G+D’s female leaders celebrate Women’s Day
We asked female leaders across the G+D network to look back at their own journeys on International Women’s Day (March 8). We also asked them to look ahead to the future. These inspiring women told us stories of resilience, believing in themselves, and being mentors. They also shared advice on what it is to become a leader, and how young women can pursue careers in STEM. Among other things these strong women agreed on: be your own true self, don’t settle for a bad environment, and never give up!
Gabrielle Bugat, CEO G+D Mobile Security: As CEO of G+D Mobile Security, I connect the dots between vision and execution, ideas and products, client demands and supply options, between functions, between countries, to foster collective intelligence.
My ambition is to accelerate our transformation towards a more agile, flexible, and self-responsible working environment, while remaining close to the teams.
As a female leader, I strongly support diversity initiatives to develop our talents around the world. I mentor female talents, encouraging them to invest time in building up their networks. I believe in role models: 20 years ago, on March 8, I found inspiration at a special event organized by InterElles, with successful businesswomen on stage sharing their stories.
Corinna Schindler, Global Vice President, Head of Business Line Verification, Veridos (Germany): [Modern leadership is] giving direction and vision while being part of the team, listening, being open to new ideas and approaches, and facilitating an environment where people love to come to work every day.
Martina Seidl, Group Chief Legal & Compliance Officer, Corporate Legal, Compliance & Data Privacy, G+D (Germany): Modern leadership to me means embracing uncertainty, change, and innovation in a rapidly evolving business landscape, while providing confidence to the teams. This requires having great clarity of purpose, creating a shared vision of success, having a clear sense of direction and articulating goals, creating an environment in which the teams and every individual can excel (this includes sharing information, creating a high level of trust, and promoting a sense of inclusion and belonging) – and, most importantly, walking the talk, i.e., leading by example.
It further involves the ability to motivate and include geographically dispersed and diverse teams, as well as understanding and adapting to the needs and motivations of different stakeholders. The ability to change perspectives, emotional intelligence, and empathy are key in this regard.
Does gender have a role to play in leadership?
Karin Furmaniak, Global Vice President, Head of Global Sales Operations TCD, G+D (Germany): In our modern world, I believe it is really important to understand that there isn’t just one leadership style that fits every situation and company. Leaders, whether they are male, female, or non-binary, need to be flexible in adapting to different teams and demands. For me, the most important elements are to listen and not only to allow individual initiative, but to actively encourage and demand it. A good leader is capable of motivating not only their team, but all employees, in such a way that they not only work together towards existing goals, but also set new ones for themselves and their team that contribute to joint success.
Jutta Häusler, Group Vice President, Head of HR/CHRO, G+D (Germany): Modern female leadership is grounded and generous. High-performing women navigate their business challenges with serenity and leverage their authentic female leadership in order to add value to leadership teams. They share the stage and experiences to grow talents around them.
Amy Garcia-Rendle, Head of Marketing, IoT and Connectivity, G+D (Spain): I think in general women have a great ability to empathize, which they can put into practice in all areas of life, including the workplace. To me, modern leadership, especially for women, is about understanding and evaluating different ideas, opinions, and approaches to work, bringing them together, and putting these into the wider business context.
Anne Markle, VP, Operations ePayments America, G+D (USA): In my 61 years, it is amazing the progression I have seen, been part of, or encouraged for women leaders past, present, and future. I have held numerous firsts throughout my career, including being the first female leader for Twinsburg in my current role. For me it is not about first, second, or third; leadership is really very simple for me in that it is the ability to move, touch, and inspire others to act. That can be done with or without the title, but it is up to all of us to step into that role.
Sourour Stanke, Group Vice President, Head of Corporate Communications & Strategic Marketing, G+D (Germany): Modern leadership should not depend on your gender. Leadership is about supporting people and ensuring their success. For me, being a modern leader means acting as a role model. That includes always being myself, following my inner compass, and treating everyone with respect and appreciation. I always meet my colleagues at eye level, and I am transparent in my decisions. Modern leadership means giving people a clear vision, inspiring and empowering them. It means giving them room to grow and explore so that everyone can bring out the best in themselves.
Monika Speckmaier, Global Vice President, Value Added Solutions and Services, G+D (Germany): Let me explore my understanding of modern leadership, which for me is gender-independent. It’s all about your own experiences, your own learnings, your culture, background, and personality.
One important aspect is to provide purpose and an inspiring vision for the team, as well as setting clear goals and a certain ambition. Personally, I believe you have to enable, coach, empower and support your team – only then will you achieve an environment of trust and psychological safety. This allows you to set a culture where each team member feels appreciated and performs at their best. Especially in an international environment, fostering diversity is key to being successful. Taking decisions quickly, including sometimes even tough ones, is another vital part. Finally, in my international leadership role, it was always helpful that I focused on actions, pushed and valued entrepreneurial and pragmatic thinking, tried to be authentic, and walked the talk!
