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Turning Parental Leave into a Career Booster

Updated: Sep 15, 2022

“Parental skills are leadership skills” – Dr. Ricarda Engelmeier created a thrilling business model and started her company ‘MyCollective’, where she aims to empower women in the most critical phase for their careers.

How did you come up with the idea to start ‘MyCollective’?

I lived in India and worked for GIZ in the sustainability sector. I also helped to initiate some social businesses and in the end I built an institute, the ‘Center for Responsible Business’. During this time I had my first two children. I took some time off, of course, but a longer break, in the sense of a real parental leave, was not possible. Back in Germany I worked in a corporate setting at Siemens. Child number three announced his arrival. Almost all of my female colleagues took parental leave, which commonly was one year. I thought: When in Rome, do as the Romans do – and also took maternal leave. There was a key moment: I walked through the city with the baby carriage and a coffee to go, as you do, and saw all the other women with baby carriages. What a human capital is walking around the streets of Munich at ten in the morning! That raised economic questions for me as to whether a society can or wants to afford it. However, what’s more important are the individual questions that women deal with. They are usually quite happy to spend time with their baby. At the same time they are completely intellectually underchallenged. This imbalance is sometimes difficult to bear, especially for women who have invested a lot of energy in their career and who have identified strongly with their job and skills. Finally, there is the business management component. Companies, especially in technical and engineering fields, have difficulties filling the pipeline and finding enough women at all. As a result, these women break away from them, especially when they start a family. On the other hand, the quota is pressing. And even for those companies, for which there is no binding quota, the demands for more transparency are increasing. In order to fill supervisory board positions accordingly, women can theoretically be recruited from abroad. But management levels 1, 2 and 3 have to be ‘homegrown’, and the talent pool is often lacking this. And that’s exactly where ‘MyCollective’ comes in.

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