View on a desk from above: two women sit on a desk next to each other with their phones and coffee cups besides their laptops. The scene prominently shows a journal with the text "Empowered (wo)men empower women." A sticker on one laptop says "Still loving Feminism".
Corporate Culture |

International Women's Day 2023 – Embrace Equity


March 8, 2023

tl;dr quick summary
In my still quite short career, I have fortunately always been surrounded by women who have inspired me, supported me and motivated me to keep going in some tough situations. To mark International Women's Day 2023, I'd like to use this post to shine a light on all those women and look at my own personal experiences in the tech industry from a gender equality perspective. But I would also like to take this opportunity to pass the metaphorical microphone to my colleagues: the people who work as a team every day to cultivate a good working environment for everyone. Because that's the only way we can achieve real equality in the long term.

Disclaimer: Although statistics, studies and even history books like to focus on the so-called gender binary, I would like to distance myself and Peerigon from it at this point. To make it explicitly clear - with reference to a post Alexandra Chandra recently shared on LinkedIn: Trans women are women. Also, there is not the one way to look feminine, womanhood is not tied to a particular shape, (in)ability, or physique, and femininity and womanhood do not belong exclusively to cis-women. Furthermore, I want to emphasise that this is a very personal post. As a neurodivergent person when excited my tone reflects it – good and bad.

Growing up in a home influenced by the GDR, with a mother who had studied mathematics and a father who introduced us children to technical subjects at an early age, I never doubted my abilities in this direction. My parents made no distinction in education between me and my brothers. The first LAN party I went to was organized by my older brother. Later, I was usually the only girl among boys, and we played strategy games and first-person shooters. To this day, game nights with my brothers are part of my weekly program. That's how we stay in touch and exchange ideas.

My first steps – the (early) impact of women in my life

Throughout my life, I have been surrounded by empowered and confident women, most notably my mother. My math and computer science teacher, Mrs Feller, subtly took me under her wing when I took both of her courses in high school. Many of my teachers were emancipated women, each in her own way. But in contrast to those beginnings, I dropped out of the business information systems degree I had started after a short time and did not initially pursue the technical path.

It wasn't until ten years later, after completing my business studies, a detour into marketing and a burnout, that I decided to go down the path of web development. My younger brother, a computer science graduate, was my first mentor. But even as a convinced feminist, he couldn't help me in all situations.

Even before my first professional experience in the tech industry, I was confronted with the dominance of men, including on Twitter. A small group of women from around the world, all on their way into the tech industry or from college into the workforce, banded together. We supported and encouraged each other - all through Twitter. One of them, Sibylle - a skilled developer - is still a good friend and important confidant in my life today.

At my first job in the industry as a junior web developer, I was lucky enough to have a senior consultant from an internationally renowned agency, Christin, on my team. Even today, I benefit from the feedback, tips and inspiration she gave me in the first months of my career.

With my first job in Munich also came the first opportunities to attend meetups and conferences. I took advantage of every one of these opportunities, especially if it meant seeing women on stage. At one of these meetups, I heard my now colleague Irena talk about frameworks, I learned from Cassie Evans not to let the fun of playful development be taken away from me, and I watched Anna Henningsen open a PR for Node.js - live from a conference stage. These were all moments that inspired, shaped, and at certain times empowered me.

I had an inspiring encounter with a female role model a couple of years ago. I met Sarah Drasner at the JSConf in Iceland, she was still Principal Lead at Azure (Microsoft) at the time. We got to talk at the buffet in the evening: Reykjavik, illustration, coding beginnings ... It wasn't earth-shattering topics we talked about, but looking back, it was this conversation that gave me the small motivational push to change the direction my career was taking. Two weeks later, I plucked up the courage to do a coding boot camp, learn how to code, and basically venture out into the world of web development.


Struggling in the industry – underrepresentation of women is a systemic issue

However, my parental home, my environment and my experiences had not prepared me for what it really meant to work in a male-dominated field. Highly motivated, curious and committed, I started each new job. In most cases, I was very quickly confronted with the fact that I was a woman in a male-dominated company. Be it in the form of unpleasant comments from "mentors", derogatory labels from superiors and their downplaying, or having to witness a talented female colleague giving up her career in the industry due to unfair feedback.

