he Badische Neueste Nachrichten newspaper in early April respectfully referred to her as an expo powerhouse: 46-year-old Britta Wirtz directs the Karlsruher Messeund Kongressgesellschaft KMK. Women at the helm of an expo company? At least in public-law operations, which are entirely or in part owned by cities or regional entities, they are a very rare species indeed. Remarkably rare. The second woman to have made it to an identical position is Sabine Loos, CEO Westfalenhallen Dortmund. Consultant Christina Bösenberg pointed out in the Handelsblatt: "There simply aren't very many role models for women in senior executive positions available. That has an impact on our perception of the world around us – and subconsciously also substantiates the attitude that these groups aren't suited for those positions or simply don't belong there." She is convinced that we will be able to achieve genuine reformation of the business world with and by women only if there is an appropriate critical mass of role models available.
There's no denying that the expo and congress industry in terms of female leadership just as much needs a lot of catching up as do other business sectors, it is in fact quite obvious. Of course there are female senior executives, but most women can't advance past the second or third echelon. But things are happening in the work world, which is not only a consequence of changing requirements voiced by women: there's an increasing need and desire for individualized worktime models – across all genders. That's quite a challenge on corporate HR functions. For Leipziger Messe, these are nevertheless sound investments – made into satisfied and motivated employees, even if that requires taking a close look at each individual staff member's particular needs and wishes. As Human Resources Director, Leonardo Hotels Europe, Anke Maas is well aware of the need for further talks: "We presently need to be much more creative in finding solutions than ten years ago." As a consequence, HR functions frequently act as intermediary between operational departments and staffers. "More complexity," is how Daniela Schade, Managing Director Accor Hotels, defines the requirements on Human Resources. "We are not only registering more complex wishes, we also have a wider range of solutions: digitalization provides for new and more flexible options above all in the work world. It principally makes no difference from where we provide our work input – and that makes it a lot easier for working moms and dads to organize and reconcile work with family," said Schade. "However, in spite of spatial separation, it's important to maintain team spirit, to support staff members and to recognize and acknowledge their needs and requirements."
Britta Wirtz leads the trade fair company Karlsruhe Messe und Kongress.
PHOTO: HEIDI OFFTERDINGER
Compatibility of family and career is at the top of the list – and that applies not only to women. This is an observation made by Anne Bosse, who is in charge of Kölnmesse HR: "We are receiving an increasing number of parental leave applications by fathers. We arrange for part-time work schedules for these during and after parental leave, because gender equality goes both ways." And that's not only true on the Rhine river, but on the Elbe as well. "Generation Y is very keen on family-friendly job factors," is confirmed by Hamburg Messe und Congress. "Operations with outdated structures will find it hard to compete." Emanuel Höger, Messe Berlin: "We are increasingly becoming aware of this factor's significance and are busy with developing adequate activities and further sophisticating our program." Messe Berlin already now has more than 100 individual working-time models. A full-time women's rep is committed to cooperating with the Human Resources function to assure equal-opportunity policies. Höger: "We consider ourselves to be an employer with a strong awareness for diversity, and we accordingly can warrant for equal opportunities for our 67 percent female employee share." He gave no rise to doubts: "We've signed the Charta of Diversity and have developed a women's promotion plan with clear diversity goals, and we're closely monitoring progress."
Daniela Schade defines the significance of family-friendly measures as important criterion in the competition for best talents and the Generation Y as "crucial factor". Said the Accor COO: "Not to forget, we're in a business with round-theclock operations. That's why we have ample opportunities for flexible scheduling of working hours. It's my opinion that this aspect will gain considerably in significance – coming generations will attach much more importance to making sure their job is in line with their private life and leisure time, and not the other way around." An estimation shared by Werner M. Dornscheidt, CEO Messe Düsseldorf. "For us as employers, family friendliness is not only an important argument for attracting top-notch experts to join our ranks, it's also important for assuring staff motivation and productivity." According to Reinhard Schlossnickel, Head of HR Messe Stuttgart, family friendliness "is actually an extremely valuable asset. As public-law employer, we unfortunately haven't got very much maneuvering space for granting individual benefits for outstanding work performance." But all available options are being exercised, and that's being acknowledged. Schlossnickel: "In appreciation of our efforts, we've been formally rated a family-friendly business. At Leonardo Hotels Europe, family-friendliness "is primarily an attitude," said Anke Maas. "Our Israeli founder David Fattal sets an example of genuine appreciation of family life, and that appreciation is cascaded to all other management levels."
„MACH DEIN DING“
Mirjam Felisoni ist 31 Jahre und F&B-Managerin und Prokuristin im Öschberghof in Donaueschingen
m+a/tw: F&B- und Hotel-Management sind nach wie vor männliche Domänen. Womit kämpfen Sie und Ihre Kolleginnen? Mirjam Felisoni: Tatsächlich kann ich dies in unserem Fall nicht bestätigen. Im Führungs-Team des Öschberghof herrscht ein gutes Gleichgewicht zwischen weiblichen und männlichen Vertretern. Ich kann auch nicht sagen, dass ich in meiner Position besonders zu kämpfen habe. Viele reagieren überrascht oder sogar beeindruckt auf mein Aufgabengebiet und die damit verbundene Verantwortung. Womit weibliche Führungskräfte vermutlich am meisten zu kämpfen haben, ist die Tatsache, dass jeder annimmt, es gäbe besondere Hürden – hier ist ein generelles Umdenken gefragt.
