Job, career, family, leisure time… the balancing act required of us, particularly in these times of a global pandemic, is not always easy to manage. How do women, especially, master this challenge? Can new opportunities arise from this situation? Strong women report from behind the scenes at Siemens IT.
Communication, it would appear, is more important than ever in this new and partly completely virtual working world. Sharing information and ideas, whether in our professional or private lives, is key to achieving success – which, of course, is not just true for women.
There are many possible ways of shaping our new daily routines – the current normal. Women working for Siemens IT recently shared their thoughts on this topic at an event organized as part of the Siemens NewNormal@IT and Glow@IT initiatives.
“What we hadn’t expected was that the event would be fully booked within 24 hours.”Sonja Hoppe, NewNormal@IT Lead and one of the event organizers.
Personal insights – The panel discussion
“What core challenges are you currently grappling with?“ With this question, Aylin Ozbakir (Service Provider Manager from Turkey) kicked off the panel discussion with Hanna Hennig (Siemens CIO), Sonja Hoppe (Lead of NewNormal@IT), Michaela Schütt (Lead of Leadership & Culture within Siemens’ New Normal Working Model), and Konstantina Antoniadou (founder of Glow@IT) – all of whom are mothers, managers, and active in IT or have an IT background.
Studies show that, in these times, women have to master challenges that differ from those facing men, and that women can be more impacted by certain challenges. Each of the panel participants has had interesting experiences in this regard.
Finding a good work-life balance is one of the biggest challenges. The boundaries between private and professional lives can become blurred. For Hanna Hennig, too, it was a new situation to cope with. Michaela Schütt who, owing to her position as Head of Performance & Engagement, has direct insight into such conditions and circumstances, took up the matter this way: “Many women have a double burden to bear. Due to current measures to combat the pandemic, their children may be at home just when it’s time to join in an online work meeting. This harbors the risk of quickly spiraling into a stressful situation. These challenges need to be tackled by the whole family.”
All of the women fully agree on a number of points. For example on the fact that the stability that prevailed prior to the pandemic was ruptured in part by the current Covid-19 crisis, that a regression into old role patterns has become apparent, and that physical contact, as Konstantina noted, cannot be replaced by virtual reality. Moreover, flexibility has become increasingly important. Besides the challenges they face, one positive trend is appearing: many women are now taking the initiative and becoming more self-assertive.
Tips and tricks
Konstantina Antoniadou had some good advice for counteracting stress situations: it’s okay to take a break now and then to catch a breath. And as Michaela Schütt explains, virtual coffee meetings – even if they don’t fit just right into your time schedule – provide a good diversion.
Sonja Hoppe has developed her own scheme for maintaining a healthy balance between her job and private life. Her model – “The 4 S’s” – can also provide some pointers for others: “For me, personally, it’s helpful to structure the flow of my day, leaving adequate space for sports and exercise, socializing, and sleep.” It’s also important to delegate and distribute tasks equally among your family members, and purposely reserve time for yourself to recharge your batteries. You can be proud of what you’ve achieved, and mustn’t try to be perfect in everything you do.
Courage and calm both play a vital role in times like these. “It is not a problem if a baby starts crying during a meeting,” states Hanna Hennig, putting the fitting words to the situation. Being a working mom or a working dad, and showing that this is you, is definitely not a weakness. On the contrary, it’s in such moments that we gain a better understanding of one another.
The New Normal offers plenty of topics for conversation
Following the panel discussion, the approximately 50 event participants divided up into groups to attend various breakout sessions. Dedicated MS Teams meetings were set up for each working group and, using Conceptboard, the participants recorded their thoughts, ideas and possible measures. The format proved to be a best practice in terms of organizing and performing workshop sessions.
Lively discussions developed quickly. To find the right work-life balance (Session lead: Amber Pattillo), some of the women blocked off scheduled times to perform short Yoga or Qi Gong units. In the Care for your career (Session lead: Ruth Madrid-Dusik) session, participants spoke about how to successfully maintain the balancing act between daily routines and efforts to advance your own career. Here’s one tip: Have you noticed that a particular colleague is doing a good job? Bring the subject up and provide some feedback.
Today’s situation is new for all of us, which is why a number of new opportunities can develop, especially for women, too. The rapid switch to digital tools demanded in part that new skills be acquired. The keen curiosity for learning that many women bring to their work strengthens how we deal with working virtually. As confirmed by the participants in the breakout session on New opportunities (Session lead: Piu Chatterjee), everyone should focus on new opportunities that present themselves.
To strengthen the component of social interaction, the women attending the breakout session on Social connection & communication (Session lead: Vanja Bonjanic) together established various challenges in their teams – such as joint learning sessions, or shared evenings cooking a meal together. With all the meetings and deadlines we face, such events benefit our creativity and restore a sense of casual ease. Why not give it a try?
Just as every woman is unique, their stories are just as unique. The quintessential conclusions: Many challenges can be mastered more easily when mutual support is there for you. While the current situation poses additional challenges and risks, it also presents opportunities!
The event was a resounding success, and the time was almost too short – which is why another session and follow-up activities are already in the planning.
Did some of the points raised here reflect your own experiences? Share them with us in the comment section and let us know what you think. We look forward to hearing from you!