40 over 40 – Germany's Most Inspiring Women 2022
Together with HypoVereinsbank we proudly present you the 2022 edition of "40 over 40 – Germany's Most Inspiring Women 2022." This year's list includes phenomenal ladies from all walks of life: business leaders, politicians, innovators, media experts, scientists, and culture shapers. One thing they all share in common? An optimistic vision of the future and their drive to inspire others
Dr. Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann MdB, Chairwoman of the Defense Committee Deutscher Bundestag (FDP)
The Political Uniter
Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann succeeds at something that is rather rare in politics: she is liked, and sometimes even loved, across party lines. Her classic political career led to offices in Düsseldorf and North Rhine-Westphalia and finally to the Bundestag in 2017. Since 2021, she has been chairwoman of the Defense Committee of the German Bundestag. Due to the war in Ukraine, this position has brought her unusually high prominence, but that recognition is mostly to do with how she fulfills the role: her demeanor, attitude, and communication skills. She is clear, but never loud, determined, but never aggressive. Above all, however, she is characterized by her unerring good instincts. Her recent trip to Kiev with Green and SPD politicians at her side is already legendary. In such historic moments, party politics fade into the background – or at least they do if you are Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann. The mother of three and grandmother of three comes from Düsseldorf, studied journalism, politics, and German studies in Munich, and earned her doctorate in 1986. Her favorite hobby? You'll never guess. Or maybe you will, because Marie-Agnes is always effortlessly cool: Riding around town on her badass motorcycle! Bam!
Andrea Wasmuth, CEO at Handelsblatt Media Group
The Spirited Media Leader
Andrea Wasmuth’s dream job as a child? A news anchor. Driven by a strong passion, the will to never back down from a challenge, and a degree in business administration, she’s come even further than her childhood dreams could have taken her. Now, with more than 20 years of experience in the media sector, including time at Verlagsgruppe Milchstrasse and Burda, the CEO of Handelsblatt Media Group is on to her next challenge – leading the company down a new path of transformation and digitalization. A top voice for female empowerment, Andrea shared in a recent Changing Out Loud podcast, “Thinking that digital transformation simply means digitalization is far too short-sighted. Rather, it means rethinking processes, approaches, forms of presentation – basically, questioning everything about how we did it before.” This type of forward-looking, innovative thinking has gotten the CEO to where she is today, and she exudes an enthusiasm and energy for her work that we can all learn from.
Ines Imdahl, Owner and Founder rheingold salon
The Chief Researcher
In everything she does, there is one question that drives Ines Imdahl: Why? Why do people behave in a certain way in certain situations? Why do they do things that they know will harm them? Smoking, for example. In short, she knows her way around the depths of the subconscious. In 2000, the psychologist joined the market research agency rheingold, and in 2011 she founded rheingold salon with her husband Jens Lönneker, with whom she has four children. She says: “I don't want to persuade people to act differently or more sensibly – because that very rarely works. Rather, I want to ‘re-excite’ them.” One topic that is particularly close to her heart is diversity. In March, she co-wrote a book with Janine Steeger, Warum Frauen die Welt retten werden – und Männer dabei unerlässich sind (Why Women Will Save the World – and Men Are Essential in This.) This is by no means to be understood as a feminist pamphlet against men – on the contrary, as the subline already suggests. Especially in times of upheaval like these, it is enormously important to unite men and women and the different skills they have. It is about understanding the typical woman’s characteristics “empathic, emotional, tough and doubtful” as real strengths and qualities for leadership, not as weaknesses. It’s all about re-exciting women – to feel good about themselves.
Bettine Schmitz, Partner & Founder Auxxo Female Catalyst Fund
The Female Factor
Bettine Schmitz could come up with a million responses to answer why there should be more female investors – globally, they make up only two percent. She has mobilized 15 million euros for the Female Catalyst Fund. This woman doesn’t do anything half-heartedly! With the investment company Auxxo, which she founded in 2019 with the fabulous Gesa Miczaika, she invests in start-ups where there is at least one woman on the management team and women hold shares of at least 20 percent. The fund, which female investors such as Douglas boss Tina Müller, Verena Pausder, Simone Menne, and ex-Honeypot CEO Emma Tracey are involved in, is also aimed at female entrepreneurs. The mathematician, who worked for the London-based strategy consultancy OC&C and the Axel Springer Plug & Play Accelerator before founding her own company, is convinced that she’s done the math right, when she says: “Mixed shareholder groups are better shareholder groups.” Women are more successful at founding companies in the long term, but they struggle during financing rounds. That’s why Schmitz and Miczaika have taken up the cause of promoting female entrepreneurship: “We want to improve access to capital for female founders.”
