Here is a sobering statistic – women, despite being 50% of the world’s population, do not occupy more than 25% of any of the following public leadership groups: the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, the United Nations Secretariat, or the World Bank Group (Board of Executive Directors). Even in the European Union, women still only make up 36.4% of the European Parliament.
In the business world things look even worse. Less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women and only 21% of board seats at S&P500 companies are filled by women. Globally the proportion of women in senior roles has remained stagnant at 24% since 2016.
Despite compelling evidence that more diversity across all ranks increases organizational performance, the proportion of women in key leadership roles remains low in most organizations. Women face a unique set of challenges when progressing into higher positions, including unconscious bias, a scarcity of role models, and a peer group that continually shrinks the more senior they become. These factors all serve to isolate them, making it a frustrating endeavor, even in organizations with the best intentions, to support top female talent. Women rarely have an opportunity to come together and share their leadership experiences in a learning environment that has direct relevance and personal impact.
As the CEO of a tech company that serves a global market and recent recipient of a Stevie Award for Women in Business I felt compelled to address these dismal statistics through our organization. My decades-long experience as a senior leader, often as the sole woman in the boardroom, has given me some valuable insights into female leadership and the challenges it faces. Insights that I would love to share with young women who are just starting out on their career journey.
Fortunately we already had an excellent platform in place, in the form of EventerCamp, our highly popular digital and entrepreneurial boot camp for students and recent graduates. Over the past few years, EventerCamp has been attended by numerous students, half of whom were young women, from top universities around the world. Their central motivation – to empower themselves within the digital economy through exposure to the inner workings of an early-stage tech company like Eventerprise. I wanted to enrich that empowerment further by adding a women’s leadership angle.
The Eventerprise Women’s Leadership Program was subsequently designed in 2018 by an all-female Eventerprise team led by myself. It’s goal is to be a forum for ambitious young women, where they can discuss the unique challenges women encounter in their work lives and become motivated to take control of their career aspirations.
Benefits of the Eventerprise Women’s Leadership Program
Share the latest ideas around female leadership, learn from real life scenarios, and discover tried and tested techniques that can be applied to overcome some of the work-life challenges that female leaders face.
Develop greater confidence and a better understanding of different leadership styles so that you can drive the changes you want to see in your own way.
Collaborate with an experienced female executive to develop clear goals for your ongoing personal and professional development.
Build a network of peers around the world who support and motivate each other’s career growth.
By equipping young professional women with a practical toolkit, the Eventerprise Women’s Leadership Program aims to increase their impact and create lasting personal and professional change. The curriculum was designed to engage participants in thought-provoking debate as they discuss the tough challenges confronting women in most work environments.
How does the Eventerprise Women’s Leadership Program work?
The three-month program runs concurrently with the EventerCamp internship program and is open to all female Eventerprise team members. The good news is that it is completely free of charge, as opposed to the $1,000 – $6,000+ being charged for short two-to-five-day courses at educational institutions around the world. We want everyone to have access to this valuable experience, a philosophy that is in line with how we run Eventerprise overall.
Participants receive a certificate of completion at the end of the program. In exchange they need to compete six modules that are set up as follows:
The Female Dilemma
Women in business are often faced with a ‘damned if I do, damned if I don’t’ conundrum. If they are not assertive, they are viewed as weak and ineffectual and lose support within the company. On the other hand, when they are assertive, they tend to be perceived as domineering (‘bossy’) and can face resistance from their colleagues. This module explores the dilemma and appropriate strategies to deal with workplace perceptions.
Career vs Family
Working women have always had to balance their family responsibilities with the demands of a career. As more women enter the professional and leadership ranks the disconnect between what is expected of men and women in this regard has become increasingly glaring. In this session we help participants to develop better context and self-confidence for the family vs career decision-making process.
Many women struggle to recognize and be confident about their abilities. This module addresses why some of us have these insecurities and investigates ways to overcome them.
