The Equality Dilemma, or: How Far Will Leaning In Really Get You?

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Disclaimer: I have yet to read Sheryl Sandberg’s book ‘Lean In’ – my current thoughts are based on an brief overview I received during a workshop with the Berlin Geekettes and an impression I’ve formed through some of the commentaries on the book in the press and my direct circle of friends. I will try and post an update on this when I’ve actually read the book (and possibly pour out a whole bucket of ashes over my head, shouting out ‘Mea culpa! Mea culpa!’ when I do).

I recently joined a group of 60-or-so women for the first of two Berlin Geekettes workshops on Sheryl Sandberg’s book. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but started feeling extremely uncomfortable only about ten minutes into the first session. Why? I’ll get to that in a moment.

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Jess.

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It is pretty much impossible right now to be discussing women in the tech and startup world in Berlin without coming across my third interviewee, Jess Erickson. Jess founded the Berlin Geekettes network, and is currently busy building the Berlin base for General Assembly. Meeting Jess is easy – she seems to be everywhere at once – but finding time to sit down for a quiet chat is actually a bit of a challenge. However we finally manage to get together at Kommerzpunk, one of Jess’ favourite spots. Continue reading “Jess.”

Maria.

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On a greyish morning, Lars and I go and visit Maria Molland, Head of European operations at fab.com. fab’s Berlin headquarters – an old ground floor factory loft in a Kreuzberg backyard – is warm and bright and colourful. Maria, having just returned from a trip to the States, is certainly much more lively than I tend to be when I’m struggling with jet-lag, so we jump right in.

Continue reading “Maria.”

Linsey.

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My second interviewee is Linsey Fryatt, the Managing Editor of Berlin-based online startup magazine Venture Village. Linsey has been a part of the entrepreneurial scene in Berlin for a year now, and looks at it wearing a journalist’s hat most of the time. I contacted Linsey because I wanted that exact perspective: the views of someone who has been in Berlin long enough to know her way around; someone who is not a founder herself but intimately linked with this very particular parallel universe.

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Franziska.

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Over lunch at a Japanese restaurant in the heart of Berlin’s Mitte district, Franziska von Hardenberg, founder of Bloomydays (a successful subscription-based flower delivery service) offers her own perspective on being a woman entrepreneur:

“Actually, there are many occasions – events, panel discussions, conferences – where I’ve been the only woman. However, I think the whole discussion is overrated. And, to be perfectly honest – it’s something that you can use to your own advantage so easily!

Continue reading “Franziska.”

Berlin’s Women Entrepreneurs

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Since Marissa Mayer’s appointment as CEO of Yahoo, the media spotlight has gone in search of female senior managers in tech companies and female entrepreneurs. But the harsh spotlight is revealing – in some cases – unpleasant detail. Women speaking out about serious gender bias, describing experiences of mobbing and ridicule, and telling stories of glass ceilings letting careers fall short of their potential.

In what ways is the situation of women in tech and tech-driven startups different from the position of women in other industries? First of all, it probably isn’t, depending on the angle from which you look at it. However there are some significant differences that make the topic interesting enough for some further exploration.

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