Lunia Hara, Director Project Management diconium
The Empathic Leader
Suddenly, she was there. And how glamorous she is! The first thing you notice about Lunia Hara is her signature look: bright, good-humored outfits, against a monochromatic background rich in color. But of course, that's just the famous first impression. Because what this woman has to say has at least as much punch as her pink, yellow, and green tops. Lunia Hara has written the topic of Empathic Leadership in thick letters on the post-its of New Work aficionados like no other. She is one of LinkedIn's top voices, a keynote speaker, and a columnist for Der Spiegel magazine. And, of course, she also has a job; At diconium, she manages a diverse team of 15 project managers. In other words, she knows what she's talking about, and she practices what she preaches. She also has a strong command of the nuances. In the debate about diversity and inclusion, which sometimes descends into a mutual confirmation of platitudes, her view remains incorruptible. So what constitutes empathic leadership? Genuine interest in the employee, in his or her development and success, which also, and absolutely, includes honesty in feedback. For everything else, mothers are responsible.
Natascha Hoffner, Founder & CEO of herCAREER
A dead end in her own career has turned out to be a stroke of luck for thousands of other women's careers. Natascha Hoffner spent 15 years in the trade fair business, most recently in management at a subsidiary of Deutsche Messe AG in Mannheim. “After it became clear to me that there was no way back to the previous company, I packed my bags and moved in with my family in Munich.” Child number two was just five months old at the time. Staying at home was not an option. Instead, she pulled together herCareer in just six months in 2015. The woman is a doer, she is pragmatic, optimistic, persevering, blessed with an unshakeable basic confidence. And a herHusband who is behind her 100 percent and has taken parental leave. Natascha Hoffner has not only shown how to successfully found a company, but also how to survive crises. After the fall 2020 herCareer was canceled, she used the Corona hiatus to further develop her business model, and a digital platform emerged from the trade fair. If Natascha Hoffner has her way, it will soon become the leading digital platform for female careers throughout Europe.
Insa Klasing, Co-Founder & Co-CEO at TheNextWe
Straight on a zigzag course – Insa Klasing's career is a paradox. Perhaps that is what makes her so successful. But let's start at the beginning: the 43-year-old studied economics, politics, and philosophy at Oxford, went to India to work in development aid, moved to London to join the consultants Bain & Company, and then put her knowledge to good use for the smoothie manufacturer Innocent in building up its German business. In her early 30s, Insa Klasing became the first woman in the company's history to head the DACH division of Kentucky Fried Chicken – and, after a riding accident, discovered that leadership can also be thought of differently; Forced to become “2-hour boss”, she relied on less control and presence, more on trust and freedom. Today, she is trying to establish this mindset in companies with the coaching app The NextWe; It aims (digitally scalable and in personal chats or phone calls) to first change thinking at all hierarchical levels with the help of cognitive behavioral therapy in order to improve action (and performance). If you read the beliefs of the recent start-up founder, you might suspect that Insa Klasing is a very straightforward person despite her winding career. As she champions, "You can't accomplish big tasks if you get lost in the details.” And, "the more diverse the minds, the better the result."
Dr. Daniela Gerd tom Markotten, Member of the Management Board for Digitization and Technology Deutsche Bahn
The Mobility Transformer
Since taking office in September 2021, Dr. Daniela Gerd tom Markotten has been proving she isn’t your average board member. The job before her isn’t easy, and she is expected to succeed in nothing less than leading Deutsche Bahn AG into the digital age. To make this happen, the digitalization expert often steps outside her office to work where all the action happens – on the trains! This past May, you may have seen her on board an ICE train traveling from Berlin to Frankfurt helping with all the day-to-day tasks of the job – checking tickets, serving coffee, informing customers of connecting trains. Because as Dr. Gerd tom Markotten knows, understanding your customers as well as your employees is key. With a degree in industrial engineering, an impressive career at Daimler AG, followed by CEO and Head of Digital Solutions and Services at Mercedes-Benz Trucks, a stint as CEO of Moovel (a mobility joint venture between BMW Group and Daimler AG), and a successful tech start-up founding behind her (IUHHOO GmbH), the experienced board member is a proponent for all things digitalization. And she is hard at work in making DB trains more worker friendly. Next in the cards is increasing the mobile network connections along all train lines, making sure everyone can travel as comfortably as possible.
Souad Benkredda, Global Head Strategic Investors Sales & Board Member Standard Chartered Bank
Souad Benkredda knows a thing or two about breaking glass ceilings. Often the only woman and person of color in the room, the Global Head of Strategic Investor Sales and Board Member at Standard Chartered Bank makes sure her voice is heard – in any of the five languages she speaks! Born to a working-class Algerian family, Souad learned early on the value of never giving up and pursuing her dreams. Going on to study at the University of Paris Dauphine IX, specializing in Financial Engineering at the Frankfurt Goethe University, and then 16 years spent at Deutsche Bank, Souad is now recognized as a leader in D&I by both the Financial Times and Yahoo! Finance. You will often find the mother of two sharing her insights on panels and in press outlets like Bloomberg and the Arab-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In September 2022, the highly sought-after superwoman will spread her talents to DZ Bank AG as a member of the Board of Managing Directors.
Claudia Feiner, Project Manager Esports Porsche AG
The LGBTQIA+ hero
Computer games are no longer seen as just a guilty pleasure, but are “understood as works of art.” A lifelong gamer, Claudia Feiner is passionate about this shift in the perception of gaming, including the growth in popularity of esports. As Esports Project Manager at Porsche, Claudia uses this cultural change to strategically position the Porsche brand outside of the automotive sector. She loves the inclusivity of esports which means “everyone can participate and find a personal favorite race. No matter what their gender or age, or if they face personal restrictions.” But work towards inclusivity doesn’t stop on the virtual racetrack for her. In 2018, she founded the LGBT*IQ community Proud@Porsche to represent employees and friends and support diversity at the automotive company. As if that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Claudia is making all of Stuttgart more diversity-friendly with her cross-company network #0711LiebtBunt – the future is rainbow-colored!