The problem of underrepresentation is well known, has been highlighted in numerous studies, and experts around the world are meeting to develop solutions. Proposals range from improving education, strengthening role models, and motivating women to political intervention through quotas for women in management positions or monetary incentives for companies to hire more women. In my view, however, what is often missing to really make a difference is to look at the culture of companies and address their willingness to include women. Strengthening representation cannot and should not rest solely on the shoulders of the underrepresented. We need a movement that addresses all points.

As long as we still have to strive for gender equality, it is essential that all technical professions open up to all genders, and it is also clear that this requires effort and role models. For a long time the tech industry has not understood this, at best people have tried to judge people on their technical skills, along the lines of "I don't care if someone is a woman, as long as they're a good programmer". That is such a technocratic understanding from the last century. I'm happy to work in a company that values the people behind the screens.


Finding my place – the right environment for me to grow and thrive

In the last few weeks, I had the opportunity to accompany two interviews that could not have been more different. One gave me hope, the other reminded me how far I've come personally. Both made one thing clear to me: Peerigon is not like other employers. My colleague, with whom I interviewed the candidate, puts it in a nutshell.

(Intersectional) feminism has been a matter of the heart for me for years, about which I also like to read complex books. 😉 But since you only read theoretical things in these books for the time being and often your attention is drawn to even more (socially very complex) problems, I'm even happier that my personal environment is very progressive regarding the topic of equality. I personally could not work in a company without a general sensitivity & a sense of responsibility for these issues. At Peerigon, I have felt since day one that I am valued as a colleague and not judged on the basis of my gender identity.


The fact that this constellation – three female developers in one (virtual) room – is not an everyday occurrence only became really clear to me a few days after the interview. In all my interviews over the last few years, none of my interviewees were women, let alone both of them. This moment filled me with pride, but also with a feeling of breathing a sigh of relief and of having arrived. In other companies, I had adapted my behavior after a few months, chosen my words more carefully, made myself smaller or even censored myself. In exchanges with acquaintances and friends, in reports of experiences on LinkedIn and other platforms, it becomes clear that this is not an isolated case. Women are desperately sought after, perhaps even hired, but then left to their own devices to a certain extent. At Peerigon this is not the case. After a meeting where the idea for this article was born, I received this message.

I was just thinking about what Celestine said… Isn’t „not thinking about it“ a sign of our positive working environment? I’ve worked in companies and been in situations that made me actively question myself if I am being treated that way because of the fact that I am a woman. That may have been small comments, inappropriate behaviour, stereotypical task assignments and so on, but nothing like that ever happened to me here at Peerigon.


She's right - since I started at Perigon a few months ago, I'm more confident and move through everyday work without self-imposed limits. The hurdles that women otherwise encounter in the working world are actively minimized at Perigon. This is evident not only in terms of gender differences in experience. An inclusive and safe work environment also allows people from different walks of life to come together to tackle issues that might not even be noticed in a homogeneous team. Kathi, UX & UI designer, describes her perspective below.

I have to differentiate my view on the subject. I am a woman and a mom, and two different things come together here. As a woman, I feel comfortable and valued at Peerigon. As a mom, I have a few problems, but they are not caused by Peerigon at all, but rather by German bureaucracy and the general hurdles that still exist when it comes to balancing work and family. What I really appreciate about Peerigon in this context, however, is that these hurdles are not seen as 'God-given', but that an exchange is always possible and that very individual solutions become possible. For example, issues such as the gender pay gap and who contributes to care work in what ways are not topics to be trifled with at the lunch table, but are more likely to be met by people who are equally interested in them.


At Peerigon, support from male colleagues is also strengthened, as I learned after the second interview. During this interview, the applicant made inappropriate comments on more than one occasion. My judgment is not challenged, my concerns are taken seriously, and I become increasingly aware that representation is not only important in terms of female role models to strengthen equality. It is just as important to challenge stereotypes, sensitize men and make them aware of the strengths of a truly diverse team.

The possibility of biased decisions in a team of all white male persons is a lot higher. I really value the perspective switch a more diverse team brings to my day to day life. We build software for people and about half of the users are women.


