Location: Heiligenhaus, Germany
Education: Commercial business degree, economics academy in Cologne
Family: Husband, Hans; one daughter
I started in 1978 at the age of 26 as an HR specialist for hourly and salaried administration at Ford in the product development group.
Why did you seek a job in the auto industry?
I was always sure that I wanted to work in a major industry. My goal when at school was to work for an international company, and in the Cologne region Ford was the main employer that worked internationally. It was more the global aspect than the car side that I was looking for.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
When I was an HR manager -- my first leadership role -- I did the separation of Visteon from Ford. I was asked by my boss back at Ford to take 150 people, mainly product development people and engineers, out of Ford and to find a new office and to start a new company. There was no infrastructure. It was a big, big challenge for me to build up a new organization -- I was very much in charge of that separation.
What is your proudest personal achievement?
I have always managed to work full time. I have never had a very easy job or a part time job. Combining this with having a big family, having a daughter and being married is a tough task. I’m proud that my daughter has done very well in her life, and that I have the energy to organize all the private stuff.
What is your current challenge at work?
Everyone knows that my company, Kiekert, was in a very difficult financial situation a year ago. A lot of people didn’t believe that Kiekert could get back to a healthy state. My challenge here is to get Kiekert back to a position as a top supplier of quality systems. Under the leadership of Karl Krause, our CEO, we also need to get the people, who were very unmotivated a year ago, to see Kiekert as an employer of choice and to feel comfortable working for us.
I think the human side of what I am doing here is just as important as the financial. I feel comfortable being a part of the new leadership team, and I’m absolutely convinced we can get Kiekert [back] to where it deserves to be.What are the biggest obstacles facing women in the auto industry?
The obstacles are different. It depends on your age. When I look back 20 years ago, I think it was tougher. At that time within Ford it was a male world in the leadership team. I remember there being two or maximum three women in higher level leadership positions. It changed during the next generation. Men respect professionalism, and this is the situation today. I never felt uncomfortable working in a man’s world, which is what the auto industry was 20 years ago.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry?
Don’t be shy about entering a technical industry -- not everybody has to be an engineer to succeed in this type of industry. There’s a lot that’s good in the commercial areas -- marketing, sales, HR -- you can have a big career, not just in engineering. Being in the auto industry does not mean you have to know how an engine works.
Have you encountered sexism in the industry?
Looking back at when I started 25 years ago at Ford -- as with other companies -- it was not common to have women in high-level management positions. This was a man’s generation -- at Ford, at Audi, at Opel, at Daimler -- everywhere. I am in the fortunate position today of being able to participate in the mindset change. If I was 30 today, I think my career would progress more quickly than it actually did.
Are women pushed toward marketing and communications and discouraged from engineering and other technical jobs?
I don’t think that they are pushed, but I do know that if you get 100 applications from women, 80 percent are applying for marketing and communications. In German universities, only 5 percent of engineering students are women. I don’t know why that is still the case.
What subject affecting women in this industry is not being talked about?
How women can combine a professional life with having children. Women need more opportunities to continue in other functions or part time if they decide to have a child or two. It’s essentially men who think that if a woman decides to have a child she is deciding against a career. We’re missing that extra flexibility to job-share, the capacity to split a job in two. There should be more opportunity to be flexible in combining a private life with your career.