Tessa Ganserer, Member of Deutscher Bundestag (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen)
The Pioneering Politician
Whether she’s fighting for sustainable development, better medical care for queer and transgender people, or championing for queer pregnancy and abolishing bans that unfairly target the LGBTQIA+ community, Member of the Bundestag Tessa Ganserer goes the distance. The Bavarian-born politician’s fight for the environment started early on – she has been a member of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen since 1998 and represented Middle Franconia in the Landtag of Bavaria for 7 years. In 2021, alongside fellow politician Nyke Slawik, Tessa and Nyke became the first openly transgender members of the German Bundestag. Despite heavy bullying from the far right, Tessa continues to march to the beat of her own drum, courageous in the face of adversity. As she stated on her initial coming out in 2018, "There needs to be more visibility for the topic and a broader acceptance.” She has a lot on her plate as a full member of the Environment Committee, the rapporteur for nature conservation, a full member of the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Sustainable Development, and a deputy member of the Health Committee Edit, but her passion for her work and those impacted by it is evident in everything she does. Her light shines bright!
Angela De Giacomo, Family Officer, Advisor, and Initiator WunderNova
If you had to associate Angela De Giacomo with an emoji, you would spontaneously choose a comet's tail. As the child of Italian immigrants who came to Germany without any knowledge of the language, she was born with a true pioneering spirit. As a teenager, she was drawn to India during her school vacations, a country that would never let her go. She studied business administration with a focus on tax law in Stuttgart; a solid foundation that eventually led her to KPMG after various stations. From 2013, she managed the family office of the Indian-American industrialist family Bissell in New Delhi part-time and eventually full-time, commuting between Germany and India. As a cosmopolitan, very well-connected in the political and business scene, she brought Germany perhaps the most unconventional women's network: WunderNova. In 2019, the network premiered in Berlin, and following the Corona break, the second summer festival took place in 2021. "When the right people come together at the right time, great things often happen," says the mother of a young son.
Jennifer Morgan, State Secretary and Special Envoy International Climate Action German Federal Foreign Office
The Climate Superhero
Hardly any other appointment has made more waves than that of Jennifer Morgan as State Secretary for Climate Policy and the right-hand woman of Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. An American? An activist? It’s hard to tell what was more irritating for the general public. But the fact is that the 56-year-old brings maximum competency to the job. The former head of Greenpeace started her career in the 1990s after studying International Relations, Political Science and German Studies at the Washington Climate Action Network, before moving to work at WWF and then, in 2016, becoming co-leader of Greenpeace. She has been present at every UN climate conference for 17 years and is internationally connected and respected. After making the move to Berlin in 2003, since April 2022, Jennifer has been a German citizen and has made the transition from activist to diplomat – or as she puts it, “an activist diplomat” – look easy. New times require new skill sets and people from different backgrounds.
Dr. Dilek Gürsoy, Director Department of Cardiac Surgery Clinic Bel Etage Düsseldorf
The Strong Hearted
Dilek Gürsoy's story is remarkable in so many ways that it's hard to know where to begin. Perhaps with the biggest scoop of her career. In 2012, she became the first woman in Europe to carry out an artificial heart implantation. The daughter of Turkish immigrants, who lost her father when she was ten and whose mother then had to bring up three children on her own, is Germany's best-known heart surgeon. In 2017, she met Angela Merkel, who had become curious about this exceptional talent. In 2019, Dilek Gürsoy was named “Medical Doctor of the Year.” However, the notoriety has not only earned her approval, because, as many female doctors share, toxic masculinity still reigns in ORs. Dilek Gürsoy doesn't let that get her down and has responded to the haters with a book. Titled, Ich stehe hier, weil ich gut bin (I Stand Here Because I'm Good.) And she still has a lot of plans in the works. One of the projects she holds near and dear to her heart: technically reworking the artificial heart. She says that with cables and a noise level of 70 decibels (that's how much noise an electric kettle makes), it's still on par with the 1960s. Her big heart beats on, and we will be hearing a lot more from this woman.
Marietta Slomka, Journalist and Anchor heute-journal
The News Icon
Forget about her ever quoted “husky eyes”. For 21 years, the Cologne-born anchorwoman has been presenting news program Heute-Journal, and, fortunately, its her drive, her competence, and her straight-forward approach that makes her a star. But of course, with one eyebrow raised, she defeats her interview partners when faced with bullshit. Marietta Slomka has received some substantial awards for her work in her time, including the Hans-Joachim Friedrichs Prize, the Golden Camera, the Adolf Grimme, and the German Television Prize. Her persistence during interviews has earned her a word of her own: Interviewees who are "slomka-ed" can forget filling the conversation with empty phrases or blowing smoke. Marietta, who began her journalistic career at the Kölnische Rundschau and Deutsche Welle, says she learned this skill of targeted debates with a quick follow-up while studying economics in the UK, but politics is only one of the 53-year-old’s passions. She dives (preferably with big fish) and writes books (on even bigger topics). Her latest bestseller Nachts im Kanzleramt (Droemer, 20 euros) explains how democracy works and how politics, business, and the media contribute to it. A beautiful mind.
Anna-Lena von Hodenberg, CEO and Co-Founder HateAid
The Virtual Warrior
"Digital violence is the greatest danger to our democracy," says Anna-Lena Hodenberg, founder and chairwoman of HateAid. The 40-year-old moved from TV news to the net in 2018 and has been fighting populism, right-wing extremism, and intolerance on social media with her organization ever since. Her Berlin-based organization has advised over 1,800 clients who have been insulted, threatened, and bombarded with hate comments. The best-known case: Green Party politician Renate Künast, who was successful in 12 out of 20 cases against insults – and only on appeal. According to Anna-Lena Hodenberg, women, especially when they are in the public eye (politicians, Muslims, people with a migration background, and media professionals), are most frequently attacked on the web. That's why she's also working to make laws tougher and victims more supported. And in order not to lose her swing in all this, the former Latin American studies student dances the tango.
Dr. Judith Muster, Partner at Metaplan
The Organizational Analyst
As Judith Muster likes to say, “Solutions are silver. Problems are gold.” Not a phrase you often hear in the consulting world, where most would rather present themselves as success stories. But Judith is not your ordinary consultant. Her passion for the trade started as a young girl supporting her father’s own consultancy business. She went on to study Sociology and Psychology at the Universities of Potsdam and Hamburg, spending countless hours studying the theories of society by Niklas Luhmann and organization and systems theory. For the past 11 years, Judith has been putting theory into practice at management consultancy Metaplan, where she became their first female partner in 2017. On top of this, the sociologist is also Chair Member of Organizational and Administrative Sociology at the University of Potsdam, where she teaches, researches, and publishes within the framework of a DFG-funded project on, among other things, data-based decision-making. Judith’s work ethic of looking closely at “organizational pains”, as she calls them, and not just blindly chasing after trendy topics, has earned her an excellent reputation in both the academic and consulting worlds. We can all learn from Judith’s unique approach of not just choosing solutions but looking at the consequential problems.
Bassant Helmi, Founder and CEO Global Project Partners e.V. and Co-Chair Digital Arabia Network #DAN
For over 20 years, Berlin-native Bassant Helmi has been spinning networks of women from her belief in female power. With the Digital Arabia Network (DAN), she connects the growing German-North African tech community, and emphasizes their contributions to a diverse Germany. Her Women in Business network connects more than 2,000 female entrepreneurs from the MENA region, that is the Middle East and North Africa, with the network of the Association of German Women Entrepreneurs. Since all good things come in threes, she also founded the association Global Project Partners, which supports women in setting up sustainable businesses. Born in Cairo, the mother of one daughter started her career in 1994 as head of the economic department of the German-Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Six years later, she took over the organization's German branch in Berlin - the 49-year-old had already learned German at the Borromean school and speaks the language fluently. Bassant Helmi thinks that networks are essential, especially for women, because only in this way do they have a chance of overcoming the biggest problem when starting a business: financing.
Julia Jäkel, Non Executive Director Adevinta and Holtzbrinck Publishing Group
The Opinion Leader
Her Wikipedia entry states matter-of-factly that Julia Jäkel is a German manager and publisher – what an understatement! The 50-year-old headed Gruner + Jahr for ten years and while there, she pushed the publishing house into the digital age and steered it through both an industry crisis and a pandemic. She’s so successful that she was named Media Manager of the Year in 2016, Media Woman of the Year in 2017, and Media Personality of the Year in 2018. Julia Jäkel, born in Mainz, studied history, political science and economics in Heidelberg and Harvard, joined Bertelsmann as a trainee and moved to Gruner + Jahr in 1998. In 2013, she took over the leadership at the publishing house and became one of the most powerful female media managers in Germany. In this male-dominated world (at least at the top), she has opened minds by establishing shared workplaces, home offices, new titles in a declining market and the "Female Factor" program, which promotes women in leadership positions. Internally, Gruner + Jahr have raised the rate to 50 percent. With astonishing Hanseatic clarity, she favors speaking openly, even if she may cause offense. Since quitting Gruner + Jahr last spring, Julia has been sitting on the supervisory boards of publishing competitors Holtzbrinck and Adevinta. An added bonus, she now has more time to write brilliant opinion pieces on LinkedIn. Regrets? No. “The really bad decisions are the ones you didn't make,” she claims.
