On the occasion of World Women's Day: a portrait of four strong women from the world of Daimler

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The Strong Gender

Sunday is World Women's Day. A day on which the subject of gender equality will once again dominate the Twitter trends. We at Daimler Magazine have decided not to portray the female Board of Management members and top female managers, who are in the limelight all year round anyway. Instead we are taking a look behind the scenes: I met with four colleagues who work in the company.

Women were only permitted to enter employment with the consent of their husbands, and only if "this was compatible with their marital and family duties". Until 1977 this was the wording of a law that regulated the division of labor between married couples in Germany. Unthinkable from today's point of view. The battle for equal rights is due to the efforts of generations – it is marked by international World Women's Day, which takes place on March 8 each year.

For more than 100 years, women around the world have taken to the streets to fight for the right to vote and for the right to education, work, self-determination and equal wages. And even though the fight for equal rights has been ongoing for a long time, there is no rapid end in sight. At the current rate of progress, the global gap between the genders in politics, business, health and education will close in 99.5 years. This is the conclusion reached in the 2020 Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum. So another 100 years before men and women actually enjoy equal rights. Which makes it all the more important to accelerate the change – both in society and in the workplace.

Daimler is part of the first worldwide initiative that specifically seeks to promote and strengthen women within the company: the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles are a joint initiative by UN Women and UN Global Compact. In signing them, Daimler has undertaken to integrate these principles into its day-to-day operations. "Diversity" is the basis of our daily activities. In fact our corporate history dictates that the pioneering spirit of the intrepid Bertha Benz is part of Daimler's DNA, so to speak. Our corporation has 298,655 employees worldwide. A living mix of cultures, skills and lifestyles. Every individual contributes a very personal point of view. This is about four strong women. And their points of view. Allow me to introduce Amie, Margit, Antje and Chantalle.

Amie Broadway lives a happy family life with her wife

"As a team leader in remarketing at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services in Texas, USA, I really enjoy taking responsibility for a wonderful team. We care for customers during the last few months of their leasing contract, and in the ideal case we are able to persuade them to make a new contract. I am also very happy in my private life. Two years ago, my wife and I fulfilled our wish to have a child. With the help of the IUI fertility treatments, my wife gave birth to our wonderful daughter Bennett. I adopted our daughter just before her first birthday.

Amie in her office in Fort Worth, Texas. It is important for her to pave the way for other women.
Amie in her office in Fort Worth, Texas. It is important for her to pave the way for other women.

Family life requires great flexibility. So it's good that I am able to be mobile and take the needs of my daughter and wife into account. In supporting the LGBTQ+ community – i.e. lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender* and questioning, I think that we at Daimler are moving in the right direction. Over the last twelve years I have worked in a number of departments, and had various experiences.

When we were married, for example, my colleagues organized a party – what the Americans call a "shower" – for me. This gave rise to various reactions that I have often encountered in society: some colleagues gave me birthday congratulations, for example – they probably couldn't imagine that I was getting married as a homosexual woman. Other colleagues didn't know how to react. Janet Marzett, our Vice President at the time, noticed this and invited me to a Senior Manager Meeting to talk about my experiences. She did this to make a statement. Situations like this attract attention amongst colleagues, and it's not always easy. At the same time I hope it smooths the way for others in a similar situation after me."

Margit Dölker had to decide: career or family?

"A few years ago I was about to be promoted: I received a lucrative job offer abroad, but then my mother fell sick and suddenly needed constant care. You have nine months in which to prepare for a child. But you are totally unprepared when you suddenly have to care for someone. I had to make a decision – and I decided against my career to care for my mother. I therefore changed my job and reduced my working hours. I now work as a team leader in Development in the Connected Cars department, as part of a very diverse and international team. I have to rely on flexibility in my working environment, but thanks to mobile working, it all works out very well. What I love about my work? The different stages in life of my team members – the youngest is 21, the oldest is about to enter retirement – and of course helping to shape the product.

Margit talks about the daily balancing act between work and caring for her mother.
Margit talks about the daily balancing act between work and caring for her mother.

The Connected Cars department produces and process unbelievable amounts of data. We recently transferred the necessary infrastructure from different computer center to the Cloud. I'm fascinated by the challenges of this technical environment. I work part-time on four days of the week, and after work I go to the care home every day. In the last few years I have experienced various reactions to this in my social circles.

