Women in leadership positions are a hotly debated topic, all the more reason for us to meet some of the “Female Leaders” and introduce them in more detail. For this month’s (or week’s) issue, CI spoke with Larissa Steinbäcker, Co-CEO of Proske GmbH
What makes the MICE industry especially exciting for you?
The constant contact with a wide variety of stakeholders, the agility with which we act every day and with it the opportunity to really make a difference.
Where do you see the biggest hurdles for women in the industry?
At its core, our industry is not always worker-friendly, both for women and men, in terms of the work we put in and travel times as well as the required flexibility. All this is especially challenging for young mothers. Since I currently have to overcome these hurdles myself, it is very important for me to create an environment in which family and work can be reconciled – for both men and women. The virtual workplace and flexible working hours are solutions that we have implemented and will continue to pursue.
Have you ever faced prejudice in your career so far?
I am a young mother and have been managing my teams from abroad for years – it would be a lie to say that I have not confronted prejudices so far. Customer excellence is extremely important for me, so I see prejudices or other hurdles as an incentive to continuously improve myself and our services.
Describe your current position and the path that has led you here.
I started working at Proske in project management back in 2014, over time I have managed to work my way up to Co-CEO through various positions. Over the years, we have fundamentally changed the company and repositioned it as an innovative leader as a result of increased digitisation. I am a part of this new era, and I am immensely proud of the development we have made together as a team.
How would you yourself describe your leadership style and why is it important to you?
I am not the cleverest person at Proske, and by far not the most experienced, our successes are found in the team and in cooperation with one another, which I find extremely important. I see myself as a networker both internally and externally. There are of course decisions that have to be made quickly, decisions that might not be unanimous but need to be taken, these should be implemented swiftly and as efficiently as possible.
Who has inspired you in your career so far?
I can honestly not name one particular role model. Fortunately, in my career, both privately and in business, I have come into contact with several passionate people from whom I was able to learn a few things. Every day I find myself inspired by industry leaders and colleagues, and I believe that that is precisely why we are constantly reinventing ourselves and looking to the future and not at the past.
What advice would you give your colleagues at the beginning of their careers?
Celebrate your successes, but never stop learning.
What positive qualities do women have in the workplace that we can all learn from?
I really do not want to generalise here. If work-life balance is a major priority at the workplace then we may eventually be more loyal but the same can be said for many men.
In your opinion, why are we still talking about gender inequality at work? And why is developing so dynamically today, perhaps more than ever before?
Unfortunately, we are often not on an equal footing! Differences in earnings, unjust distribution of training or promotions, and the assumption that the task of bringing up a child lies solely with the woman, are still a reality. We are losing very valuable workers and until we can find a sustainable balance, the subject has to remain at the top of the agenda.
How did pregnancy and motherhood affect your job? And how do you manage your time between the company and your family?
I was promoted to Co-CEO during my pregnancy, which is of course a bit unconventional and, to be completely honest, I did not expect the promotion at that time. One would expect a motherhood penalty, but I received tremendous support from both Proske and my family, without whom the step into more (perhaps double) responsibility would not have been possible. In general, it is important to structure the days well and to make extensive use of your downtime as a family.
How do you experience the feedback (and recognition) of your work as a sought-after speaker? Is there differentiated feedback from men and women?
The MICE industry is relatively women-oriented, so having a female speaker is not uncommon. I cannot confirm that the feedback and recognition I got from speaker engagements had been any different. Even with regards to my promotion, both men and women were equally positive about the news.
What are your hopes for the future?
That we no longer place any special focus on female executives in the future. Both men and women can land the executive chair, as long as it goes to the person who deserves it most.
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