Kati Ernst, Co-founder and CEO ooshi GmbH
The Taboo Breaker
The question of whether hen or egg came first can be discussed with philosophers or evolutionary geneticists. Whether empathy, mathematics, or the desire for self-sufficiency came first could be discussed with Kati Ernst. Every woman uses an average of 12,000 tampons or pads in her lifetime, worldwide about 1.9 billion get their period – you don't have to be a genius to see the potential of period products. But former management consultant Kati Ernst wasn't just doing the math in 2019 when she founded ooia together with Kristine Zeller. She also wanted to take the topic of menstruation out of the fists clenched bashfully around tampons and pads. And at the same time work more self-determined, more freely, to be able to live family and career in parallel. The period underwear, and now also nursing bras from ooia, stand for less plastic, more sustainability, fewer disposable products, more durability, less taboo, more openness. Nevertheless, the two women found no investors and finally took the business into their own hands with a clever brand strategy. Ooia and its sister brand Idas Place, which offers briefs for bladder weakness and incontinence, also see themselves as a female empowerment company. They not only want to make women more self-confident through innovative products, but also encourage them to start their own businesses. Meanwhile, Kati Ernst can bake an egg on rigid structures and misogynistic investors: the 40-year-old Berliner manages three children on an equal footing with husband Mattes. Her balance? Impressive. Her company has an eight-figure annual turnover.
Verena Pausder, Entrepreneur & Investor Pausder Ventures
“Where you can't sail, you have to row.” If Hamburg-based Verena Pausder is thinking about getting a tattoo, this sailor's saying would suit her well. It would have been understandable for her to have despaired in her early 20s after her first failed start-up attempt or later after the separation from her first husband, but Verena went back to the drawing board and moved on. Today, the digital education expert is one of the biggest names in Germany. She is on Forbes' European list of Top Women in Tech, was awarded the title of Young Global Leader and is successful as an entrepreneur, author of Das Neue Land (The New Country), podcaster of Fast and Curious, and investor. But, she is not Superwoman, the 43-year-old emphasizes again and again, even if her career says otherwise. Born into the Delius family of entrepreneurs, she founded the digital publishing house Fox & Sheep in 2012 with gaming apps for preschool children, sold it two years later for a multi-million Euro sum and started her next project: At the Haba Digital Workshop, children discover the virtual world through play and develop skills to face it. The initiative Digital Education for All and the platform edu-cloud.org were also born out of her belief: “You can't think about the digital future early enough.” And children, says the businesswoman and co-head of a family of six, are the creators of tomorrow. Verena Pausder confidently sails into the wind.
Dr. Olga Nevska, CEO Telekom MobilitySolutions
"Strike when the opportunity arises." That’s Dr Olga Nevska’s advice for women in business and advice she is evidently following herself. Originally from Ukraine, Olga came to Germany in 2004 on a scholarship from the German Bundestag. Now, she’s CEO of Deutsche Telekom MobilitySolutions, where she is responsible for transport solutions for employees. But Olga isn’t interested in maintaining the status quo, with an emphasis on ease and environmental benefits, she launched an app for Telekom team members to integrate all the mobility solutions open to them. Olga is convinced that every company should take care of employee mobility, as a “social responsibility that we should not leave to the state or the municipality alone” and she’s willing to lead the way. When she’s not transforming mobility, Olga runs a weekly boxing training session for her colleagues, focusing not only on providing fitness, but also supporting and connecting group members. These strengthened bonds improve women's social mobility in the workplace. Last year, she was recognized for her ambition and achievement by Handelsblatt, who named her as one of the hundred women who are driving Germany forward.
Prof. Dr. DDr. h.c. Angelika Nußberger, University professor and International Judge at the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Human Rights Defender
Munich-born Angelika Nußberger plays at the highest level. She was Vice President of the European Court of Human Rights, but made it look seamless. With a university background in both Law and Slavic Languages and Literature, she spent seven years as a judge on the European Court before taking over as Vice President. Her secret to success: staying curious. While the distinguished judge may have received her Habilitation, Angelika is a humble lifelong learner. A big proponent of comparative law, she has spent countless hours researching German and European fundamental rights and International Human Rights, in addition to Comparative Constitutional Law and the impact of International Law on the legal development in Central and Eastern Europe. Today, she continues to learn the ins and outs of other countries' judicial systems – after all, with globalization it is becoming even more imperative to have a comprehensive understanding. Her most recent publication, Human Rights. History, Philosophy, Conflicts is an impressive testament to her continuous fight for human rights for all.
Obi Felten, Founder & CEO Flourish Labs
The Serial Entrepreneur
Growing up in Berlin and seeing the fall of the wall taught Obi Felten at a young age that anything is possible. Throughout her career, she has never let fear of failure stop her. Not when taking on big projects like rolling out Google Search and Maps in 100 countries or launching Chrome and Android from zero to 500 million users. Not when she was 28 and put in charge of crisis management with the eToys Europe catastrophe or being hit at Google with the Street View privacy controversy. And not when founding countless companies, most recently Flourish Labs, a mental health start-up. What’s more is she has managed all of these feats alongside growing her own family. Her fearlessness has made her an expert on innovation, and Obi has been recognized around the world as a digital pioneer. In 2018, she was awarded the German Innovation Prize “Future Thinker” and made Boston Consulting Group/Manager Magazin’s Top 100 Most Influential German Woman in Business two years in a row (2019 and 2020.) The future is full of potential through Obi’s eyes. Curious, what she’s up to next.
