Women and girls in science: Success through diverse teams
Apprenticeship at thyssenkrupp | Career at thyssenkrupp | Corporate culture | Engineering | People at thyssenkrupp | To this day, women are underrepresented in science - and thus also at industrial companies such as thyssenkrupp. For Women and Girls in Science Day, initiated by the United Nations, 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 her 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 rare for women today. She joined thyssenkrupp more than three years ago, and she brought a wealth of experience with her– 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, netowrking plays a decisive role in their careers.“
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. For Tanneshia Kirby, the exchange with women is also 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 and I am grateful that they have joined me on this journey.”
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’s 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.”
“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.
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.”