International Women's Day
Customer Interview
International Women's Day
Customer Interview

International Women's Day: 
Customer interview with Isabel Grupp, Managing Director of Plastro Mayer GmbH

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 Isabel Grupp, Managing Director of Plastro Mayer GmbH, about women, leadership and other career issues.  

Ms. Isabel Grupp, CEO of Plastro Mayer GmbH

Ms Grupp, what does your company specialise in?

We are a classic supplier to industry in the areas of plastic parts production, the manufacture of cable metre goods, toolmaking and assembly. We offer services such as plastic-compatible design, laser welding and contract manufacturing. Plastro Mayer GmbH sees itself as the plastics all-rounder that combines the functionally related areas in a combination that is unique in Germany.    

How would you describe your management style?   

My management style is participative, co-operative and team-oriented. It is characterised by empathy and a clear focus on the people in my team. I firmly believe that the key to a team's success lies in understanding and taking into account the individual needs, strengths and challenges of each individual. It is therefore important to me to create an atmosphere in which every team member feels respected, heard and supported.   

I treat my team members as equals and encourage them to contribute their ideas and perspectives. Through open communication and transparent decision-making processes, I create an environment in which trust and genuine collaboration can flourish. It is important to me to be available not only as a supervisor, but also as a mentor and supporter.   

Ultimately, I strive to empower my employees to develop and realise their full potential so that we can achieve goals together. I believe in enabling long-term success and establishing a positive work culture by prioritising the people in my team and encouraging their development.  

Do you perceive differences in leadership style between men and women?     

My leadership style does not differ because of my gender. Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, a leadership style is characterised by empathy, focussing on people and acting as equals. These characteristics are not linked to gender or orientation, but come from a person's individual values, experiences, skills and, above all, their aspirations for their leadership role.   

It could certainly be argued that women in leadership positions may have developed a greater sensitivity for interpersonal relationships and a stronger tendency towards empathy due to social expectations or personal experiences. This could manifest itself in a leadership style that focusses more on the needs and development of team members than perhaps the leadership styles we have often been used to.   

Nevertheless, it is important for me to emphasise once again that each person's leadership style is individual and is not determined by gender. Ultimately, an effective leadership style should be characterised by the ability to understand and respond to the needs of teams - regardless of gender stereotypes.   

What would you describe as your greatest strength or success?    

In my opinion, my greatest strengths are my perseverance and my resilience. I don't let things get me down so easily - even when I've experienced a lot of headwinds in life.    

I see my greatest success as having successfully gained a foothold in a male-dominated field such as STEM professions and asserting myself through my expertise. Studying as a woman in such an environment and later joining my father's company as a trainee undoubtedly brought unique challenges.   

Instead of being discouraged by the hurdles, I persevered and focussed on overcoming them, developing myself through them and finding my place in the industry. My initially reserved behaviour was not a weakness, but a conscious decision to make it clear that I needed the support of my colleagues and employees in order to be successful.  

What were the most difficult moments in your career?      

The most difficult moments in my career were often characterised by my own high expectations of myself. I was brought up by my parents to be performance-orientated and I always had high expectations of my own performance. These high expectations sometimes led to moments where I felt pressure - especially during demanding project phases where I was always keen to achieve first-class results. Nevertheless, these experiences have taught me to be resilient and to continuously develop myself. Since I've been a little gentler on myself, I have a lot more ease in life.   

What was your biggest learning?    

My biggest learning was the realisation that mistakes and challenges are inextricably linked to the learning process. Over the course of my career, I have learnt to see them as valuable opportunities for personal and professional development. Each setback has given me new insights and skills that have ultimately made me a stronger and more competent professional, and certainly a more experienced person. All of this has helped me to move forward with more courage and determination to achieve my goals.    

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

If so, how did you overcome them?    

Yes, as a woman in a male-dominated industry such as process engineering, I have encountered obstacles because of my gender. Some of these obstacles were prejudice, stereotypes and lack of recognition of my skills and competences.   

To overcome this, I used various strategies: Firstly, I focussed intensely on continuously improving my skills and knowledge in my field to emphasise my competence and professionalism.   

In addition, I have not hesitated to stand up for my achievements and ideas and to have a clear and confident voice in discussions and decision-making processes. By actively contributing my experiences and perspectives, I was able to help break down prejudices. However, I have never let obstacles stop me from pursuing my path.   

Finally, I have also worked to promote diversity and inclusion, both within my organisation and in the industry as a whole. By promoting equality and equal opportunities, I want to help improve the working environment for future generations of women in STEM professions.  

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

In my view, there are several ways to encourage women to aspire to leadership roles in their careers:   

Mentoring and coaching: A supportive mentoring programme that gives women access to experienced leaders can help them develop their skills and build confidence. I volunteer as a mentor here.    

Visibility of role models: It is important to make successful female leaders visible and share their stories to show other women that it is possible to succeed in leadership.   

Cultural change: It is important to create a corporate culture that promotes diversity and inclusion and encourages women to voice their opinions and contribute innovative ideas.   

Flexible working models: Providing flexible working models and support in balancing work and family life can encourage women to aspire to leadership roles without having to neglect their personal commitments.   

Removing prejudices and barriers: Organisations should actively tackle gender biases and barriers to ensure that women have the same opportunities as their male counterparts to reach leadership roles.   

By taking these measures, women can be encouraged to aspire to leadership in their careers and realise their full potential. There are certainly many more, but I see these as effective and feasible steps for all organisations.    

How do you promote women in your company?    

We attach great importance to ensuring that women have the same opportunities as men when it comes to recruitment and promotion. We make decisions based on competence, performance and potential.   

We endeavour to live a corporate culture that promotes and respects diversity and inclusion. We offer a supportive work environment in which all employees are valued, respected and encouraged, regardless of their gender.  

Do you have women with management responsibility who are also mothers?     

Yes, although they already have grown-up children.    

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

The most important message I would like to give young women is to believe in themselves and courageously pursue their dreams. It's important not to be discouraged by societal expectations, gender stereotypes or obstacles: be brave, curious and willing to take risks. Be ready to challenge yourself and learn from your experiences - whether they are positive or negative. Have confidence in your abilities and don't let anyone stop you from pursuing your goals. Be yourself and not a copy of someone else.   

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

I‘ve had several role models and people who have accompanied and inspired me at different stages of my life. Starting with my parents and my family, my nearest and dearest, to many female entrepreneurs and businesspeople with whom I have interacted over the years or still do. I can't really name a specific person, as my life is a continuous process and goals and dreams change. I always orientate myself towards those who are already where I want to be. As soon as I have achieved that, there are new role models and new goals. That's how life works. Always in flux.   

Why do you think diversity in the workplace is so important?    

Diversity in the workplace is crucial because it encourages a variety of perspectives, experiences and ways of thinking, which leads to more inclusive and creative problem solving. Overall, diversity in the workplace contributes to a positive corporate culture, increased performance and competitiveness, and greater social inclusion. I am convinced that diversity in the workplace is an essential part of the success of modern organisations in an increasingly globalised and diverse world.   

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

I would like to see a world of opportunity, equality and respect for the next generation of young women, where they can realise their full potential.

Ms Grupp, thank you very much for the interview and we wish you all the best!


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