Gabriele Fanta, Head of Group HR Körber
The HR Superpower
Is there anything Gabriele Fanta can’t do? The experienced leader currently serves as the Chief Human Resources Officer at KÖRBER AG, who thanks to her expertise was named a Leading Employer Germany 2022. As she reflects, “Culture change starts with people and clearly in top management.” And she has proven this idea true throughout her own career, not just talking the talk, but also walking it. Gabriele has a varied past in a number of industries: automotive, energy, mobility, and system catering, and has grown her experience in people management at brands including McDonald’s and Sixt SE. She has left her footprint and has been instrumental in creating desirable workplaces through implementing inclusive hiring practices and designing worker friendly environments. On top of her own work, Gabriele strives to help other women become successful leaders by taking part in various mentorship programs. She truly is a Jill of all Trades.
Tatjana Kiel, CEO KLITSCHKO Ventures
The Fearless Champion
Tatjana Kiel used to plan the Klitschko brothers' boxing matches. Since February 24th she has been organizing aid deliveries to Ukraine – on a grand scale. With her power, tenacity, and fearlessness, the 43-year-old fits in well with the champions who have now moved from the ring to business and politics. Surprising hooks are something the Berlin native is familiar with when it comes to her own career too. She started out at a TV station in New York, before becoming a copywriter, and then studying business administration. Next, she worked for a FDP member of parliament, and only then did she look after the Klitschkos at sports marketing agency Sportfive. The two champion boxers must have been impressed by her calm and collected personality; She became the CEO of coaching company Klitschko Ventures. Tatjana Kiel is a success of her own making too. She independently founded the business club Ladies Mentoring and now uses her contacts in business, politics, and sports to send pallets of aid to Ukraine. The mother of one daughter sees herself as a human transformation strategist, a title that fits her like a boxing glove!
Carina Kontio, Editor Investment Management Flossbach von Storch
Carina Kontio very rarely experiences a dull moment. Whether she’s preparing for her next big story, interviewing inspiring individuals, or going for a long ride on her racing bike, she thrives on challenges and is happiest when she is expanding her knowledge and skills. Her biggest success so far? All of them! After achieving one goal, you will often find Carina already on the path to reaching the next objective she has set for herself. She continues to stay motivated by consistently posing herself the questions: “What sense do I have as a human being on this planet” and “what do I exist for and what of my work will outlive me in the end?” So far, the brilliance of her work is speaking for itself. After a thrilling 12 years at Handelsblatt as contributing editor, host of the Handelsblatt Mindshift podcast, and the driving force behind the famous Rolemodels interview series, the LinkedIn Top Voice 2020 continued on in her lifelong learning quest; At the beginning of this year, she took on her latest challenge: Editor of Investment Management at Flossbach von Storch.
Anahita Thoms, Sustainability & Trade Compliance Partner Baker McKenzie
The Sustainability Advocate
As a young girl, she dreamed of becoming an astronaut. Her career has taken a different – although no less glamorous – orbit. Lawyer Anahita Thoms is one of the most influential women in German business, specializing in foreign trade and sustainability. She commented on the draft of the “German Corporate Governance Code 2022” for Corporate Compliance Zeitschrift. When Indian Prime Minister Modi came to Europe on a state visit, she was interviewed by the BBC on the prospects of a trade agreement between India and the EU. Having grown up in Düsseldorf as the child of Persian immigrants, Anahita seized every opportunity she could get her hands on. However, the country has not always been kind to her; She is no stranger to exclusion and discrimination. An examiner once asked her if her father was a carpet dealer. But that didn't stop Anahita Thoms. For someone like her, blessed with talent and doer qualities,the sky was the limit. She hasn’t made it into space (or perhaps it would be better to say not yet), but she has made it into countless top rankings, including 100 Most Influential Women in German Business (manager magazin), International Trade Lawyer of the Year (Germany) at the Client Choice Awards and Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum. What a rockstar!
Joana Breidenbach, Co-Founder Innerwork.online
The Daredevil Social Entrepreneur
What would happen if the boss stepped back and allowed employees to take on more responsibility and power in the company? This is the revolutionary concept of New Work, and the answer is that without preparation, the business would likely fall apart. However, intrepid social entrepreneur Joana Breidenbach argues that with the right inner work, companies can flourish under competency-based hierarchy. This was the case for her think and do tank, the betterplace lab, when it became self-organized in 2014. Since then, innovation has been bountiful and Joana has acted as the Godmother of the organization, rather than painstakingly making every decision for the betterplace lab. Her book New Work Needs Inner Work describes the journey towards competency-based hierarchy. In 2021, she continued on this path with her new book Innenansicht, recounting her decade of research which led to the success of the betterplace lab’s shift and how that went hand-in-hand with personal transformation. New Work isn’t for the faint-hearted, but Joana is nothing if not brave!
Katharina Hopp, Senior Vice President IT & Head of Business Unit Mobility Solutions Robert Bosch GmbH
The Transformational Spirit
Please fasten your seat belts! Anyone who rides with Katharina Hopp has to be prepared for a lot of speed. Her motto: “If everything is under control, you're not driving fast enough.” It's actually an attitude that's familiar to a lot of start-ups. She’s bringing the drive and the desire to innovate, transform, and restructure to the table in a classically grown corporation like Bosch. As Vice President, she heads the “Mobility Solutions Business Team” with a budget responsibility of 715 million Euros. In general, this woman loves numbers. Katharina Hopp's measurements add up as follows: nine jobs & positions in 18 years of professional experience. She has carried out five transformations, has two advisory board functions, and still finds time for three honorary offices and networks. The manager lives in Stuttgart with her husband and two children and has traveled to 59 countries. She loves to push boundaries and grow beyond herself. And like any modern leader, she takes her employees with her. “This is the only way to move forward – into an exciting, more digital and promising future.” Hopp, hopp to it like Katharina Hopp.
Claudia Pohlink, Chief Expert Data & Program Manager House of Data Deutsche Bahn
The Data Conductor
Numbers are Claudia Pohlink’s passion. That and innovative trends. This passion is evident through her founding of #startupnight, #DigitalWanderlust and #AI4DiversityHackathon and time at T-Labs (Deutsche Telekom’s research unit), MTV Networks, and Jamba/Rocket Internet. The data expert is now driving the Deutsche Bahn’s central data topics (data governance, data management, and data catalog) full steam ahead. Additionally, Claudia is an active speaker and author on several innovative topics including artificial intelligence, machine learning, and quantum tech. “Provide talents with challenges that will empower them to make a positive difference – as in energy conservation, Co2 reduction, or cybersecurity,” the tech guru advised in an interview. For her work, Claudia was honored as a Global Women Leader in AI in 2019 by IBM and is sharing her knowledge regularly at conferences, universities, and schools, committed to the education of youth in the field of AI. A train of thought worth getting on board with!
Prof. Dr. Sandra Ciesek, Director of the Institute for Medical Virology at Universitätsklinikum Frankfurt
The last two Corona-filled years have impacted everyone with homeschooling, social distancing, and lockdowns. For Sandra Ciesek, the time was even more exhausting: she recorded 113 podcast episodes of "Coronavirus Update" with Christian Drosten, as well as participating in countless interviews and talk shows, updated over 167,000 Twitter followers, and spent days and nights in the lab. "I have never worked so hard," says the multi-award-winning internist and virologist. Warn, inform, remind, explain – repeat. The 44-year-old expert has mastered this cycle with unwavering calm and tireless energy. This is an attitude that the professor of medical virology at Frankfurt's Goethe University adapted early on, when she gave birth to her daughter just three months after her specialist examination. Four months later she was already back in the lab. Even though the scientist says “you must not put your career ahead of your personal happiness”, she patiently continues her research into medications against COVID-19, even now when all restrictions are largely suspended. Because nobody knows whether Coronavirus will become more harmless or more dangerous. Warn, inform, remind, explain – repeat.
Prof. Dr. Katharina Hölzle, Professor for Technology Management & Human Factors, University of Stuttgart
The Innovation Enthusiast
According to Katharina Hölzle, companies must develop a deep understanding of the urgency of transformation. Otherwise, they won't exist in five years. It is highly recommended to listen to her in the video of the German Research Summit 2022. And yes, the woman is serious. She manages the feat of combining this radicalism with a get up and go attitude. In April 2022, she moved from the Hasso Plattner Institute to the University of Stuttgart. In addition to her teaching activities, she advises the German government as Deputy Chair of the Expert Commission on Research and Innovation (EFI). She’s seen it all; Before moving into academia, she worked in the semiconductor, management consulting, and eBusiness industries. As an industrial engineer and post-doctoral economist, she is a role model for the interdisciplinarity we so urgently need. And there is another topic that is close to her heart; Katharina Hölzle is convinced that only heterogeneous teams are up to the tasks that await us. That's why she's committed to the #shetransformsIT initiative. How she manages to fit it into her packed schedule, remains a mystery.
Dr. Fritzi Köhler-Geib, Chief Economist KfW
Just "Fritzi" is what the chief economist with an international reputation prefers to be called. Her name sounds cheerful, but her topics are anything but, ranging from inflation and economic trends to the danger of insolvency and the business climate index. Especially in crises like the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, her skills and analyses are in high demand. Dr. Friederike Köhler-Geib thinks and works across the globe and speaks five languages. This is thanks to her more than 17 years at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Ever since she studied economics in St. Gallen the 44-year-old has been fascinated by large contexts. She applied for an internship at the IMF, went to Washington DC and did her doctorate in Munich and Barcelona. Her studies are intended to help people support themselves – regardless of whether the focus is on municipalities, small and medium-sized enterprises, or countries like Ukraine. How does she handle gloomy forecasts and bad news? "When you work enthusiastically on issues, it is reflected in the quality of work, and in the ease with which others follow along."
Verena Bentele, President VdK & Vice President DOSB
The Paralympian Champion
“Sport has given me the stamina I need to cope well with difficult phases at work and to still have energy after long days, but sport has also always meant team spirit for me.” Stamina and teamwork are the key traits which have allowed Paralympic athlete Verena Bentele to achieve greatness on the ski parcours, during marathon cycling challenges, and her career ventures. Aged just 16, a young Verena won her first medals for biathlon at the 1998 Winter Paralympics, but that was just the beginning. In total, she has 16 Paralympic medals for biathlon and cross-country skiing, as well as additional World Championship accolades. Verena has been blind since birth, but her resilience and trust in better to come helps her bounce back from setbacks and train for the next big competition, rather than giving up. It is this insight that she now seeks to share with others through keynote speeches and in her book Kontrolle ist gut, Vertrauen ist besser (Control is Good, Trust is Better), because, as Verena says, "Only those who cannot trust are truly blind." We could all be a little more Verena!