There is a common perception that men achieve better results in negotiations than women. Why is this? This session breaks down the reasons and introduces some negotiation strategies for women.
It is one thing to be self-aware. It is another to communicate your thoughts with clarity and impact to the people around you. Women often struggle to successfully present their insights and positions to others, thus failing to market themselves and create a professional network. This module examines the art of networking and how to apply it in your professional life.
People generally struggle with giving and receiving feedback. It’s easy to list our strengths, but we tend to get defensive when it comes to our weaknesses. Feedback that highlights what we are doing right and where we are missing the boat is crucial to becoming a better leader. In this session participants learn how to deal with feedback and how to use it to their own advantage.
Each module consists of an introduction, an assignment, and an evaluation component, creating plenty of space for interaction and learning from each other. We learn best when we share our experiences and interrogate each other on how we deal with them. That applies to the Women’s Leadership Program too – participants are invited to finish off with a survey in which they can evaluate the program and their own learning curve.
Insights from our first edition
The Eventerprise Women’s Leadership Program has been introduced to its first group of participants which provided me with some fresh insights on how young women contextualise themselves in the modern workplace.
The young women in this first group seemed wary of being labelled bossy, something they perceived as negative, despite the fact that assertive men are often complimented on their assertive leadership qualities. It was important to help them become more independent of other people’s (biased) opinions.
There was a lot of apprehension about juggling career and family priorities. To such an extent that some seemed ready to give up on having a career. It was pointed out that careers can be paused temporarily and that the job of child-rearing should not only fall on women. At the end of the day, it should be about what is best for you and not about what society expects.
I detected a similar level of insecurity around the topics of negotiation and networking. There seemed to be an unwillingness to stand out and take charge. Perhaps the social media age has created too many followers and too few real leaders. The rise of social media influencers has been especially harsh on the self-worth of young women, often forcing them to compete with totally unrealistic (and false) standards of beauty and success.
Some participants displayed a disconcerting level of naivety around the profit motive. Non-profit organizations were assumed to be part of the moral good, while profit-driven companies were viewed with suspicion. This seemed to be linked to a lack of self-confidence and an urge to retreat into politically correct safe zones. It became necessary to explain the importance of charging your worth, not only as a company for goods and services rendered, but also on a personal level when it comes to professional remuneration.
Overall the program received an overwhelmingly positive response with most of the young women expressing gratitude for having a dedicated space to verbalise and discuss their professional hopes and fears.
“I was very fortunate that the Women Leadership Program was initiated during my internship at Eventerprise. It was very inspiring to learn about Birgit’s experiences as a woman that has worked in many leadership positions of a male-dominated industry. As an aspiring business woman, I admire what she has achieved already. Furthermore, it was a great opportunity to exchange experiences and goals and be inspired by other aspiring business women.Joana Eilts, Germany
“I thoroughly enjoyed my course learning about women in leadership. It was really eye-opening to learn from the perspective of a successful woman in the corporate world. It inspired me to really exceed in my strong points while also working with my softer points. As a woman, I know that multitasking comes very easily and seeing how Birgit balances her work life, motherhood and marriage, it for sure is a true inspiration!”Malikah Dollie, South Africa
“This program has literally turned my ambition to rise to the top as a female leader into action by exchanging and thinking with other women and our mentor, Birgit Thümecke, about concrete practices and reflections.”Lara Barski, France
“It was insightful sitting down and hearing the narratives from my female colleagues, even more so being able to tap into the well of knowledge and wisdom that is Birgit made the programme worth more than we give it credit for!”Anesuishe Mutsambiwa, Zimbabwe
It is my fervent wish that the Eventerprise Women’s Leadership Program will boost the confidence of all the young women who participate in it. By sharing the knowledge and experience gained during my professional career I would like to inspire them to make better choices, understand where the pitfalls are, and avoid tripping themselves up due to societal conditioning. I want to dare them to dream bigger and push them to make those dreams a reality.
Keen to develop your leadership skills while you learn how an international digital business operates? Apply for your EventerCamp internship today.