Regine Schlicht is the head of the Mittelstand 4.0 – Competence Center Kiel in Germany. This center combines competences from 6 scientific institutions in Schleswig-Holstein in order to enable small and medium-sized enterprises to digitize. The previous blogpost have mainly been on women working in marine science and technology. Here we widen the scope to the discipline of Information Technology, where women are in minority.
What did inspire you to pursue a career in technologies?
When I was younger, I always wanted to be a dancer. But to make this dream come true, I would have needed to leave school premature, which was no real option. After my university-entrance diploma I did some orientation courses, where I encountered IT for the very first time – and got into it.
What are the main things you enjoy about being an engineer?
To be honest, it´s mainly about factors applying for any job: I can do something I really like, I have development potentialities, creative freedom and a great team.
Did you have any role models that led you to this career? How did they influence you?
When I was younger I never thought about female role models: I just did what I wanted. But it was really important to me that there has always been someone I could rely on, who encouraged me and taught me I could reach everything I wanted to: my mother. Though I grew up in a very classic family model with my mother being housewife and my father caring for the income.
Have you ever had any difficulties in your career due to your gender? If yes, how did you handle them?
For years, I have been the only woman in a management circle and became acquainted with a great many facets:
- A woman representing an opinion is “touchy”, a man is confident and strong.
- Men who have one over the eight at company parties may get courageous and whisper “You look so sexy” to you.
- A woman introducing an idea may be ignored. A man introducing the very same idea about five minutes later is a hero.
These are only three short examples, but they show I experienced all the clichés. It was always important to me to act professional, hence I tried to keep business and private matters separate which facilitated my work a lot. Another important point was not adapting myself to manhood. There may situations in which it is necessary, but you won´t get ahead by adapting. I want to make a difference, I want to create and carry weight. You have to learn to defend yourself and not accept or ignore everything. It´s not just about how good your work is but also about showing “muscles”: Quick-witted reactions and highlighting unfair behaviour.
Do you think there is a need for special girls’ support to study technologies?
There are certainly many girls and women that are thinking such an offer is unnecessary. But I think it is good to reach more girls and support them. Many studies and projects proof that girls are more comfortable with technologies being by themselves. I am reinforced in this opinion by the story of a professor friend of mine, who was on a girls´ school. She always says that all the girls considered every subject as naturally. Because,, as she says, “we could not hide behind the boys”.
How could they be encouraged to pursue careers in science and technology?
Many girls do have an interest for technical subjects, but self-confidence in their intellectual ability and self-confidence to live their desires and interests is absent or subtle. Role models do have an important meaning by showing the possibilities. Flanking action such as programs for school girls, mentor networks or informative meetings help getting girls into technical subjects.
What advice would you give any women considering science as a career path?
A lot of men do not think women can do certain jobs. Prove them wrong. And always have an answer prepared.
What are the most effective ways for you to maintain balance of your professional and personal life?
The most effective way for me was keeping business and private matters separate. I use my free time to do the things I love and recharge my batteries.