Company: Volkswagen Financial Services
Location: Brunswick, Germany
Education: Degree in economics, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Frankfurt
Marital status: Divorced
Children: Alexander, 11; Anne, 8
I started as a scientific consultant for foundations and trade unions at the metalworkers’ trade union IG Metall in Frankfurt. After a few years I switched to another department and worked on data analysis in the car industry.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
That I was able to get inside a man’s world. I was brought up in a family where we were taught that a woman could do the same jobs as a man. So I always believed it would be possible to be part of the men’s club, if I wanted to be.
What is your proudest personal achievement?
I am very proud of my kids. At the office, I am a workhorse, but at home my family is my first priority. When I am at home with my children I always concentrate on being their mother and offering them an emotional harbor.
What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
I learn quickly from my mistakes, and I am a fan of personal continuous improvement. Very early in my career, I learned you should check the reliability of an argument before you use it. After I made my point, my colleagues smiled and asked me to check the figures and then come back for the discussion. I learned that you should not rely on unchecked facts. I like arguing with figures, but they must to be absolutely dependable.
What is your current challenge at work?
I became a member of the management board for the first time. My current challenge is to find my way in this new position.
I have to learn more about financial services.
What about the auto industry surprised you?
DaimlerChrysler’s idea to create a global corporation and how it should combine different cultures in one company.
What are the biggest obstacles facing women in the auto industry?
It is not easy to find acceptability for women because bosses often try to get to the bottom of the question: “Can she manage this?” But bosses seldom ask men if they can manage a new position.What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry?
Young women should head for jobs they have a passion for. The auto industry is a fascinating industry with amazing products. The auto industry is an emotional industry with a global setup and is also a traditional industry. I think it is important to have women working here. I believe that diversity pays off.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
A former colleague, who became my mentor, told me I should develop another strength such as expertise in an area that nobody on the team has. So I focused on analysis in the automotive business.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in the auto industry?
They should not focus on soft or typically female subjects, but concentrate on one of the key subjects in the automotive world. And they should show they can manage this.
Are women pushed toward marketing and communications and discouraged from engineering and other technical jobs?
Yes. This is caused by an education system that assumes girls are interested only in typical female topics.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
First, I want to be very good at my current job.
When I started this job they asked me what I would like to do.
I answered that I really want to be excellent not average. If you manage to reach this target you will surely get some new chances.
If you had asked me this question one year ago, I would have answered that I want to become a member of the management board for human resources.
What subject affecting women in this industry is not being talked about enough?
The Volkswagen group sets a great example regarding the advancement of women. Nevertheless, very few women get access to top management positions. We analyzed this already. For example, Volkswagen employs 18 percent female engineers when 18 percent of the students are women.
The ratio of women gets smaller if you look at top management positions. We should work harder on the advancement of women into top positions.
What do you do to relax?
I relax with tai chi.