Sie sind eine Frau, Sie sind jung und Sie sind F&B-Managerin. Wie haben Sie das geschafft? Ich habe in verschiedenen Hotelbereichen gearbeitet, was unabdingbar ist, um die Zusammenhänge und die Abläufe zu verstehen. Mit vollem Einsatz habe ich mich Stück für Stück nach oben gearbeitet, mir eine selbstständige Arbeitsweise angeeignet und Verantwortung übernommen. Wichtig ist, dass ich immer mit Herzblut dabei war – und es noch bin. „Arbeit nach Vorschrift“ funktioniert nicht. Eine Voraussetzung für jede berufliche Entwicklung ist eine Geschäftsführung, die Mitarbeiter fördert und Aufstiegschancen ermöglicht.
Welche zwei Karriere-Tipps haben Sie für andere Frauen? „Mach dein Ding“: Es ist wichtig, nicht zu viel auf andere zu hören und sich womöglich dadurch verunsichern oder gar abschrecken zu lassen. Ich sehe es immer wieder, dass wir wesentlich mehr männliche Bewerber auf Führungspositionen haben als weibliche. Der Mensch sowie dessen Leidenschaft und Fähigkeiten stehen im Vordergrund – nicht das Geschlecht. „Halte den Kurs“: Ist der erste Schritt getan, ist es wichtig, seinen Weg zu finden und zu gehen. Konstruktive Kritik ist für den Entwicklungsprozess unabdingbar, doch muss man sich im richtigen Moment durchboxen und seinen Standpunkt vertreten.
Die Sorge um den Nachwuchs und der Mangel an Fachkräften treiben nicht nur die Hoteliers um. Was müssen Arbeitgeber bieten, um die weiblichen Talente wie Sie für sich gewinnen? Hier möchte ich keine Unterscheidung zwischen weiblichen und männlichen Talenten machen. Das A und O sind ein faires Miteinander sowie eine offene und klare Kommunikation. Jeder Mitarbeiter muss die Möglichkeit haben, sich einzubringen und selbst zu verwirklichen – natürlich immer auf höchstem Niveau, um unserem Anspruch der Gästebegeisterung gerecht zu werden.
Family-friendliness is nothing you can merely theorize as a paper print, and Leipziger Messe accordingly has been offering a number of options for compatibility of family and career. This includes cooperation with various child daycare centers in Leipzig, generous flextime and part-time work schedules as well as mobile work options. The expo organizer considers this to be a principal issue for society in general, which is why they cofounded and for more than ten years have been sponsoring a Leipzig family-friendliness award. This award is bestowed in appreciation of volunteer activities facilitating everyday life for families.
According to Kölnmesse, women and part-timing mothers are given fair consideration and equal opportunities. Anne Bosse: "That's the output of our surveys on staff satisfaction and our leadership feedback given by our male and female employees. Here's where ratings of leadership culture as well as advancement and development are regularly above average," said the HR officer. Speaking for Messe Düsseldorf, CEO Dornscheidt regrets that professionally qualified women usually leave the working market, at least temporarily, at the time they set up family and that to this very day, they've not been fully able to win these women for leadership positions. He pointed out that approximately one third of the staff at Messe Düsseldorf is female, with 100% male appointments to the senior leadership level.
Along with the beginning of Reinhard Schlossnickel's work as division manager at Messe Stuttgart, the expo company launched a talent management program. As a consequence, a major share of leadership positions has been filled with in-house applicants. "With 21 percent women in management, we aren't doing bad for a company our size, but we can still do a lot better. We've launched a number of activities aimed at advancing women to senior leadership positions, and that also includes the issue of encouragement and a training program to sophisticate self-assertion abilities. The required professional competency and leadership skills are there." Schlossnickel is satisfied with the rate of success: "In the past years, we were able to appoint five women to a total of ten vacant leadership positions."
Anne Bosse, Koelnmesse: We are receiving an increasing number of parental leave applications by fathers.
Kölnmesse considers it important to principally cultivate anti-discriminatory corporate culture and non-prejudiced personnel hiring and appointment policies. Anne Bosse: "We do, however, have qualification programs aimed above all at female employees seeking to advance their careers." The 12-month Cross-Mentoring-Program is targeted at high-potential female employees and encompasses an experienced senior executive (mentor) sponsoring a female employee (mentee). Mentor and mentee are not from one and the same company. "The objective is to support female employees in their professional and personal advancement." The program will go into its fourth season this summer. And Kölnmesse has an in-house network for career-oriented women, which is designated to support female colleagues seeking to advance their professional proficiencies. The program encompasses scheduled lectures and educational workshops on topical issues.
At Leonardo Hotels Europe, "successfully pursuing a career is based exclusively on abilities and performance. Those capable of efficiently and flexibly organizing their private and professional life will soon learn that our company offers outstanding career opportunities," said Human Resources Director Maas. Daniela Schade with Accor is convinced that "it's imperative that we stop thinking in structures. It's not about how we are organized, it's about learning to join forces in order to accomplish things – irrespective of organization, hierarchies and departments. Once we've re-evaluated tasks and roles, the most varying conceptions of life and ambitions will almost inevitably find their place."
„Wir müssen viel kreativer im Finden von Lösungen sein als noch vor zehn Jahren.“
Anke Maas, Leonardo Hotels Europe
„Es geht darum, dass wir lernen, gemeinschaftlich an Themen zu arbeiten - unabhängig von Hierarchien und Abteilungen.“