Dr. Diana Knodel, Co-Founder fobizz, Founder & CEO App Camps
The Digital Educator
When it comes to passing on her knowledge to help others, no one is more passionate than Diana Knodel. With a background in computer science, psychology, and educational research and time spent working in the IT industry, Diana put her own education and experience to use; In 2014 to found App Camps, a nonprofit with the goal of getting young people excited about digital topics and programming, and in 2018 Fobizz, the largest German-language professional development platform for teachers. With increasing digital transformation, she wants to ensure that no student is left behind and has fair access to learning necessary digital skills. And what guarantees this best? Making students want to learn and properly training educators. For her efforts, Edition F and D64 named her one of the 25 leading women in Germany for the digital future. Diana is proving that education truly is key to changing our world for the better.
Dr. Katrin Suder, Founder & Co-CEO of TAE Advisory & Sparring GmbH
Katrin Suder thinks about consequences that others ignore as trivialities. The physicist with a doctorate and expert in neural networks, the field on which the development of AI is based, analyzes, for example, the interactions between security policy, the economy, technology, and climate protection for companies. After her studies, she worked for 14 years as a management consultant at McKinsey, where she was the first female director among 60 executives in Germany. In her four years as State Secretary of the Ministry of Defence (also a rather male domain), the now 50-year-old initiated the cyber master's program at the Bundeswehr University in Munich. For the past four years, the native of Mainz has been Chair of the Federal Government's Digital Council. Digital issues and equal rights are themes that run through her entire career; She is passionate about the former professionally, and lives the latter at home with her partner, ex-national goalkeeper Katja Kraus, while raising their three children. How does she juggle all of this? “We live with imperfection and try to accept it with the best possible humor," Suder says nonchalantly.
Nina Strassner, Global Head of People Initiatives SAP SE
The Diversity Rockstar
The appointment of Nina Strassner as Head of Diversity at SAP in 2019 was what one might call a sensation. As a columnist for Brigitte MOM, award-winning blogger, and Twitter icon @Juramama, the specialist lawyer for labor law was no stranger to the job. Rather, one wondered: is a corporation the right habitat for an unconventional free spirit? The answer after three years is: absolutely. If you let them. The HR department is the powerhouse of the company. Attracting and retaining excellent people, putting them in the right jobs and establishing a modern, inclusive culture is a highly strategic task in times of the "war for talent." In other words, this is where you can make your mark. And that's what Nina Strassner has done. Under her leadership, SAP has repeatedly been named the best employer for women and the LGBTQIA+ community. She has driven issues like the "menopause" initiative – the first DAX company ever to do so. And she has championed co-leaderships, with the number of tandems increasing from 17 to more than 40. In May 2022, she was promoted to Global Head of People Initiatives (what a nice title!). In her new role, she's determined to "use creative measures and ideas to make career paths and careers more permeable, tangible, and transparent." Woohoo!
Vidya Munde-Mueller, Director Founder Institute & Social Tech Entrepeneur
The Intrepid Entrepreneur
Vidya Munde-Müller has never let fear stop her, actively living by the motto that “in hindsight you are always smarter!” Born in an Indian slum, and the first woman in her family to go to college, the Founder of smart donation and engagement platform Givetastic hasn’t gotten to where she is today without taking risks. While the path hasn’t always been easy, Vidya has learned from her mistakes and has it as her life goal to make the world a better place through entrepreneurship. With 10 years’ experience in the telecom and internet industry and a certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship from Stanford Graduate School of Business, Vidya is now helping other entrepreneurs navigate the ins and outs of building a business as the Director of the Founder Institute in Frankfurt. And she’s not stopping there. This wonder woman has even more on her mind – she’s hard at work creating a mental health app together with several universities.
Julia Kovar-Mühlhausen, Head of Klimaschutzstiftung Baden-Württemberg
The Environmental Saviour
If you were to ask Julia Kovar-Mühlhausen’s personal philosophy in one word she would tell you “change”. And change is the one thing we need when it comes to the current climate crisis. A global problem we must combat together, collaborating across cities, states, countries, and even the world. In Baden-Württemberg, the vital steps the German state and every company within it takes towards carbon neutrality are directed by Julia Kovar-Mühlhausen, the Leader of the newly founded Climate Protection Foundation at Baden-Württemberg Stiftung. Her mission? To help “The Land” become climate neutral by 2040. That’s no small task! Julia only started her work in this position in February 2021, but already she is making a huge difference to uptake in green projects in the state. By January 2022, she had helped offset more than 5,000 tons of CO₂. This is a challenge Julia is fully prepared for though, as she previously led the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung communications team for ten years, so Julia knows a thing or two about heading up a team. And, even more important, also keeping things moving. Change is the way forward.
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