"We value people. People create value." - this motto characterizes the corporate culture of PALFINGER. Together, we work on offering and promoting tolerance, respect and equal opportunities. In the course of this year's International Women's Day on March 8, we want to highlight these values and the common path towards equality.
The official theme for this year is "ChooseToChallenge." Challenging the "status quo." Consciously highlighting gender biases and inequalities. Because this is the only way to create an inclusive world.
PALFINGER wants to use the IWD 2021 as an opportunity to put women within our company in the spotlight. Therefore, we talked to three women in management positions about their experiences, their challenges, how they apply "empowerment" on a daily basis and what they want to "challenge" going forward.
ISABEL DIAZ ROHR
Isabel Diaz Rohr is a member of the PALFINGER AG's Supervisory Board. To break away from old patterns of thought, she listens carefully. And she wants to give employees more confidence and trust.
It is through conversation that people get to know each other. And by listening carefully. "Video conferences are difficult in this respect," says Isabel Diaz Rohr, member of the Supervisory Board at PALFINGER AG. Difficult because there is no direct interaction with your counterpart. During Corona, this is unfortunately unavoidable, so Ms Diaz has only attended one "real" meeting of the Supervisory Board, all other meetings are digital. Including this conversation with her. One – small – Challenge.
"We should continue to question patterns of thought, explore new paths and go through life equipped with more courage, and even more confidence - challenge the status quo."
"What I have already noticed in the short time since my appointment is how consistently and structured the approach is, but also how pleasant interaction within the Supervisory Board is." Isabel Diaz Rohr is the second woman appointed to the Supervisory Board, alongside Ellyn Shenglin Cai, and she looks back on a steep career path in the automotive supply industry.
"The PALFINGER brand," she says, "is very attractive: Great products. The production processes are different from those in the automotive industry. The quantities are smaller, the specialization is greater, although challenges such as automation, electrification and digitalization are the same."
"Will she even manage that?"
Isabel Diaz Rohr actually studied psychology. But she ended up in industry, or more precisely in personnel development. "When I took on my first major management task, I was still young," she recalls, "and I was already being eyed critically, along the lines of: Will she even manage that? My age and gender certainly played a role in this question. But generally speaking, managers are subject to closer scrutiny."
On the subject of gender, why does she think that women are still significantly less represented in top management than men? "I think it has also to do with having the courage to accept what you are offered," she reflects. "Men say 'I'll give it a go', while women hesitate. And I say to them: Have courage! Apply for it! Accept those offers!"
"Having a career," she continues, "is an exhausting business, completely regardless of gender. I've kept moving all the time, changing locations, with everything that this entails, including having different health insurance. But for all the effort, it's important to see the opportunities that come with it."
Opportunity is a keyword that leads directly to the PALFINGER Leadership Principle "Empower". How do empowerment and opportunity work together? Isabel Diaz Rohr pauses for a moment. "I am someone who likes to show trust. Taking a leap of faith can go a long way. It is about trust and offering support at the same time. Managers can make a huge difference with support and mentoring. If I give someone the opportunity to prove themselves, they are much more likely to grow into owning the task. In addition, for me, there is this crucial statement: 'Before you can lead others, you have to be able to lead yourself'. You need to know your own strengths and weaknesses, that is self-awareness in the truest sense of the word."
And what role does empathy play in this? Is it a stronger trait among female managers? Isabel Diaz Rohr laughs softly. "Empathy is important," she confirms. "For women as well as for men and especially for managers."
"I had a picture hanging on my wall for a long time with only one word on it: "LISTEN". As mundane as it sounds, many managers have a problem listening, and I do too," again Isabel Diaz Rohr laughs before continuing, "As managers, we believe all too often that we make the best decisions ourselves. It is an important step in the right direction to break away from this old way of thinking and place more trust in our female employees."
"A lot of things are changing right now," she adds. "At all levels, for men and women: We should continue to question patterns of thought, explore new paths and go through life equipped with more courage, and even more confidence - challenge the status quo. And listen."
Radostina Nacheva began her career at PALFINGER as an intern. The professional and personal development opportunities she received ultimately led her to her current position of Finance Manager at PALFINGER Bulgaria – a path that wasn’t always easy.
Using her expertise and skills, she seized the opportunity to prove herself and build a successful team in this high-responsibility role. Along with her colleagues in Controlling and the PALFINGER Tenevo management team, she relies on continuous improvement to promote further development of the organization. At the same time, her extensive experience allows her to rise to new challenges and to flexibly react to changes while also continuing to grow.
