Women in Tech: “Qualifications are doubted across the board on the basis of gender”
Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Two years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Elke Steinegger, Area VP and General Manager Germany at Commvault.
A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?
Two years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Elke Steinegger, Area VP and General Manager Germany at Commvault.
Today’s Woman in Tech: Elke Steinegger, Area VP and General Manager Germany at Commvault
Elke Steinegger holds the position of Vice President and General Manager at Commvault Germany since August 2020. In this role, she positions Commvault as the leading provider and partner for data management for customers and partners in the German market. In addition, Elke Steinegger is responsible for driving growth and market share by building an efficient and high-performing sales team in Germany.
Elke Steinegger has over 30 years of management experience in the areas of sales, business and product development, and service delivery. After graduating in Electrical Engineering, she first worked in the sales field in various positions, where she gained valuable hands-on expertise.
She then worked for a wide variety of international technology companies and, before joining Commvault, spent several years as Vice President Enterprise Presales EMEA at Dell EMC in Frankfurt.In addition, Elke Steinegger is involved in Corporate Social Responsibility and Diversity & Inclusion programs, is a member of supervisory boards, and maintains active relationships with industry-relevant boards and committees.
When did you become interested in technology?
Even as a child, I tended to disassemble radio receivers instead of playing with dolls – and fortunately for my family, I also reassembled them. My parents not only recognized this interest, but also actively encouraged it, for example with electrical and chemical construction kits for my birthday or Christmas. When I discovered how the high-voltage power lines transport energy over the mountains I was definitely fascinated by technology and decided to pursue a technical education and career.
How did you acquire your current job position?
After attending high school in Leoben, Austria, I went to the Higher Technical School for Electrical Engineering (HTL), where I was able to get a hands-on taste of industry. I’ve always had a penchant for teaching others about the workings and benefits of innovative technology. The role where I was able to combine both was in Sales. In the early years, I earned my spurs primarily at Siemens in Munich – and not just on the sales front. I was allowed to work with many partners early on, lead and build teams, and thus also influence the development of my team members.
In my opinion, this is only possible if you can combine technical know-how, quality standards and empathy. This was followed by various international positions in other international companies in different functions such as Business Development, Sales, PreSales, Consulting or Professional Services. These tasks became more and more demanding, bigger and definitely more complex. I love challenges and draw on different experiences. But if the task becomes too administrative, if the connection to people and technology is lost, it becomes boring for me.
Did you have any kind of support? What about your role models?
Of course, my family has supported me from the beginning. I like to learn all the time, but not only from great personalities. Every person is a role model for me in this sense. Getting to know people, understanding their motivations and potentials is immensely enriching for me, and I have been able to learn something from almost every encounter so far.
In the meantime, I’ve reached the point where I’m involved in corporate social responsibility projects and “Diversity & Inclusion” programs to challenge and encourage others. I also get involved as a mentor and coach. Of course, there have always been and continue to be women who have stood out.
One woman I definitely want to mention is Patricia Florissi, whom I met in her role as CTO at Dell Technologies and who is now at Google. She knows how to combine family, career, and technology. I think her passion and her way of presenting or motivating, even when things aren’t going so well, is great.
What inspires me about Michelle Obama, on the other hand, is that she simply gets down to business, has fun with everything she does, and sets out to improve the world with a great deal of empathy, and does so in a concrete way. By the way, “Becoming” is one of my favorite books, and I highly recommend it.
What kind of obstacles and hurdles did you have to overcome?
Early in my career, I experienced some challenging situations, especially when I was in classic technology roles. But that started when, on my first day at the HTL, I was the only woman marching into a lecture and the professor preferred to send me home to the stove. That made me want to stay and awakened in me the desire to change something in this male-dominated industry.
Unfortunately, it is still not a matter of course to position women in the boardrooms, supervisory boards or in senior management.
Fortunately, today global WiT programs, Compliance and a broader awareness help to be more mindful and respectful of each other. Nevertheless, there is still much to be done in this area and unfortunately it is still not a matter of course to position women in the boardrooms, supervisory boards or senior management.
How does your typical day-to-day work look like?
I work for a technology leader in data management – Commvault. As Area Vice President and General Manager, I run the business in Germany. It is important that I’m very familiar with both our products and services and the challenges that our customers and partners face.
That is why a big part of my job is talking to people about these very issues, putting together appropriate teams, and developing solutions for them. First and foremost, I listen a lot and try to establish teams to jointly develop solutions for and with our partners and customers.
Are you working on any personal project at the moment?
I haven’t developed anything myself in the classic sense, because I’ve always worked for companies that had great products or solutions. My heart’s project, besides my job, is more of a social nature. I am involved with the PoorPoor Foundation e.V., a social network for the poorest of the poor. Personally, I am doing incredibly well and I would like to give something back: Water and education in Africa, access to health care.
In general, networks are a good tool for achieving more together.
In general, networks are a good tool for achieving more together. I like to open up my own when, for example, I see talents who want to achieve something, are looking for challenges or sparring partners to discuss ideas. In turn, I also keep learning, getting different perspectives or suggestions, ideas and opinions. I find that really inspiring.
What stereotypes have you encountered regarding “Women in Tech”?
When someone says, “Does she know that? Can she do that? Does she dare to make decisions?” These questions have become annoying. Qualifications are doubted across the board on the basis of gender. In addition, women themselves often doubt whether they meet the requirements. As a result, many women have far too little confidence in themselves and don’t even try. The consequence is often that we can’t find enough women.
In your opinion, what must be done to get more women aboard the tech industry?
For me, the tech industry is one of the best industries today to get involved with many different career opportunities. However, it would need to be communicated much earlier how cool the content is, advertised more, already at school and then at universities.
We also need more role models, success stories, and collaboration with the tech industry, such as through internship programs. From an employer’s perspective, we are all asked to modernize job descriptions and focus more on the “digital nature”, roles and responsibilities to attract talent.
In my opinion, women are also given set limits and, under certain circumstances, the pressure is increased when they are supposed to make the team more “social”, then they are supposed to be “communicative”. If women are not involved in the development of products, services, and regulations, they lack both the perspective and the innovative power of half of humanity.
We are all important and can contribute, express dissenting opinions or suggest other solutions.
I see many executives around the world, myself included, promoting women because they expect it to bring many benefits to companies, not because they are forced to do so by quotas. Many companies like Microsoft, Google, and Commvault pay a lot of attention to diversity in the hiring process and have good initiatives and programs in place for WiT.
And even if there is a quota, we still need many ambassadors and role models who can serve as role models for young women. So this debate will be with us for a while before it becomes a matter of course.
What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career?
Never doubt that you are up to the challenge, after all, you will have to keep learning anyway. Have courage and just try it. Be involved in the discussion from the beginning, be self-confident, be visible and be heard. We are all important and can contribute, express dissenting opinions or propose other solutions.
For me, this is where diversity already begins. And I strongly recommend starting early to build strong and resilient networks. Establish your own with people you can trust and learn from. Accepting and asking for support is not a weakness, it helps you learn faster, grow and become more efficient.