Driving change – the true impact of systemic changes

"Diversity led to our success" – McKinsey. "How Diversity Can Help With Business Growth" – Forbes. "Diversity and Technology Have the Power to Boost Business Revenues", Entrepreneur.

The causality between diverse teams and the success of a company is not a new finding. These effects have also been observed at Peerigon. At this point, I would like to let two of our founders have their say. They are the ones who make it possible for us as a team to actively shape and strengthen culture. They have committed themselves to working towards a prejudice-free work environment.

I have learned that only in some cases there is a clear right or wrong. There are many more perspectives on different issues. To make good decisions, you need many different perspectives. The more diverse the opinions, the better the decision. Even if some decisions require more effort, they are usually more sustainable. I appreciate having women in the team because, in my experience, women relax the interpersonal communication in the team. There is less competition and the atmosphere is generally better. I am proud that we are getting better every year at making the Peerigon workplace more attractive for women. The way that peerigon works, it needs a woman, it needs a diverse team.


The process of laying this foundation, however, was not easy, as Stephan recounted.

By signing the Charta der Vielfalt, we have manifested what has always been the consensus at Peerigon: we love working in a diverse team and learning from different people. In a diverse team we have the most fun, creativity increases and the quality of our work improves. When we founded the company, and then one day the first hires came, almost all the applicants were men, and we always had to choose the person with the best qualifications. We realized that if we wanted to have a diverse team, we had to actively counteract this and increase the number of female applicants.

Over the years, the following initiatives have been initiated and implemented:

  • Improving external communication
  • Supporting women in the tech industry, e.g. in the context of Women Who Code or Girls' Day
  • Promoting talks and contributions by female employees who advocate for more women in the tech industry
  • Lowering career entry barriers so that there were more applications
  • Providing equal representation in job interviews
  • Developing and annually adjusting a salary model to actively prevent a gender pay gap and thus live fairness
The effect was: Over the years, more and more women joined our team. They are passionate web developers and enrich our team. In my view, they are role models and motivate young women to learn a technical profession. We wouldn't want to miss that anymore. That makes working fun!


All of these changes are medium- and long-term investments across the board, many of which have not yet been made by companies in the digital industry in Germany and around the world. Since my time in Munich, I have met Peeris more than once. The reach of the impact and support was felt far beyond the boundaries of the company, from inspiring conversations with female developers at meetups, the repeated encouragement to apply, or the moment when Johannes inquired about me after a tweet about my health. The values are lived and passed on by everyone. And I am convinced that this is the only way to achieve sustainable change in the industry.

Looking ahead – I am hopeful and excited

Looking back, I am so grateful to every woman who has supported me along the way. Some days it was messages, inspiring posts or encouragement from women in the industry that motivated me to continue on this career path.

Now I get up every day with a good feeling. My passion for inclusion, diversity and accessibility is actively supported and encouraged by the founders. In every meeting, I see my female colleagues, in one project we are "the majority". Even in this short time on this team, I have been able to draw new strength and motivation to make a difference with my contribution. And I consider myself lucky to be able to accompany a new generation of female developers. Especially if they start their career in a positive working environment like this.

What I really like about working at Peerigon is that my gender isn't a barrier. It doesn't affect the recognition of my achievements, my salary or my future prospects. It's nice to know that my opinion as a female developer is valued. Peerigon also actively tries to make it easier for girls and women to enter the male-dominated software industry, e.g. through Girls' Day or the (above-average) proportion of women among the developers. For me personally, the threshold to start as a female developer was still high, so it is very pleasant to be in an environment where this is not a disadvantage.


On that note: This year's Girls' Day at Peerigon will be organized by an all-female team - and we are fully booked. A group of 14- to 17-year-old girls will be introduced to the profession of web development by our female developers and designers. And who knows? Maybe they'll decide to pursue a career in the industry and continue to drive change. Because, let's face it, there's still so much more to do - in ways big and small.

More information about the International Women's Day 2023 can be found on the official website. Interesting is also the comparison of the terms Equity and Equality. Their distinction makes it clear why solutions should not only reach as far as hiring women in male-dominated companies but much further.

Header image: CoWomen on Unsplash


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