Women in tech: “Different backgrounds enrich processes and products”
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 Sarah-Kristin Bohlmeier, founder and Managing Director of teambay.
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 Sarah-Kristin Bohlmeier, founder and Managing Director of teambay.
Today’s Woman in Tech: Sarah-Kristin Bohlmeier
Sarah-Kristin Bohlmeier is founder and managing director of the HR tech company, teambay. teambay offers companies and HR managers a combination of software and well-founded consulting, offering a holistic approach to integrating employees, optimizing internal communication and improving corporate culture. In addition to her activities as managing director, Sarah-Kristin Bohlmeier is significantly involved in the consulting services of teambay. She laid the foundation for her career with a Master’s in Organizational Behavior at the London School of Economics. She then worked in various areas of personnel development, most recently as HR Manager at Kühne + Nagel.
What got you interested in technology?
To be honest, I’m a late bloomer on tech. I’ve always been interested in software in my job and I’ve always enjoyed learning new things, but I didn’t see myself as a ‘techie‘. However, when I met my co-founder , the idea of developing my own software was simply exciting. Over time, I became more and more familiar with software programming and now I am able to discuss development steps with my IT colleagues at eye level.
After graduating from high school and a gap year in Argentina, I decided to study International Business Studies. It was a dual degree so I spent my time studying in Wiesbaden and Marseille. During my bachelor’s studies, I focused on leadership and HR. I deepened my interest with a Master of Science in Organizational Behaviour at the London School of Economics. With this background, my career start in HR was relatively obvious to me. At Kühne und Nagel, I worked as an HR manager in HR development, where I was responsible for topics such as leadership development or talent and succession management. However, when the opportunity arose to found a company in the HR-Tech sector, I didn’t hesitate for long. My boss was also a great support at that time, which made everything even easier for me.
As a woman you are simply pushed into more feminine areas again and again, as if tech and woman would not fit so well. Or you are immediately seen as “Tomboy”.
A day in Sarah-Kristin’s life
Today I am the managing director of my own company – teambay. I never really have an everyday life here. I work with all employees on all topics: From sales to product development to HR topics. In this context, I am often on the road for appointments all over Germany. I enjoy this variety as much as I do enjoy the independence that comes with my work. I pass that on to my employees as best I can.
Do you have any role models? Are there supporters?
There are many people and especially women who have supported and promoted me. First and foremost, of course, my family, my boyfriend and my best friends. But I also have many smart and strong women in my professional environment who support and help me with words and deeds. My board advisers in particular are doing a great job here.
Did anyone ever try to stop you?
Being a woman I had to master some challenges during my time in logistics and in the start-up world; both worlds are still dominated by men. That’s why I had to clear up some prejudices and find my own way. Fortunately, I was never alone on this path.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I launched the teambay software in 2014 together with a founding team. At that time, I was working in HR and felt that the communication between employees and the company was too slow and no longer suitable for today’s fast-paced world. With this in mind, we developed teambay, an online software for continuous employee surveys. With the teambay platform, companies can quickly, automatically and flexibly gather feedback from employees on daily as well as strategic topics, continue working with the results and initiate a constant dialogue.
I generally believe that diversity is important in all areas to achieve the best results. Different backgrounds enrich processes and products.
Why aren’t there more women in tech?
I think there are several reasons for this. A big one is certainly society’s attitude to areas such as IT and programming. This is a classic men’s topic and consequently many women do not see themselves in this field. Of course, there is also the fact that many people are somewhat biased towards women in the tech field and clichéd thinking plays an important role. As a woman you are simply pushed into more feminine areas again and again, as if tech and woman would not fit so well. Or you are immediately seen as “Tomboy”.
What are some challenges or obstacles that women in tech face?
A big cliché is that women in the tech industry have to be tomboys. This means that they are to a certain degree denied their femininity so that they fit into the image of the male-dominated domain. Or they are just not taken seriously. For example, many of the female developers I talk to tell me that they are often pushed to work on design projects because those are considered more “feminine”. This constant struggle to be taken seriously is exhausting and sometimes you want to give up. And some women do so. Or they don’t even take up the fight from the beginning. That’s a pity, because a lot of potential is lost. Even as a relatively young managing director, I am often smiled upon. But that should never stop me from going my own way. It helps to stay on the course, to form alliances with others and to convince with competence.
Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM?
I do not think this question should be confined to women alone. I generally believe that diversity is important in all areas to achieve the best results. Different backgrounds enrich processes and products. That applies to men and women, but also to sexual orientation, nationality and culture – or simply to different characters. Heterogeneous teams have been proven to be more successful, innovative, and creative at social, professional, cultural, and economic levels.
The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?
The issue of diversity is far from over. In various countries, regions and cities the importance of this topic differs and developments are sometime more and sometimes less advanced. I dream of a world in which we no longer look at gender, sexual orientation or skin color, but simply see the person. However, history shows us that a world in which diversity is part of everyday life doesn’t always last. So it’s vital to always keep the focus on the topic and continue to work on its progress.
What advice would you give to women who want a career in tech?
It is important to network and reach out for support. Mentors or peers are possible, but friends and family are also important. Exchanging ideas, talking about problems and challenges and sharing successes are also very important to me. When you realize that you are not the only one who is struggling with obstacles, it becomes easier. A big learning for me was to understand that there is not one perfect way. Everyone has their own way of approaching topics and what worked for a friend may not work for you. I can only continue to advise women: be courageous and venture into the tech industry! You can do more than you think and there is always someone who can relate to your situation.
Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:
- Women in Tech: Frederike Busch — “I don’t believe in structural discrimination”
- Women in Tech: Dagmar Schuller — “There were one or two obstacles along the way”
- Women in Tech: Lisa Mo Wagner — “The most important thing when starting out is to be more self confident”
- Tips for Women in Tech: Andrea Pretorian — “Setbacks and ‘failures’ are really learning opportunities”
- Women in Tech: Swarali Karkhani — “Women in tech should try to step out of their comfort zone more and speak up more often without having imposter syndrome.”