International Women's day
Customer interview
International Women's day
Customer interview

Why we still need International Women's Day after 113 years

International Women's Day first took place on 19 March 1911 and has been celebrated on the 8th of March since 1921. It originated as an initiative of socialist organisations that fought for equal rights, the right to vote for women as well as the emancipation of female workers.       

Even if you think that it should no longer be an issue in 2024, the statistics show that we are still a long way from equality, for example in a professional context. According to the EU Gender Equality Index, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands are leading the way here. Data for Germany shows that the proportion of women in management positions across the country was around 24%. The highest proportion of women in management positions can be found in the healthcare sector at 36.7%. In mechanical engineering, on the other hand, this proportion is only of 9.8%       

We spoke to Steffi Leinigen, Managing Director of Normteile Leinigen GbR, about women, leadership and other career issues.  

Ms Steffi Leinigen, CEO of Normteile Leinigen GbR

Ms Leinigen, what does your company specialise in?    

As a wholesaler and system provider, we specialise in high-quality C-parts, standard parts, operating and machine elements as well as assemblies for mechanical and plant engineering. We source our products from  well-known manufacturers and suppliers on the market.    

How would you describe your management style?    

I see myself as a democratic, cooperative and friendly leader. As Managing Director, I have a role in which I bear responsibility. My job is to gather the knowledge and skills that are needed for certain steps and decisions from my colleagues. In order for my colleagues to be strong in their expertise, I have to ensure that they have good working conditions. The best way to do all this is to act with each other as equals and to be clear and transparent on the matter.    

How does it differ from the management style of men?    

I would say that women often act more empathetically and emotionally. At least that's how I see it when I make the comparison with my business partner. 

What would you describe as your greatest strength or your greatest success?    

One of my strengths is my assertiveness and certainly my perseverance in critical times. As a rule, I always look for solutions instead of burying my head in the sand when things get difficult.    

What have been the most difficult moments in your career?    

To be honest, it was the Corona crisis and its consequences. We have two children who were one and four years old at the time and couldn't be looked after at the nursery. Together with the uncertainty and the sometimes new and unfamiliar requirements in the company, it was quite challenging!   

 What was your biggest learning?     

Giving myself permission to take one step at a time.      

Being a businesswoman, manager and mother in one person takes time, dedication and resilience. And in all roles individually. So it took many small steps and realisations in all areas to grow into all these roles and fulfil them in parallel. Now I feel well anchored in all of this, but I also know that this also is in a constant state of flux and that I will simply take one step at a time.   

Have you encountered obstacles in your career because you are a woman?    

If so, how did you overcome them?    

No, I can't say that directly. I notice that men tend not to notice me at the first meeting when I appear together with my husband and business partner. Maybe it's ignorance, maybe it's fear. I was 27 years old when we founded the company.    

How can we encourage more women to take on leadership roles in their careers?    

I think it makes sense to encourage everyone to utilise their own qualities and to thrive with motivation. If you show leadership qualities and enjoy them, you need to develop them and work hard to be able to use them. So my message to women is simply "Have the courage, we can do it (too)!"  

How do you support women in your company?    

We create conditions that accommodate everyday circumstances: we have child-friendly working hours for mothers and work with compensatory time models so that a certain degree of flexibility is possible. In fact, we currently employ more women than men.    

What is the most important message you would like to pass on to young women who are thinking about their careers?    

The decisive factor is whether you have a passion and motivation for the job. That means you also have to make sacrifices. And you have to be prepared to do so without resentment or anger.  

The second advice I like to give is not to be distracted by external factors, by people who perhaps don't trust you to do the job. Another piece of advice is to allow yourself to make mistakes and to forgive yourself! Mistakes teach us success. We learn from them and nobody is perfect.    

Is there a particular female figure who has inspired you in your career?    

Not really. However, I always find a quote from Coco Chanel very inspiring:  "The bravest act is still to think for yourself. And to think out loud."   

 What would you wish for young women in the next generation?    

My wish for young women is that they don't always go with the crowd and don't always conform when they have a different idea. I wish young women the courage to say: "Here I am and this is how I am."  

Ms Leinigen, thank you so much for talking to us.


Subtitles available on YouTube

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