What challenges and opportunities do female leaders find today?
Chitua Alozie Kalio, Global Head of Client Services, Secure Transactions + Services Division, G+D (Germany): One challenge is finding the best way to bring our authentic selves to the table. Women are sometimes held to different standards than men when in a leadership position: getting angry, showing emotion, taking decisions, or being assertive can be perceived more negatively or as less acceptable. Or perhaps we feel that we have to fit a certain archetype for a strong (but not too strong) female leader. So, it can be difficult to navigate these perceptions while still being your true self.
One of the best pieces of advice I received was from my mom before an important interview several years ago: “Just be yourself.” Sounds simple, but it can be hard to do at times. If you are not accepted for who you are in that environment, then you’re in the wrong environment.
Sourour Stanke: For me the biggest opportunity is to create an inclusive leadership culture that brings together all the different perspectives, which leads to a stronger team and better results.
Lucie Fonseca, Director R&D Card Issuance Services, G+D (India): Women today have more opportunities than ever before. Corporates are starting to realize that diversity and inclusion is not just about image; it also makes business sense, as diverse teams are proven to be more productive, innovative, and profitable. The younger generations are also a lot more fluid when it comes to gender roles and norms, and much less ready to tolerate blatant discrimination. This creates opportunities for women to flourish, including in traditionally male-dominated domains.
Women still face significant challenges. There is a real lack of representation. With only a handful of women in senior executive roles and top political positions around the world, it can be difficult for younger women to project themselves in such roles and take concrete steps to achieve success. Unconscious bias is another obstacle, and a particularly pernicious one: we all have it, men and women alike. It can result in women getting fewer opportunities at all stages of their careers, from hiring, to promotion or challenging missions.
Jerusha Rooplall, Managing Director, Sub-Saharan Africa, G+D (South Africa): There are more opportunities for female leaders today than ever before. The challenges lie in the evolution of things. Female leaders should push past the boundaries, the stigmas and unconscious biases that are imposed on women, in order to be successful.
Amy Garcia-Rendle: I think we have come a long way in terms of female leadership in our industry over the last few years, but there is still a long way to go. In general the technology sector is still a very male-dominated environment. Women struggle to reach leadership positions, especially in purely technical roles. Marketing in the technology sector is an interesting function because there are generally more opportunities for women to develop their careers and evolve into leadership roles.
Karin Furmaniak: Our world, our image of humanity, and our understanding of roles is currently undergoing a great deal of change. Many women and men no longer want to conform to the classic role-model types. Fortunately, in many cultures, they no longer have to. As a result, more doors are opening up for women. Women (men too) can experiment more. It’s a great opportunity for women to show that different leadership styles, whether they are typically female or not, can lead to success and that change is a good and important thing.
Unfortunately, it is still often true that a man will be considered competent up until the point that he proves the opposite; women, on the other hand, are considered incompetent until they have proven otherwise. Sometimes it goes even further than that. That is definitely the biggest challenge for female leaders. They constantly have to prove that they are competent; it takes a long time before it is just accepted, as a given.
What advice would you give young women who want to build a career in a tech or STEM environment? Do you have any general career advice as well?
Lucie Fonseca: You should obviously become really good at what you do, but that is not enough. You should also talk about your career aspirations, advocate for yourself, and create visibility for your achievements. I also recommend making a conscious effort to understand the business of a company. G+D for example publishes excellent content on various platforms. Keep an open mind and build a strong network beyond your immediate circle. You will meet great people, get a broader perspective, and perhaps your next career-move opportunity.
Jerusha Rooplall: My advice to young women building a career is to never give up. You may experience setbacks, but keep your goal in mind and keep moving forward.
Corinna Schindler: Don’t convince by being a woman, but by doing a good job. Be open and embrace new opportunities: Dare to say yes and learn to say no. Most important, in my view: be reliable, be authentic, and stay curious.
Martina Seidl: My most important advice would be to choose a job that you can feel truly passionate about. Always try to be your best, foster a growth mindset, and strive to learn continuously. Be resilient in overcoming failures, develop your emotional intelligence, and start building a network early in your career.
Sourour Stanke: Don’t think too much about your career! Do what you’re passionate about – something where you find fulfillment. So, have fun at work! And never forget: there are no shortcuts. A great career is certainly more like a marathon than a sprint. Show consistency and take care of the right balance.
Karin Furmaniak: This is really important for all young women: back yourself to show what you can do and to do something. Make it clear that it is your qualifications – not your gender – that are important in the workplace. Don’t play a role, be authentic. The (working) world needs you exactly as you are. Take responsibility for your actions and your thinking.
Amy Garcia-Rendle: I would say the best advice is don’t give up! There are many more exciting opportunities opening up now for women in the technology sector, and I think these will continue to increase.
Do you mentor colleagues who are beginning their careers, or provide support to projects in other ways?
