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"Gender parity is in our DNA"

Jeannine Koch, Director re:publica, about diversity and digitalization, women on podia, and a female head-of level.

ou are speaking at the first She Means Business, "because gender equality should no longer be a buzzword, but must be lived". What is there to do?
First of all, we need more of what is happening just now: there must simply be more formats with a focus on elimination of inequality. Women make up 52 percent of the world population, and yet they are still inadequately represented in social debate and in the world of work, particularly in leadership positions.It is the more important that there are such events enabling us to engage in discussions without barring others from attending. I really wish an identical number of men would attend the conference. There's no use in making it a closed session.

Diversity and gender equality are prime values for re:publica. Why?
Gender equality and diversity must be highly relevant to society in general and to an important and high-profile conference such as the re:publica in particular. In order to create equality here, we also review if we are actually fulfilling our own quotas. This year, around 15 percent of the speakers will be People of Colour; we will further increase the share of women as compared to last year and we will again provide a platform for numerous Challenged People to make themselves heard throughout the program. It is our intention to portray the world at re:publica just the way it is: divers!

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... is director of the re:publica, "The Most Inspiring Festival for the Digital Society". From May 2 to 4, 2018, more than 9,000 attendees will meet at the Station Berlin for the 12th re:publica. Diverse symposia and the “Netzfest” have been added to this year's program.

You have around 1,000 speakers, with 47 percent of these being women. That is the more remarkable as re:publica is all about digital topics. How do you win women to take the stage?
I don't consider digitalization to be a challenge in terms of attracting female attendees and speakers. This is not necessarily a male range of topics; this industry has numerous terrific female professionals, it's just that they often simply don't come to the fore. The question therefore is how to win them for the stage. When it comes to image and attendee structure, the re:publica is much more "colorful" and "brighter" than many other tech events. Women feel at home here – and not as token females. Our program team is very female, which has an impact on communication; gender equality is in our DNA. Next to founders Tanja Haeusler, Johnny Haeusler, Markus Beckedahl and Andreas Gebhard as CEO and myself as director, our Head-of level is predominantly female.

Why do other event organizers have such a hard time doing the same thing?
Many organizers still haven't come to understand that it's crucial to have women on the podium. Not only because they're competent in their respective domains, but because it's all about equality and fair shares. Women still have a hard time being taken seriously or being at all acknowledged! Many will still prefer consulting or inviting male colleagues over an equally or even better informed woman. That's really irritating, and many women will step to the fore only if they are 120 percent sure they've looked at and analyzed an issue from all possible angles. I think women will need to be encouraged more intensely to help them abate any anxieties and concerns.  KERSTIN WÜNSCH