International Women’s Day: Success through diverse teams

Apprenticeship at thyssenkrupp | Career at thyssenkrupp | Corporate culture | Engineering | People at thyssenkrupp | To this day, women are underrepresented in many fields – also at industrial companies such as thyssenkrupp. For the International Women's Day, we talked to Tanneshia Kirby. As Executive Vice President of Quality at the elevator business unit in Atlanta, she now heads a large team of employees. Here, she explains why networks play a decisive role – and why various teams are an asset for corporations.

When Tanneshia Kirby chose to study industrial engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, she chose a path that is still exceptional for women today. She joined thyssenkrupp more than three years ago, and she brought a wealth of experience with her. Every day, she benefits from her time at big players like IBM, Ford, Procter & Gamble, General Electric.  “I learned how to work in large global organizations, how to solve problems, and how to build and leverage your network.  For women, in particular, networking plays a decisive role in their careers.“

Tanneshia Kirby is an advocate for women in engineering and leadership positions.
Tanneshia Kirby is an advocate for women in engineering and leadership positions.

A recent study by Northwestern University and the University of Notre Dame shows that for women, it is the quality of their networks rather than the size that counts. Women who maintain a stable network, especially with other women, have significantly better opportunities for leadership positions. That’s why for Tanneshia Kirby, the exchange with women is an important factor in her success.

“Throughout my career, I have always been actively involved in affinity networks that allowed me to develop meaningful relationships with other women leaders, either as a mentor or as a mentee.  I am proud to have attracted and hired strong women to organizations that I lead, especially key talent to the elevator business.  These women inspire me every day to be the best leader that I can be. I am grateful that they have joined me on this journey.”

Women at thyssenkrupp have always been strong

Women who inspire and lead the way are no unusual occurrence in the long history of thyssenkrupp. In fact, strong female leaders have repeatedly assumed special roles within our company. One example is Bertha Krupp, who took over the Krupp Group after her father’s death – at the age of only 16. The sole heiress was deeply committed to social responsibility: She offered her employees company social benefits, home nursing, she built hospitals for sick colleagues as well as their relatives and also fostered social housing.

The heiress of the Thyssen Group, Anita Gräfin Zichy-Thyssen, was equally responsible and creative. Together with her mother she set up Germany’s first individual private scientific foundation after the Second World War, while she was still involved in the organizational reconstruction of the Thyssen Group.

Two strong women in top positions at thyssenkrupp: Supervisory Board Chairwoman Martina Merz (left) and Prof. Dr. Ursula Gather, Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees of the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation.
Two strong women in top positions at thyssenkrupp: Supervisory Board Chairwoman Martina Merz (left) and Prof. Dr. Ursula Gather, Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees of the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation.

Also today, strong women shape our company in crucial positions. Martina Merz, Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board, is involved in all groundbreaking decisions affecting thyssenkrupp, being one of only two women in Germany in a comparably responsible role. And as Chairwoman of the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation, Prof. Dr. Ursula Gather represents the largest stockholder of thyssenkrupp AG.

These successful career paths show that both are more than qualified for their positions, bringing with them many years of scientific and entrepreneurial experience. Ursula Gather, for example, serves as rector of the Technical University of Dortmund and a successful science manager. Martina Merz studied mechanical engineering and has held several senior management positions at Bosch before joining our company. In this way, both actively contribute to thyssenkrupp’s success with their vast experience.

15 percent of management positions at thyssenkrupp to be filled by women by 2020

At thyssenkrupp, only one in eight employees was a woman in 2017. When it comes to the proportion of women in management positions, thyssenkrupp wants to reach what other companies have already accomplished. At American companies such as Apple and IBM, more than 30 percent of their executives are women. thyssenkrupp aims to reach 15 percent women in management positions by 2020. The planned companies thyssenkrupp Industrials and thyssenkrupp Materials will already come much closer to achieving this goal.

Women in STEM occupation
Women are still underrepresented in STEM occupations. Our goal: 15 percent women in management positions by 2020.

For Tanneshia Kirby, diversity brings a number of advantages to a company: “It is not in the best interest of a company to rely only on uniform perspectives. We have to be open to seeking solutions from diverse viewpoints to grow our business and to maximize outcomes for our customers.” She also emphasizes this when building her closest circle of employees: “I’m proud to have one of the most diverse teams within the organization. I value people with different backgrounds, perspectives and cultures all in one team.”

“It’s important how a leadership role is defined.”

Tanneshia does not focus on differences between male and female leadership style. “What is most important for me is how I define the role of a leader. A leader must be able to drive change and develop others.  This can be done in a constructive, collaborative way that drives an organization to achieve results and that allows employees to reach their full potential.  I’ve had exposure to many great leaders over my career and the ones I admire most were able to drive change and champion the development of others while being authentic, being approachable, and appreciating diversity.”

Women in leadership positions
Regardless of gender: A leader must be able to drive change and develop others.

“Everyone must define success for themselves”

Tanneshia advises other women who aspire to a career in STEM occupations (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to chart their own path. “Be authentic.  Define success for yourself.  Do not be confined to the expectations others may have on your career.” When building  teams, “hire great people who can expand a role beyond the boundaries.  Do not only focus on your current needs, focus on where the organization needs to be in the future.

women at thyssenkrupp
Only one in eight thyssenkrupp employees was a woman in 2017, a surprising statistic for Tanneshia Kirby.

Tanneshia Kirby hopes that in the future, significantly more women will take the path into engineering professions and leadership positions, and that organizations will recognize the value of diversity.  “I am convinced that diversity attracts even greater diversity. As a business leader, I am always seeking to work with this best talent in the industry, and I know that the best includes women with different backgrounds, perspectives, and expertise.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *