Women in Tech: “Professional competence against inequality — a perfect tool”
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 Danuta Florczyk, Founder and CEO of tectumedia.
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 Danuta Florczyk, Founder and Managing Director of tectumedia.
Today’s woman in tech: Danuta Florczyk
Danuta Florczyk is the founder and managing director of tectumedia. The Berlin-based agency focuses on consulting and implementing digital marketing strategies. Danuta Florczyk has broad expertise in performance and brand marketing and is a proven digital strategist for companies in all industries. More than 10 years of professional know-how, and leading positions in international corporations make her a sought-after speaker and discussion participant. Before founding tectumedia, Danuta Florczyk held leading positions in numerous renowned companies. After five years with Yahoo!, she built up the international display business for Zalando and was subsequently Director Display Marketing and Cooperation at Project-A-Ventures.
What got you interested in technology?
I grew up in East Germany, and had little interest in the Robotron computers in the technical room. But that was certainly due to the way technology was taught to us. Recently, I read that 83.3 % of IT companies think that the German school system doesn’t bring enough young women into contact with IT. I wasn’t even in my teens — in 1986, for example — when my uncle, who lived behind the iron curtain in Paris at the time, thought it was a good idea to familiarize us children (my brother and me) with the subject of IT. He brought an “Apple 2c” (the portable version of the famous “Apple 2e”) into the house, with which we should familiarize ourselves. In addition to this, there was also a book, with which you could program simple applications in Apple Basic, and — to our great enthusiasm — also some games from Atarisoft, which at that time released games for all possible systems. I remember wild Donkey Kong championships, but at some point, we wanted more. And then I noticed that friends were all about Commodore 64. My cousin had an Atari. I was terribly upset that everything was so incompatible. Not to mention the fact that it wasn’t so easy to find software for an Apple 2c in East Germany back then. So the computer remained unused at the time and my interest focused first on other topics.
I studied ethnology and linguistics. Numbers and statistics were more important to me than technology. In Dublin, I gained my first marketing experience at Overture. I started with “Search”. That wasn’t very exciting for me. So shortly afterward, I moved to Yahoo! and started with display marketing and process optimization. I had both data and tools there – and it’s exactly this combination that has remained my passion to this day. Although I don’t program any tools myself, I can quickly grasp them and apply them in a practice-oriented way. That’s why I can build and develop them in close cooperation with our IT department.
In 2010, I moved to Zalando. That was an adventurous and exciting challenge because I had to build up the display and cooperation department from scratch. I encountered a lot of traffic and had no tools and no processes. Here, my interest began to expand and concretize to the development of tools. In 2013, my two partners and I finally founded the digital marketing agency tectumedia, and shortly afterwards Performates, where we develop software.
A day in Danuta’s life
I am the founder and managing director of the tectumedia agency. We are consultants and partners for digital marketing strategies for clients such as Bonprix, About You and möbel.de. Before I go to work, I have breakfast with my family and take the kids to kindergarten and school. This is followed by internal meetings or meetings with customers. I don’t have a classic working day. It always depends on which projects I am currently involved in.
I had little interest in the Robotron computers in the technical room. But that was certainly due to the way technology was taught to us.
After more than 12 years in digital marketing, building up marketing departments, implementing new processes, and systems, we were confronted with the same problems again and again. Almost all marketing departments use standardized and manually controlled processes that are time-consuming and error-prone. We then decided to develop our own software. Performates takes the possibilities of display marketing to the next level. We started where manual optimization and traditional processes reach their limits.
Is there someone you look up to? Do you have any role models?
I don’t really have any role models from the tech industry and I have always felt like a pioneer breaking new ground. Of course, I noticed that the proportion of female colleagues was smaller, but I knew from the start that I would be more likely to have male colleagues. So that wasn’t surprising.
I have always received support from male colleagues and superiors, for which I am grateful, because that clearly does not seem to be the rule. I have never really made a distinction in my career. Gender-specific criteria were rather irrelevant in building my network.
Did anyone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?
The “Women in Tech Survey Report 2018″ found that more than half of women in the technology industry believe they are disadvantaged in their jobs because of their gender. I’ve always known my own value, and throughout my career, I’ve had the good fortune to work in teams and situations that never made me feel disadvantaged. I am aware that this is not always the case, and I am glad that we are now discussing it more openly and confidently. I have the feeling that awareness in companies has already changed in recent years, and that we are at least moving.
I think the biggest hurdles, especially for young women, is still access to tech professions. It is astonishing how traditional ideas about women’s and men’s occupations still hold true, even in our time, and I think we all agree in principle that more needs to be done here. Young girls should be introduced to technology professions much earlier and more systematically because this is the only way we as a society can realize all the potential in the digital age.
I have also always received support from male colleagues and superiors, for which I am grateful, because that clearly does not seem to be the rule.
Why aren’t there more women in tech?
I think it’s clearly the training. For young girls, technological careers are still outside the realm of their imagination. It is still extremely important what image certain professions have and studies show that gender stereotypes persist. It is understandable that without role models and incentives, girls do not get the impression that a profession in the tech industry suits them. This is why, even today, the majority of young women still opt-in for medical or social professions. So it takes an effort on the part of society as a whole to change that. Politics and business must formulate a common will and translate it into action.
I think it will take some time, before we see the first major successes here and, despite the major challenges, I think we are on the right track to gradually inspire more girls and women to take up IT professions. For women, who are already active in the IT industry, we need the opportunity to create role models on a personal and network level. We can only break down traditional stereotypes through increased visibility. A gender-sensitive vocational orientation is the key. There are numerous initiatives that try to break traditional stereotypes and broaden the horizons of young people with regard to their career choices. And I also think from my own experience that there is no better way to combat inequality than a very high level of professional competence.
What challenges do women in tech face?
It is true that women are not taken seriously because of clichés and are not trusted with certain tasks. I personally have fortunately not experienced this, and I am glad that no problems have arisen in my environment that are due to gender-specific disadvantages. The management of our company is two-thirds female and we attach great importance to the fact that everyone can develop according to his abilities in the company.
Regardless of origin, gender, and sexual orientation, everyone in our company should have the opportunity to participate and contribute ideas. We always have an open ear for the needs of our employees and for us diversity is a living reality. In my opinion, it is no longer permissible to discriminate against women and to generate problems arising from belonging to a particular gender in view of the often lamented shortage of skilled workers in Germany. We all are forced to move and constantly ask ourselves the question, whether we really use all our potential to grow further.
Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM?
The question bears the risk of agreeing on the existence of gender-specific competences. However, studies suggest that stereotypical educational patterns create differences. So I stick to it, the key lies in education. I see the benefits very clearly in economic terms. If we can make technical occupations more interesting for women, we will have gained a lot, because we cannot continue to afford to face a widespread shortage of skilled workers in the IT industry with encrusted role models. It is simply no longer appropriate to make it more difficult for a section of society to gain access to IT occupations. I also see changes with regard to the structuring of employment relationships. In the future, it must be even more possible to think of family and career together and we must support women much more than before in order to give them the opportunity to develop their potential within the company.
Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:
- Women in tech: Lina Zubyte – “We are building so many biases into technology”
- Women in tech: Reema Poddar – “Women MUST promote and support their fellow women.”
- Women in tech: Sivan Nir – “You need to have passion and a thirst for learning.”
- Women in tech: Karen Hoyos – “Diversity should be represented at every level”
- Women in tech: Meghan Jordan – “Good products and good teams require empathy”