Jerusha Rooplall: G+D supports social and economic development in our local communities. Through these projects, I get the opportunity every year to address senior school children, as well as young entrepreneurs, on building their careers. My favorite message to them is “hard work beats talent.”
Karin Furmaniak: When I recognize potential in my colleagues, I try to encourage and support it. One the one hand, through feedback; on the other, by including them in projects and giving them the opportunity to present their work to as big a circle as possible. It’s always great to see how people develop over the years and grow in confidence.
Sourour Stanke: I love to share my experiences with others. I’m passionate about supporting people to learn and grow. My aim is to give advice and encourage them to dare to leave their comfort zone. At the same time, I learn from them myself.
What values and objectives of Women’s Day are being discussed in your location, given G+D’s global footprint?
Amy Garcia-Rendle: I think it’s important to highlight the global differences in the opportunities and challenges women face. These are very diverse according to different countries and cultures, and vary even from region to region within the same country.
I live and work in Spain, even though I am originally from the UK. I think it is widely recognized that women have traditionally not had the same opportunities as men in the workplace; as business becomes more international, this attitude is changing. I also think that technology itself has had a big part to play in giving women the work/life balance they need to take on leadership roles. For example, mobile technology and the possibility to work from home has opened up new opportunities for women to manage their time more efficiently.
What is one thing you’d like to see come into force by Women’s Day 2024, that would help women moving up the ladder?
Amy Garcia-Rendle: I’d like to see more female world leaders and politicians who can drive the topic of female leadership, and encourage equal opportunities for women around the world.
What would you like to say to all the women (and men) celebrating Women’s Day?
Sourour Stanke: To all females and males who celebrate Women’s Day: support each other with all your hearts and minds. Only together can we overcome obstacles and be successful.
Anne Markle: I not only wish to say thank you to all the women who have guided me, mentored me, and pushed me to be all I am capable of being, I wish to say thank you to all the men who have done the same. I am a strong believer that women or men can be and do so much more through the encouragement, mentoring, and support of those around them. Be you and be great.
Jerusha Rooplall: I wish all women some time to reflect on how much they have advanced in their lives and careers. Of course, let’s not forget the men who support us in our ambitions as we do theirs.
Karin Furmaniak: It is great that nowadays it’s not just women, but also men, who celebrate Women’s Day. In doing so, it shows that women are equal to men. At the same time, it’s a shame that this is necessary, that we need a special day to highlight it. Let’s work towards making the case that all of us, no matter whether we’re male, female, or non-binary, are seen first and foremost as human beings, and that all forms of discrimination and intolerance no longer have a place in our society. Diversity can no longer just be a trend – it must be lived as a matter of fact.
Jutta Häusler: From my point of view, it is enormously important not only to demand equal opportunities; above all, we must fill them with life ourselves. One of the ways we make this happen is by supporting each other and giving each other a stage and visibility – not just women, but also across genders. #EmbraceEquity – this year’s motto of International Women’s Day – expresses this very well, I think.
Amy Garcia-Rendle: We should celebrate not just being women, but being equal, and having the opportunity to use our talents to make a difference in the world.
Corinna Schindler: I wish for all women that they work in a great environment where they can unfold themselves, where they have a voice and get seen, where they can do something meaningful that matters to them, where they can shape things in the right direction, and where they can develop themselves further on a continuous basis.
Any last advice for potential female leaders?
Fabiola Bellersheim, Vice President, Head of Sales Asia-Pacific, Veridos (Germany): Be as authentic as you can, show your competence and dedication! If you have the feeling that your superior is not promoting you (assuming you deserve it), change your job/position within the company, if possible.
Anne Markle: People often ask me what I would recommend to grow more women leaders. I simply respond with the following: strong mentoring from other women leaders, strong understanding of themselves and what their strengths are, stretch assignments to utilize their strengths, and the chance to fail forward. It is amazing what we can develop within our future leaders with these components.
Enabling future leaders: The G+D Talent Program
What is required to enable committed employees to be the potential leaders of the future? G+D runs a Talent Program that offers participants the opportunity to build the relevant competencies for (self-)leadership, and thus prepare themselves to successfully deal with the increased complexity, speed, and diversity of the new world of work. The program also offers the opportunity to learn from each other, share knowledge, and network. The Talent Program is aimed at employees from all career paths and areas who show potential for a more complex technical or leadership role. In 2022, it puts 36 participants from across the G+D’s business units and global locations into four modules.
The focus is on (self-)leadership, but not just in people terms; G+D recognizes that innovation can come from anywhere, so tech experts are part of it as well, in a guided learning setup. Among other things, the trainers and mentors provide insights on exploring their own and others’ leadership styles, experiencing agile work situations, and building resilience. Change is a constant in one’s working life; the program equips the participants to deal with it in ways that are positive and dynamic, while also keeping the group’s philosophy and aims in view.
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