Women in tech

Mannheims support program for women in the tech industry

Mannheim is a start-up city – for any gender. The start-up center gig7 supports females in the start-up scene, and has been doing so successfully for some years. The newly created format “WOMEN IN TECH” by STARTUP MANNHEIM, is set on inspiring more women to get into tech start-ups. We sat down for an interview with the three women, who are devoted to making this happen. 


Claudia, you manage the technology sector here at STARTUP MANNHEIM. Tell us about the idea behind “WOMEN IN TECH”.

Dr. Claudia Rabe: Firstly it is about inspiration: We want to motivate women to get into technology based start-ups. Many of these women may never have thought about such a step. As women tend to act more carefully in business, we want to connect them with successful female founders in the tech sector, as a form of role models.


The women behind WOMEN IN TECH: Dr. Claudia Rabe, Pricilla Weixler and Lena Rübelmann (from left).


Pricilla, you’re the head of “WOMEN IN TECH”. What is so important about the initiative?

Pricilla Weixler: Sadly the tech sector is still a place that is very male-dominated. Men are much more inclined to get into business, as there are many successful role models for them in the area. With these archaic ideas prevalent, women aren’t offered the same advantages. Germany may seem to be progressive regarding gender equality, but I feel old stereotypes still dictate many peoples way of thinking. I am confronted with this constantly when organizing start-up events. A lot of guys think I’m in charge of coffee. And these guys are young … my age!


Community manager in gig7: Lena Rübelmann.


Lena, you’re the community manager over at gig7, which is focused on supporting females in the start-up sector. I assume that a central issue would also be positively changing the male perspective on such matters?

Lena Rübelmann: Indeed! Old stereotypes are very deeply rooted in society. It takes training to identify and change these ways of thinking. This may regard keeping the employment process gender neutral, or ensuring a fair distribution of resources in the start-up environment. This challenge concerns all of us, and there is no way to tackle it half-heartedly. 

Pricilla: If we can motivate more women to start their own businesses, this will shift perceptions and destroy clichés. Whenever women are prevalently active in assistant positions, this perception will bleed into the general idea of what women are capable of. 

Claudia: The idea that women and technology don’t gel, has always been false. Sadly this stereotype is still around. We are keen on stopping this self-fulfilling prophecy.



There have been many successful women in executive positions in the technology sector, especially in start-ups …

Lena: Yes! Many studies have shown that female-run businesses are longer-lasting, and  mixed leadership teams are the most successful. An important part of what we do is based in the fact, that there are not enough women in central positions in business, inspire of them having excellent credentials. It’s a giant waste of potential, which we can also see in the current shortage of specialists. The solution is not inverting the balance, but rather in balancing thing out. It is all in the mix, and to create an optimal mix, we need more women.

This entails, that we retain the differences between genders – otherwise there would be nothing to complement each other. Right!?

Lena: Of course! We want people to be judged by their potential, their qualifications, their commitment, and their personalities, rather than by their gender. 

What are typical challenges for females in the start-up sector?

Lena: Most investors are men. This is the first major issue. Another factor is time. As women are still more responsible for family life, they can not invest the same amount of time elsewhere. The start-up sector is very time-demanding. To pull 60-hour weeks, the way some men do, is hard for any young mother. These are only a part of the challenges we face, and as these gender-specific differences exist, we need a center for female founders such as gig7, in Mannheim.



Why the focus on women in tech?

Pricilla: Most women in start-up are focused on the creative business, and more specifically areas such as fashion, baby support, or cosmetics. It’s to bad, as the areas with the most potential lie in technology. This is why we created “WOMEN IN TECH” – more apps, less lipsticks … if you so will!

Claudia: It’s all about inspiring and motivating. The “Female‘s Favour{IT}e” conference, which we organized in February of 2018, was a starting signal. The event premiered with 150 female guests between 25 and 35 years of age! The conference was a collaborative effort, together with Hackerstolz e.V., and we have created a platform for women interested in starting up in tech, to exchange themselves and create networks.



Which strengths lie in “WOMEN IN TECH”, and what chances lie in female success stories in tech?

Lena: For example: women are good with language comprehension, which helps in coding. Next year we are planning to offer tech-lectures and workshops, to help women discover a connection with tech-subjects. We want to show that these subjects are not scary, but to get involved, and discover your own strengths. 

Pricilla: It is crucial to create these points of interest, as women are not as often confronted with tech as men. It’s no surprise they aren’t as inclined to study engineering or computer sciences!

What in your pipeline?

Claudia: November 11th, at 5:30 PM, we have our kick-off event in the MAFINEX technology center, for our Inspirational-Talks. Pricilla is currently conducting interviews for our “Role-Model-Project”. We are putting together a “WOMEN IN TECH” facebook group, and next year will see a return of the successful “Female‘s Favour{IT}e” conference in MAFINEX. We also have a series of tech lectures planed over the course of the coming year. So stay tuned 😉 

Pricilla: These lectures will be a proof-of-concept: are there really enough women, who are willing to get into the subject? If things go as planned, we will launch our FemTech-School in the Autumn of 2019. This is a long-term project, which focuses on practical experience. We are concentrated on gaining exciting partners for the project.



Lena, what led you to becoming Community Manager of gig7?

Lena: I had previously worked with start-ups, and had gained experience with several other models of business. A focus on female business came here at gig7. I feel it is time to tackle the subject now. Our society can only profit from a balanced gender situation, in all areas of life, be it in family life or in business. This is our mission over in gig7. We want to create change, and I love being a part of it every day.  

Claudia: gig7 is an important part of STARTUP MANNHEIM. It offers a center for us to offer many different forms of support for female founders. Mannheim has become a pioneering force in this area. 

Lena: Here we can optimally support aspiring female founders. We offer a community of female founders, who will thoroughly check business models, or offer subsidized office space, and a lot more! We will always take the whole person into account. It’s never only about business, but also about the persons life, interests and motivations. This is essential!



What is more important: motivation, or the capacity to overcome structural challenges?

Lena: It’s about support, motivation, strength and security. Our offer consists of consultation, network events and seminars. This is meant to prepare female founders and business women for the structural challenges, they will undoubtedly face. On the other hand we also offer coaching for women who have been in business for a while, and who are interested in taking the next step. By motivating and schooling these women regarding such structural challenges, we want to play an active role in diminishing them in the long run.

Interview: Paul Heesch / LA.MAG

Fotos: Sebastian Weindel

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