The number of female executives of large European firms remains stubbornly small, accounting for only 13.7%. Germany ranks slightly above average with 15.6%, but it falls well behind Finland (27.1%) and France (22.3%), where quota legislations were introduced a year ago. Yet the positive results of quotas have not converted everyone. Dr Dorothee Ritz, a successful female executive who sits on the board of Microsoft Germany, opposes the legislation. In an interview with The Beginner, she explains why and suggests alternatives that she believes are more appropriate.
The secret to success, Dr Ritz says, is having fun with what you do for a living. “I have worked in the digital world for the last twenty years and it still fascinates and motivates me. It is important to be open and prepared to take on new challenges – it is surprising to see how many things are possible.”
This attitude has helped her in her career and in the balancing act of combining job and family. Even with her high-profile career, Dr Ritz tries to leave the office every evening at six o’clock so that she can spend at least one hour with her two children, aged two and four. “It should be normal for mothers to be able to pursuit full-time careers as well,” she explains.
“It should be normal for mothers to be able to pursuit full-time careers as well”
Admittedly, the healthy work-life balance is supported by a good support network of a loving nanny, grandmothers that are young at heart and caring nursery teachers. “Apart from that I have reserved important time with my kids - the computer and telephone are switched off,” she says. “The children learn that mummy has to work. As long as I keep my promises it works very well.”
To keep these promises, Dr Ritz lists three things companies should do to help women that are combining their career and family aspirations.
“A modern workplace is vital - it allows working everywhere while having flexibility and access to essential work documents and colleagues at all times.” According to Dr Ritz, Microsoft with its 70,000 employees has created such an environment.
“Secondly, it [the company] needs an outcome oriented environment where work results determine success, not employees’ presence in the office.” Clear and measurable goals, whether they have been accomplished in the office or somewhere else, are vital. “Too many bosses still judge work performance on who switches of the office light last.”
Dr Ritz also believes that promotion of women in middle management is important, but this requires female employees to want to move up. “The shortage of women on business boards is the consequence of a lack of women on management levels. Not enough talented women dare to take steps towards managerial responsibilities and team leading early in their career. In fact it is often easier to delegate responsibility when you are in an executive position, which helps once there are children.”
From the company, the successful promotion of women into executive positions requires the will to accommodate them through interruptions and reintroduction into their career after a maternity break. “Part-time or flexi-time, as well as personal career planning or company mentoring, can all be a part of the solution. It also means being brave enough and consequential in recruiting women for senior executive positions.”
Bravery is also a trait Dr Ritz advises women to develop. “Show bravery in applying for a role even if you only fulfill 50% of the criteria. Be brave and boost your career with professional development and promote your own successes. Be brave and establish your own network of people, which support your advancements. Be brave and try to combine job and family.”
"Be brave and establish your own network of people, which support your advancements. Be brave and try to combine job and family"
Although Dr Ritz does not agree with quota legislation, she thinks that threats made by the EU and the German government to implement binding rules might push companies to introduce measures voluntarily.
“I think instead of quotas, it is much more important that companies’ corporate governance reflect their commitment towards equal opportunities and gender equality.
Dr Dorothee Ritz became General Manager Consumer & Online Germany (C&O) at Microsoft Germany in July 2008, is a member of the executive board of the Microsoft Germany GmbH and has previously worked as Director Online Service Group Germany. She is also an accomplished lawyer, with promotion in online criminal law.