful businesswomen and female leaders

Every year, on the eighth of March, the world celebrates International Women’s Day to advocate increased gender-based equality—a cause that WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management wholeheartedly supports. In its forty-year history, the school has educated innumerable successful women, from business leaders to entrepreneurs, further evidenced by the results of several prominent rankings. 

Eva Valentina Kempf (BSc 2013) and Annika von Mutius (BSc 2016; MSc 2018; PhD 2021), for example, made it onto the 2023 edition of venture capital firm Capital’s Top 40 Under 40. Von Mutius, co-founder of the HR-focused start-up Empion, which automates the recruiting process through artificial intelligence, also made Forbes’s European 30 Under 30 in the technology category. She is convinced that more women need to take that risky first step to starting one’s own business, noting that the support for them is there. “We experience a lot of kindness and willingness to help,” she said. “It is remarkable just how open and supportive others have been to us. Being open-minded and showing others kindness is a gift.”

And there are many other female founders whose path to success started at WHU, including Verena Hubertz (MSc 2013), who co-founded the transmedia cooking platform Kitchen Stories. Now a member of the German Parliament, Hubertz advises young women to make the most of their professional opportunities: “Whenever somebody asks you if you want to take on a new responsibility, when in doubt, just say ‘yes.’ There are times when women will disregard chances to climb the ladder if the challenge seems too great or the subject matter too unfamiliar. But really, there is no secret sauce.” Alumna Dr. Almuth Steinkühler (MSc 2005; PhD 2008), today the CFO of the SDAX-listed Schott Pharma, is also an advocate of courage, particularly when it comes to the compatibility between career and family. “We have a lot of inspiring role models to look to. It is our duty, as a company and as a society, to offer ways of relieving the burden on today’s families with their caretaking. And to facilitate increased diversity within the company, as that’s something we all benefit from.”

WHU’s alumnae are not only successful in their entrepreneurial endeavors. In fact, many have found their way into influential positions of power at DAX-listed firms and large concerns. Birgit Bohle (Diplom 1998), on the board at Deutsche Telekom for human resources and legal affairs, and Annette Mann (EMBA 2012), CEO of Austrian Airlines since 2022, are just two examples. They and many others prove that an education from WHU helps women leave their increasingly prominent mark on the corporate world both in Germany and abroad. “I made unique contacts throughout my time at WHU,” says Dr. Lea Corzilius (BSc 2010), board member for human resources, legal concerns, and compliance at global technology concern ZF Group. “And that’s especially true for the other women in my class. WHU offers a strong network and an excellent start into the world of management.”

Dr. Phoebe Kebbel (Diplom 1996), a partner and member of the Global Partnership Board at public relations firm FGS Global, has a word of advice for young women in upper management. “Make, for as long as it is true, the fact that women are still in the minority your competitive advantage. You will stand out. People will remember who you are when you enter a conference room or are mentioned in the press article full of men. And forget the false modesty! Men have enough advantages of their own.”

These successful WHU alumna can all agree that diversity pays off—both during a start-up’s initial phases and in the boardrooms of established companies. Diverse teams tend to make better decisions and find greater success, claims backed up by science. 

An overview of companies started by WHU’s alumnae can be found in WHU’s Entrepreneurship Press Kit (in German).

Interviews with some of these alumnae can be found here:

- Five Questions for Empion (Dr. Annika von Mutius and Dr. Larissa Leitner)

- Five Questions for ZukunftMoor (Julia Kasper)

- Five Questions for Shavent (Romy Lindenberg)

- Five Questions for Repair Rebels (Dr. Monika Hauck)

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