2019 brought a great recognition to our company – Datavard was awarded the Employer of the Year title by the Women in IT Awards for outstanding commitment to promoting gender parity. We met with Gregor Stoeckler (Datavard CEO), Petra Pirron (Managing Director) and Antonia Zeller (Head of HR) to talk about how they view the award, what makes a company a great place to work, and what are their thoughts on diversity and gender equality at Datavard and in the IT industry.
Gregor, you were invited to Berlin to a gala hosted by the Women in IT Awards. You left the event with the Employer of the Year Award – how does that make you feel as the CEO?
Gregor: I am extremely proud of the recognition we get as an employer. However, I left Berlin with mixed feelings, because I feel that in this day and age, what we are offering shouldn’t be awarded as being exceptional but should rather be the norm. To feel welcome and part of the team as well as receiving equal career opportunities regardless of gender should be standard. Neither men nor women should have to make a choice between career or having a family. It should be normal for a company owner to drive their kids to school of a morning. Both parents should be comfortable taking a sick dependent to the doctor. And if you prefer a single lifestyle, you shouldn’t have to choose between your hobbies and career.
Petra: Having a career should never be at the expense of sacrificing something else that you love. It is all about maintaining a balance between work and life whilst staying true to yourself. You should never feel pressured to conform to stereotypical roles. In previous positions, I have experienced the need to behave in what is often perceived as a very ‘masculine’ way and felt the need to constantly fight for the role. At Datavard this is not the case. We don’t judge on personal goals – that is the secret to our success.
Antonia: And this is true for the whole company. As an employer Datavard always tries to attract and retain the best of the best in their field. Gender doesn’t matter. Our forté is to support our employees to combine their career with their private lives. No matter what your private situation is, you will find the flexibility and support that you need. We have flexible working hours and home office options. It is also possible to work part-time as a returning parent and adjust your work schedule to your private one. That is why they return from their parental leave knowing they will be met with lots of respect and appreciation. However, we don’t focus specifically on families only. We aim to deliver a great employee experience to every single employee.
How does it work in practice?
Petra: Well at the moment my two sons are both sick and I know that if I get a phone call, I can drop everything and go home. This goes for every other parent in the company.
Antonia: Yes, that’s a good example. It is not just about family emergencies. We had a young couple who wanted to travel, so they tried teleworking from Asia for a couple of months and this also worked. Recently our admin team lead approached us due to her long commute interfering with her sports commitment as well as making it difficult to take care of her dog. We agreed that she worked from home whenever needed and from time to time she brings her pet to the office.
Gregor: And this is absolutely normal, so it comes easy to us. The real difficulty is appreciating differences and different points of view. It’s very enriching, I love that at Datavard we have people from many different backgrounds, and I learn from them every day. We have this wonderful, highly educated engineering culture from Eastern Europe, plus excellent customer care made in the USA. At the same time, it is challenging to be reminded every day that there are many different viewpoints on the same subject and that yours might not necessarily be the right one.
How does this working culture translate into the company’s strategy?
Antonia: Interestingly enough, Datavard has never put out a program or strategy specifically dedicated to “DEI” (diversity, equity, inclusion), because it has always practiced it from the start. We hire someone for their potential. Our needs now and in the future will only be met by a diverse mix of employees from all over the world and walks of life. Our founders have always known that and brought the mentality to the organization.
Companies will only be successful with their DEI approach, if it comes from “the heart”. They have to genuinely want to change and do the right thing – not only for their bottom lines, but for humanity. Organizations that can convince people that they have “their heart” in the right place will be successful and win the best talent.
Petra: I absolutely agree. Industry people who are leading companies need to change their mind set – it is not about attracting female employees, but about the right talent and set of behaviors. This should not be a male vs female discussion. We combine male and female superpowers in everything we do. We listen to our customers which is more perceived as a female skill, and we are ambitious which is associated with men. This a good balance.
Gregor: Yes! Appreciating the differences and getting the best of both worlds is the way to go. And you should also ask yourself “Am I where I am now because of my gender, or because of my abilities”? I honestly believe that the moment we stop talking about female shares in boards, gender quotas, or even things like “she achieved this although she is a woman” or “she won the Olympics and she is a woman” then we really get to this sweet spot of diversity and equality.
And what are your plans for the future?
Antonia: Keep doing what we have done the past years! We are a company of experts and among our experts it never matters where you come from; it only matters who you are and what value you bring to the team and the organization. We focus on personalities, potential, and commitment. You need the Datavard spirit to succeed – if you bring that, we welcome you with open arms!
Gregor: I couldn’t agree more.