LEAD Network Germany Chapter Event – 9th May 2017
Hosted by Procter & Gamble, Frankfurt, Germany

Dare The Difference

On 9th May, around 40 women and men from the CPG & Retail industry in Germany gathered in Frankfurt for the second LEAD Germany Chapter event of the year.

Lena Sellmann, Senior Account Manager and Diversity & Inclusion Leader Sales in DACH, Procter & Gamble hosted the event. Gabriele Riedmann de Trinidad, Group Director Business Innovation, METRO AG welcomed all attendees and explained their journey to organising LEAD’s first event in the Hessian region of Germany. Sharon Jeske, LEAD Executive Director, highlighted P&G’s involvement and commitment to LEAD as one of the organisation’s Foundation Partners as well as contributing many volunteers to LEAD’s committees.

Jürgen Kohnen, Director Retail Innovation for Procter & Gamble spoke of his own personal experience of the power of diversity, and how P&G’s way of operating embodies the theme of the event, ‘Dare the Difference’. P&G has dared to be different in the way that they conduct shopper research and how they drive innovation in the marketplace. Jürgen then provided attendees with a tour of P&G’s Zukunftswerkstatt Handel, demonstrating how P&G uses focus groups, stationary eye tracking and virtual reality to enhance their customer experience.

Daniela Bottarelli, Director Sales, Global Metro/Makro Team for Procter & Gamble followed with her thoughts on “Intentionally Inclusive Leadership” and what that looks like. She showed the video that went viral about Robert Kelly’s BBC interview on South Korea that was interrupted when his two small children came in. Many of those in the room had participated in the ‘was the Asian woman who came in the wife or the nanny’, thus challenging those present on their automatic mental associations that are a result of unconscious bias.

Bias is the process by which the brain uses mental associations that are so well established, that they operate without awareness, without intention or without control. They are due to each of us having had our own experiences, background, beliefs, education, race, gender and religion that causes us to see some things and not others. Our brain needs bias to optimize its capacity, but when it operates unconsciously and we make decisions based on that, this can have potential consequences.

Women in particular are often the subject of biases. There is the ‘prove it again’ bias, where competence or performance needs to be proved repeatedly, as it goes against general expectations. There is the ‘tightrope’ bias, where women walk a fine line between being respected but disliked, or being liked but not taken seriously. Then there is the ‘maternal wall’ bias, where a woman who is a ‘good’ mother who wants to dedicate herself to children and family is considered to therefore care less about her career.

To overcome unconscious biases, Daniela outlined 6 steps:

  1. Recognise that you have bias
  2. Use a flashlight on yourself: were you biased in a specific situation, and by what?
  3. Get feedback
  4. Explore awkwardness and discomfort
  5. Engage with ‘others’ and find positive role models
  6. Practice ‘constructive uncertainty’

It’s a journey that we can’t achieve alone, because our biases are unconscious and we often need help in identifying them. Always try to find someone who is different from you in a certain area and spend time to understand why they come across in a certain way, and what is triggering your judgement on that behavior.

To round out the evening, Astrid Teckentrup, Vice-President Sales, DACH and Global Metro/Makro Team, Procter & Gamble shared her very personal story of her time in Sales at P&G over the last 26 years. When she first started working as a young woman in a fairly male dominated field at that time, she acknowledged that being part of a team of supportive and experienced people who were honest with her and mentored had unparalleled benefits for her progression within P&G. She has always sought to grow and step outside of her comfort zone, most recently by speaking at a very large event and by doing business with a country which is culturally very different and has very different business dynamics.

She left attendees with three tips:

  1. When you take risks, make sure that you are well prepared.
  2. Take care of yourself and plan in your rest time to make sure you stay balanced when stress levels are high.
  3. Have one or two people in the business who understand what the company is like, who understand you as a person and who are willing to go with you through your brightest and darkest moments.

In closing, Astrid asked Jeremy Murday, Senior Account Manager E-Commerce with Procter & Gamble, to give an overview of his experience of working alongside women as colleagues and as bosses. He shared how he has developed a more constructive approach when he is in meetings, mirroring a style he noticed from the women he had observed and how his bosses had supported him through changes in his family life, namely becoming a father.

The LEAD Network would like to extend a big thank you to Lena Sellmann of Procter & Gamble for hosting and organising this fantastic event!