Barry Blassoples Eventerprise VP of Growth, sat down with Birgit as part of a ‘Getting to know Birgit Thümecke’ Interview series.
Birgit Thumecke: Also to be a good mother. And that is actually something that other women actually project on the soon-to-be mother. “Oh, you don’t want to be with your child. You’re taking your career too serious. How can you be a good mother?” That I find is very different in South Africa, I have to say. And also in many other countries, they may be even a little bit better with it.
Birgit Thumecke: But with my leadership programs that I run with Eventerprise, the Women Leadership program, the group that I had last was very international, Chinese girl, Korean, French, German,
Barry Bassoples: Dutch?
Birgit Thumecke: South African, Dutch. And they still have that same problem.
Birgit Thumecke: They’re now in their early twenties and all of them exceptionally wanted to become a mother. But they also wanted a career. They already have a problem now that they don’t know how to
Barry Bassoples: Navigate the
Birgit Thumecke: Navigate though that, yes. So coming back to your original question, I never felt any kind of discrimination because of my skin colour, really not. The only thing was me being a woman. And whether somebody saw something in me or not, I don’t know, I just always enjoyed what I did in my work. I think I did pretty decent work, with good results. So my career just progressed without me having a particular career plan.
Barry Bassoples: Right.
Birgit Thumecke: I’m a curious person by nature. I believe in lifelong learning and personal growth. So I was always interested to advance myself and to learn something more. So it worked out.
Barry Bassoples: So, through your journey, your career, and you took on different roles, different responsibilities and grew in seniority as well in the organizations. And we sort of bring us to where we are today.
Birgit Thumecke: Yep.
Barry Bassoples: So as a co-founder, a woman leader in business, a seasoned CEO, it’s not your first rodeo, so to speak, as CEO, you would then have the opportunity, and I suppose you could argue, the mandate to ensure that you are deploying strategies and, I suppose, values within an organization to reinforce and instill and create an environment where we are able to grow a diverse business, we are able to work with people from multiple backgrounds, multiple skill levels, language sets et cetera, et cetera; everything that diversity encompasses.
I’m trying to avoid the buzzwords as we discuss this. Because as we know the topic continues to be trending, a hot topic, so to speak, and front-of-mind for many people.
But then we must also ask the question, “Well, what does it take to really implement that, to walk your talk when it comes to diversity inclusion as opposed to some of the window-dressing we see?”
I feel particularly in tech, where every second technology company is appointing a black female as their Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, which is good and it needs to be done, but that’s the first 10%, the first 1%, so to speak. There’s still a very long journey that needs to follow.
Birgit Thumecke: Yeah.
Barry Bassoples: So beyond the window-dressing, when you survey the landscape, particularly the technology-business aspect, what are the areas that you feel the likes of investors and co-founders and CEOs and senior management… Where are they lacking currently? To put it differently, where would you like to see a very strong emphasis over the next few years within the business to ensure that people are actually walking the talk, and it doesn’t just stop at the window-dressing?
Birgit Thumecke: Yes. Well, first of all, let me answer it this way. I think the Chief Diversity Officer or, as sometimes they call it, Chief Transformation Officer, that job or that position is the CEO position. I think the CEO should drive this. It is very strange to see that being outsourced to a position, to a desk. That really pretty much looks to me like window-dressing.
So I think that the entire C-suite of any given company, it may be a tech company or a non-tech company, must have that within their portfolio. People must give them goals to fulfil in order to grow the landscape into a variety, not to use that word.