Women into Leadership Initiative

WHU-Alumna Sabine Hansen (EMBA 2002), Director at Kienbaum and co-initiator of the Initiative Women into Leadership, reports about the motivation that gave rise to the initiative and explains how women can make it to management levels.

WHU alumna Sabine Hansen

Things are moving at the executive level in Germany – the situation is growing more mixed and diverse, regardless of the fact that a fixed gender quota has been in effect for supervisory boards since 2016. Digitalization and the increased importance of globalized buyer markets are confronting businesses with special challenges to their business models and the working worlds of tomorrow. Traditional companies that are not at the leading edge of the transformation are vanishing, and pure industry competence is no longer sufficient to reliably steer the companies through the hurricane of change. Today, candidates to disrupt the traditional patterns in executive recruitment are being sought and found, and these candidates increasingly include women. But what does this mean for one’s own talent management and sustainable promotion of top managers? This is an area in which companies still often follow the classic concepts of talent promotion. The exclusively vertical view of the notion of “talent” to date also ensures that relatively few women will prevail in positions in middle management. If women nevertheless do succeed, they no longer factor into internal talent-management systems.

This was reason enough for me and the three other protagonists (Petra Schlieter-Gropp, Alex Iwan and Dr. Natalie Daghles) to send a signal and establish the non-profit Initiative Women into Leadership e.V. (www.iwil.eu) that would forge an offer for firms that are willing to change. IWiL’s core is a cross-mentoring program to close the strategic gap that women face at second- and third-tier executive levels. Top figures outside of one’s own firm accompany women executives in a tandem relationship over the course of a year, serving as “sparring partners” for all issues relating to careers. Drawing attention to in-house talents also exerts a positive draw and sends a clear message to the women nominated: “...we’ve got something in store for you.”

In the meantime, nearly 20 companies and more than 30 personal members have dedicated themselves to advancing this goal, led by top personalities including Tina Müller (Douglas) or Hiltrud Werner (VW) and Dr. Dilek Gürsoy (Germany's leading cardiac surgeon), coupling time and personal involvement to advance the German economy. The fact that we were able to motivate courageous and active men, such as Dr. Achim Leder, founder of Jetlite, demonstrates that we are on the right track, and that New Work is more than just a catchword.