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More women in the start-up scene: 5 questions to... Susanne Traugott from "Women.start.up!"

stories-women-startup-Susanne-Traugott
Written
22 October 2019
Topic
Female Entrepreneurship
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Susanne has been project leader of the Women.start.up! initiative since mid-2018. Previously, she worked for many years in the field of executive education and led the Executive MBA in Innovation and Business Creation.

Already during the development of the continuing education program and the alumni network, she was committed to the topics that are in focus at Women.start.up! - first and foremost "Women's Empowerment" and the compatibility of family and career. Susanne studied communication sciences, business administration and intercultural communication.

Susanne, what is the current situation in Germany when it comes to women and start-ups?

31.6% of women and 39% of men have a positive attitude towards start-ups, an apparently balanced ratio. However, the figures turn negative if one looks at the proportion of actual female start-up founders in Germany. Here, women account for only 15.1%. There is therefore an enormous discrepancy between the basic propensity to found a company and its actual implementation - the number of female founders is falling, while male founders dominate the start-up world.

How can such a serious discrepancy between theory and implementation arise?

A lack of mentors and role models, a lack of knowledge about one's own strengths, and much greater hurdles in financing prevent women from founding. Only 7.8% of women's teams receive venture capital, compared to 16.8% of men. Regardless, a misconception of the tech start-up scene exists that needs to be gotten out of people's heads. There are many different ways to start up. When we think of tech start-ups, we automatically think of young, white men and their visions of the future. Such images need to be broken down. You can also start up alongside your family; mothers in particular prefer to be able to manage their time freely and work from home. Women also increasingly question the meaningfulness and impact of their business idea and want to build sustainable businesses in the long term. Therefore, they usually need more time to build up their business, but are still often very successful.

How does Women.start.up. want to change the existing mindset?

We want to make people aware of what happens subconsciously. For example, women's confidence in their business and innovative skills is far lower than that of their male counterparts. Studies have shown, for example, that in pitch situations men are subconsciously evaluated as ambitious and women as unexperienced. This makes it clear why significantly more men receive venture capital than women.

Within UnternehmerTUM, we regularly exchange ideas with employees from all areas of the company. We raise awareness of the differences between women and men and that the goals, motivations and needs of women interested in founding a company may be different - and that the same mechanisms and support services may not work as well. We are also trying to invite more women to speak at conferences and other events to make them more diverse.

The topic of imagery and gender-appropriate language also plays a role. Our Digital Product School program is a positive example - with an adapted website, many more women are now being reached than in previous program periods. For example, the job profiles have been adjusted. Women are more likely to recognize themselves in task- and qualification-oriented profiles and feel addressed by descriptions such as "eloquence" and "eye for the essentials," while men respond to status- and power-related characteristics, such as "negotiating skills" or "assertiveness“.

What do you offer the women who come to you?

Our ever-growing community provides space for exchange and mutual support. Problems can be identified and the network can help solve them. We bring together women from a wide range of backgrounds and life situations, from successful business managers to students interested in setting up their own businesses. In the next step, we would like to offer community events, for example a pitch night just for women, where they can exchange ideas and give feedback in a protected space. We support and advise the women very individually, we arrange contacts or suggest that they participate in existing formats of UnternehmerTUM.

Who takes advantage of your offer?

Mostly, it is women interested in founding and technology. Due to the proximity to the Technical University Munich, many female students are represented in our UnternehmerTUM programs. It is noticeable that many of these female students do not pursue the idea of founding a company after their studies and instead look for a job in order to earn money and thus have security. However, they often come back to us later, for example when they realize that they are not getting ahead in their job or are in the family phase and want to start a business on the side. We offer these women a contact point and support them.

For more information, visit the Women.start.up! website or write to Susanne at: traugott@unternehmertum.de.

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