Charlotte Finger received both her bachelor’s and master’s degree from WHU. Today, she successfully runs Maschinenfabrik Mönninghoff. Very early on she decided that she would one day take over the long-standing family business.
“It was always clear to me that I would at least try to carry on the family business. I was well aware that I might not have the easiest start—being a woman in her mid-twenties in the field of engineering and the daughter of the company owner. But by my third day in the company, I realized how much I loved this job. Today, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Besides managing the family business, Charlotte is involved in the VDMA, Europe’s largest industrial association. As a member of the organization’s executive board, she plays an active role in helping shape the entire industry of mechanical and plant engineering. Additionally, she was recently appointed to the board of trustees for VDMA’s Impuls-Stiftung. The foundation serves as VDMA’s think tank, fostering innovation policy, defining fundamental topics of the future and promoting new developments. “My work with VDMA and especially the interaction with other executives from the industry has been incredibly insightful and enriching. And the more you give, the more you get back.”
As a female executive in a male-dominated industry, Charlotte sees the constant gender debate as something that, to a certain extent, stands in its own way. “I wish we didn’t have to talk so much about it. For sure, women sometimes face difficult situations men probably aren’t confronted with. But in other situations, it opens doors that we should be bold enough to walk through.”
Studying at WHU nurtured this boldness and gave her the necessary perseverance, Charlotte emphasizes. The numerous conferences and student initiatives, for instance, strengthened her self-confidence. “From the very beginning, we were used to speaking in front of an audience and not worrying if others cared about what we had to say,” she explains. For two years, Charlotte helped organize the WHU Campus for Family Business, featuring high-profile participants. “Such experiences helped me a lot when I first started my current role, like when I had to speak in front of the company’s entire workforce for the first time.”
Charlotte encourages current and future WHU students to worry less about whether something might work out or not. “Sometimes, women tend to feel underestimated. They worry about not succeeding rather than taking on new tasks with confidence. In my experience, this kind of worry is simply unnecessary – even in a field like engineering. That’s why it’s important to take it for granted that women take on the same roles and responsibilities as men. Ultimately, it all comes down to the individual’s qualifications and skills. If we simply get started and tackle the job at hand rather than spending our time talking about why women and men are treated and paid differently, then society, at some point, will also come to this realization.”