”Discussing the subject of care in old age is unpleasant for many, and sometimes taboo.”

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Margit Dölker

There are also areas where society has some learning to do: when their children fall sick, young parents are compensated for unpaid time off work by their health insurer. There is no such scheme when you care for your own parents. Fortunately I've been able to take unpaid time off work when I had to. I've also noticed that it is mainly women who act as the carers in families. I don't have children of my own. It seems that many can't imagine a woman having no children. I have often had to answer questions about my family planning, and it still mostly seems to be women who ask them."

Antje Muntzinger is a development engineer and mother of two

"Have you heard about the automated driving project in San José? This pilot project in cooperation with Bosch has been in its trial phase since the end of last year: our development vehicles, automated S-Class cars, are operating on the roads. My colleagues and I are responsible for the interaction between all the sensors. As a mathematician I love the complexity of the technical challenge and the environment of artificial intelligence. We are right in the forefront when it comes to the future, and I find this exciting. However, as a woman you are often a minority in such a technical environment.

Antje studied mathematics. Today, she helps to bring automated S-Classes on the road.
Antje studied mathematics. Today, she helps to bring automated S-Classes on the road.

When attending conferences, I have sometimes been mistaken for a secretary or waitress – just because as a young woman, I don't fit the mental image of who I'm talking to. In my opinion we should make preparations at an earlier stage, so that girls and young women develop an enthusiasm for technology. As a mother of two, I often notice that girls are seldom given a rocket-building kit as a present. My husband and I try to ensure that our own children are raised in a gender-neutral manner. Fortunately we are usually able to resolve the conflict between family and work quite well.

At home my husband works the early shift, waking and taking care of the kids, while I'm often the first to arrive at work. So I try to leave on time, collect the kids from the daycare center and spend the afternoon with them. I took one year of parental leave for both of my kids. But especially during my most recent maternity break, I didn't want to lose my professional connection, and while my baby was taking her afternoon nap, I was able to complete a several month online course on the subject of artificial intelligence from the company's own further training program, the Corporate Academy. The course was financed for me, and is now of great benefit to me in our project. As a working mother I'm much more effective, better organized and able to prioritize better than before. After all, that's what I do day after day."

Chantalle Wagne was a single parent with twins

"I was only 22 years old when I followed my then husband from Cameroon to Germany. Our twins were born one year later. That was an intense time in our life: in addition to taking care of the children and the household, I worked for my husband's company on a part-time basis. In the evenings I attended night school to learn for the advanced German language diploma. So that I could obtain a foothold in Germany with the Bachelor of Law degree I held in Cameroon, I took a one-year further education course and obtained employment in the legal department of Mercedes-Benz Bank directly afterwards, in July 2000. When my husband and I separated, I had to rely on the understanding of my working environment. I was on my own: young, a single parent in a foreign country whose language I had still not mastered perfectly.

Chantalle was on her own with her twins. Today she looks back to that time.
Chantalle was on her own with her twins. Today she looks back to that time.

There was no all-day care available at that time, so I had to be particularly efficient at work so that I could rush to the kindergarten on time to collect my two kids. When they occasionally fell sick and a call came from the kindergarten or school, I had to go. My superiors at Mercedes-Benz Bank always showed full understanding when this happened. At first I had no network in Germany. It was only gradually that I made friends with the parents of other kids. But I never received criticism from other mothers that my children were going short. And even if I did, I live my life as I think I should.

”It was always clear to me that I don't only want to care for the kids, but also make something of my degree at the same time.”

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Chantalle Wagne

And experience has shown me that children and a profession are not mutually exclusive – even if you're alone. You have to be well organized, there are certainly times of stress, but you also get a lot in return. And where there's a will, there's a way. The twins are now 25 years old. My son has already completed his studies and has been working for three years. My daughter is currently completing her master's degree. So they have long been out of the house, and I'm alone at home and have time for myself.

Since November 2019 I have been at HR in the data protection team responsible for all aspects of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Unlike probably many of my colleagues, the GDPR fills me with enthusiasm. And because there is no end to what we can learn, I'm currently finding out how I can obtain further training. Everything I invested in my children at the time has now come back to benefit me. I don't regret any of it."

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Sarah Reinharz

is fascinated by women who are enthusiastic about numbers and technology. Admittedly, her competencies lie in other areas. That's why she doesn't build cars at Daimler - she does communication.

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