Henrike Luszick, founder and CEO of Bridgemaker, explained how her position is fundamental in setting the tone for how her company promotes diversity. “You need to embrace it and do it right from the start—implement it in the recruitment processes,” she says.
Her fellow panellists at the Berlin summit agreed. “Companies need to take a stand,” says Laura Tynan, founder of Global Association of Female Entrepreneurs.
Matilda von Gierke, founder and managing partner at Zalvus, advises: “You need to start tackling the problem at the early stage.” Her company’s mission is to revolutionize recruiting, and von Gierke has a simple mantra: “I’m a huge fan of hiring people that are smarter than you.”
For von Gierke, that also meant working with a team of which she is one the youngest members—and while that was challenging at first, she found a way to make it work for herself. “What you achieve in life is more important than a date on a passport,” she says.
Key advice from the panel was to be comfortable in being and believing in yourself. Luszick shared some of the early challenges her business, the Berlin-based corporate company builder Bridgemaker, faced.
“We had a very tough and rough first year. Even investors around me didn’t believe in the business model,” she says, describing how, having invested all of her money in the business, she had to call he mother to ask for a loan. But now, four years later and with a workforce of over 100 people, she is happy she stuck with her plan. “Believing in yourself is important. Being authentic is my success factor.”
Tynan agreed: “Authenticity is a sort of superpower. No one else is going to be like you.”
As for labelling female leadership with terms ranging from “Girlboss” to “SheEO,” the entrepreneurs believe that they are bound to become obsolete.
“It’s an instrument, but it can only be seen like that in the beginning. It has to become more normal,” Luszick says.
“CEO is [a term] naturally associated with a strong male connotation,” Tynan says, adding that better representation will, in time, contribute to creating a different understanding of the term. But, she adds: “When we still see single-digit representations of females, it is hard to feel that those terms have become gender-neutral.”