"Women see things from different perspectives and find solutions where others see only problems."
In her role as Finance Manager, she is expected to create transparency using data and facts and to assist management with making the right decision.
As a woman in this industry, how have you stood your ground? Did you even have to?
You don’t need to stand your ground at all. It’s not necessary if your team is successful, if your organization accomplishes its goals, and if strategic projects are completed as planned. The greatest testament to the work you’ve performed is the results and the KPIs achieved by the company. It is often my job to present on our achievement of goals, and I am always proud to see how our organization continuously evolves and sets new records.
“Empower” is one of the PALFINGER leadership principles. What do you associate with this term, and what role does empowerment play in your professional environment?
For me, “empower” means giving employees more space to improve and optimize processes. You have to establish relationships of trust with employees so they can show their own initiative and responsibility. You need to always be open to new ideas and changes in order to obtain synergies and innovation.
How do you hope to inspire women when it comes to careers or professional success? What has assisted you along the way?
Always trusting your own skills and your own strength. Women have good communication and presentation skills. They approach things with a lot of ambition and emotion, and they are able to win team members over for a common goal. Women see things from different perspectives and find solutions where others see only problems. What has assisted me along the way is my intuition, which has helped me make the right decisions in difficult situations.
It is thus clear to Radostina what the basic framework is for professional success: relying on your own skills, being ambitious and putting your whole heart into it, and never losing sight of the team concept. By seeing things from different perspectives and using intuition as well as empathetic, emotive approaches, you can find solutions where others see only problems. This is in keeping with motto “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” (Steve Jobs)
Radostina wants to act on this year’s theme for International Women’s Day 2021 – Choose to Challenge – to inspire others and encourage them to follow their own heart and intuition as well as trusting in themselves.
Kristine Keenan Timm
Kristine started at PALFINGER shortly after the Global PALFINGER Organization (GPO) was implemented. Therefore, her time with PALFINGER has been filled with changes for the whole company. Kristine was able to bring many improvements to the North America region’s compensation and benefit programs, as well as their payroll processes.
As the first person in the role of the Director of Compensation and Benefits with PALFINGER North America, Kristine has the amazing opportunity to define her role, the department, and the roles of her team members. The new team is bringing significant change and value to the region. While this can be a tremendous amount of stress and work some days, she finds the challenge extremely exciting. Whilst we as a company are still evolving, Kristine is proud at what has been accomplished so far.
"I view empowerment as providing the opportunity and resources to be successful."
As a woman in a management position it is important for Kristine to ensure that her voice is heard without being perceived as pushy or aggressive and to give equal opportunities to other women.
As a successful woman in this industrial sector: Have you ever had to proof yourself, if yes how?
I think that we all must prove ourselves to gain the confidence of others, however, I don’t feel that I have had to prove myself because I am a woman in the industrial sector. Although, this may be attributed to the fact that I am in Human Resources which is not unique to the industrial sector. This, unfortunately, is probably very different in traditionally male dominated positions in the industrial sector.
“Empower” is one of PALFINGER’s Leadership Principles. What do you associate with this term and what role does “empowerment” play in your professional environment?
I view empowerment as providing the opportunity and resources to be successful. I try to empower my team members by challenging them with projects that will expand their knowledge and abilities while providing the guidance and resources they need to successfully complete the project.
How would you like to inspire women when it comes to the subject of “career” or “professional success”? What accompanied you on your way?
I believe career success is finding something you are passionate about and enjoy doing. It is okay to fail or change direction as this often leads to growth and opportunity. When I began my career, my goal was to be in a leadership position within five years.
Then I had my children and my priority changed. I had an opportunity to move to a part-time HR project management position that allowed me to work in a variety of HR areas at the company’s corporate headquarters. This role expanded my knowledge and skills and eventually lead to my first leadership position. While my path and timeline changed, I still achieved the ultimate goal.
The woman that provided me the opportunity to make my young family a priority but continue on my chosen career path and the skills I gained have been the foundation of my career. I have truly been able to “have it all” because of this woman and many wonderful female and male managers I have worked with since then. I am committed to providing the opportunities I had to other women.
For professional success Kristine finds it important to grow through challenges, to find something you are passionate about and enjoy doing and to build strong relationships with other people in your field that you can exchange ideas with and share experiences.
This year's International Women's Day 2021 motto "ChooseToChallenge" is something Kristine wants to take up, therefore she will continue to uplift and celebrate the accomplishments of all women and challenge all areas of gender inequity, especially pay inequities.”