"Young women need to learn that it is natural to have a leading role as a woman"
Managing director Kaan Bludau and manager Claudia Whitcher about the lack of self-confidence of women in professional life, hidden chauvinism and different management styles in companies.
MR BLUDAU, WHAT MAKES YOUR COLLEAGUE CLAUDIA WHITCHER A GOOD HEADHUNTER?
Kaan Bludau: On behalf of our clients, we are looking for suitable people for specific positions, above all management positions. You can only be successful if you have understood the requirements of the customer and convinced the candidates and the company that they fit one hundred percent to each other. A good headhunter is, strictly speaking, an excellent seller from the heart. And in this case my colleague Claudia Whitcher at least as good as me.
“Mr Bludau provides significant upward leeway.”
MRS WHITCHER, YOU OFTEN PLACE FEMALE LEADERS AND YOU ARE COMMITTED TO THEIR EQUALITY. IS IT CRITICAL FOR YOU TO BE CONVINCING, SINCE YOU HAVE A MALE SUPERIOR WITH KAAN BLUDAU?
Claudia Whitcher: No, I do not think so. Kaan Bludau is particularly interested in employee development and coaching. He offers every employee great training opportunities and for him it is important that we all develop to successful consultants - he provides significant upward leeway. It can be said that all employees at BludauPartners, are promoted and thus able to develop into an executive.
Kaan Bludau: There is at most an experience hierarchy between us, because I have been in this business for almost 20 years. We both benefit from our teamwork.
In 2016 the law on "equal participation of women and men in leadership positions" came into force. It requires 106 listed companies to ensure, when new appointments to the Supervisory Board are made, that at least 30 percent of positions are occupied by women.
27 percent is the proportion of women in the executive boards of German companies. This means that Germany reached the 10th place (out of 34) in a European comparison. At the top is Iceland with 44 percent.
WHAT IS THE MAIN DIFFERENCE WHEN YOU INTERVIEW A WOMAN OR A MAN??
Claudia Whitcher: Frequently, the first interview with a woman takes longer than with a man. Most men know what they want and do not doubt their abilities. They come straight to the point. Women are more likely to waver and doubt their skills or deal with other emotional factors.
WHAT DO YOU THINK WHY THIS MIGHT BE?
Claudia Whitcher: Women take more consideration: they consider family concerns. For example, if I offer a candidate a position away from their place of residence, they first want to consider whether moving is a good step for their husband or, if appropriate, their children as well. Thus, women are quickly eliminated. Most men automatically assume that their wife and children would come along.
ISN’T THIS UNCONDITIONAL SUPPORT OF THE WOMAN FOR HER HUSBAND MINIMISED NOWADAYS?
Claudia Whitcher: Yes, that's right. However, it is still very rare that both partners have a great career. And there is also the upside down case that the man stays at home and the wife makes a great career.
Claudia Whitcher is a Manager at BludauPartners. She supports big businesses, internationally active mid-tier companies as well as venture-capital financed tech-start-ups in filling and assessing leadership positions.
DO MEN AND WOMEN HAVE DIFFERENT SALARY NEGOTIATIONS?
Claudia Whitcher: Mostly, women do not have such a strict idea in mind as men have. It matters to them that they are higher in salary than their current income. Men argue more often with all the added value that they bring the company in the future, and then set their salary expectations.
MR BLUDAU, DO YOU THINK WOMEN HAVE TO BE MORE DEMANDING?
Kaan Bludau: It depends. When explicitly women are searched for a leadership position, it can backfire if a woman has typically male behaviours. Men usually react negatively.
WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST THEN HOW WOMEN SHOULD BEHAVE? OR CAN YOU JUST DO IT WRONG?
Claudia Whitcher: Unfortunately, that's still a question of education and culture. Young women need to learn that being a woman with a leadership role is a matter of course. Many women see this image unfeminine. However, top executives may not think like this.
DO WOMEN SUPPORT EACH OTHER?
Claudia Whitcher: Most women in a leadership position have made it so far through male support. Mutually women support rather limited in this regard.
HOW CAN THE WORKING ENVIRONMENT FOR WOMEN CHANGE?
Kaan Bludau: Unfortunately, women still have to prove themselves, even today. In management there is a lot of hidden humiliation against women. The bosses have to admit and act. They cannot stand and watch.
ARE THERE STILL SO MANY MACHO MAN IN THE TOP LEADERSHIP?
Claudia Whitcher: This chauvinism arises mainly from fears. A woman on the board is also considered a rival, just like a man.
KKaan Bludau: In the end it can be said that women and men follow different leadership styles, but neither one nor the other style is "the only best". The best would be a balanced mix of men and women at management level.
Kaan Bludau and Claudia Whitcher place women in management positions throughout Europe.