Inger Paus

Inger Paus is responsible for Vodafone Germany’s corporate responsibility strategy.

She is Chairwoman of the Management Board of the ​Vodafone Foundation Germany and Managing Director of the Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications. Inger is based in Berlin.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I have the pleasure of heading the Vodafone Foundation Germany and the Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications, the European Think Tank of the Vodafone Group for the past three years. For me, this is truly a dream job. It allows me and my colleagues to research how digitisation can benefit the common good and to set up prototype projects such as F-LANE, our accelerator program for female empowerment or education programs such as Coding For Tomorrow at the same time. Before I joined Vodafone, I worked 14 years for Microsoft in diverse roles in communications, CSR and Public Affairs. I always wanted to be in the media and tech industry as I knew early on: This is the place where you can have a global impact and change the world – hopefully for the better.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I didn’t plan my career strategically. I simply did what I was best in: Communicating and connecting people. I was lucky enough to accidently find the perfect degree program for myself at the University of the Arts in Berlin – Communication in Economic and Social Context. And I was lucky to meet inspirational people who supported me in finding the right jobs at the right time. Mostly these jobs felt like a stretch at first, but they helped me to grow my self-confidence.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

For sure! How could one grow without challenges? At the beginning it was mostly a lack of self-confidence that I had to overcome. But the higher you climb on the “career ladder” the fiercer the competition – which I naively underestimated completely as that’s not the way I function. I am a collaborator and a big fan of swarm intelligence. I had to realize that many colleagues play by other rules and then you need to decide if you want to pick the fight or search for your next adventure.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

First and foremost, building great teams and supporting people, the majority of them women, to develop and grow – personally and professionally. Early on I had the chance to manage people, which I am grateful for. Furthermore, I am proud that I was able to build digital skills programs together with my teams at Microsoft and at Vodafone that had a great impact on youth, girls in particular. We need to make sure that women design, develop, utilize tech to create a better world and not stand on the side-lines watching how the guys are defining the rules.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Definitely optimism and the belief that everything that happens has a deeper sense and provides a learning opportunity. But you never walk alone: Clearly, mentors played a key role in my career as well great colleagues, who supported me all along the way. A key thing I learned is that the network and friendships you’ve built throughout career is your social capital. Make sure that you invest a good chunk of your time to foster these relationships.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Curiosity is key. I read a lot and talk a lot with experts in the tech sector, science, politics and civil society. I always want to understand the latest trend in tech and how they play out in the economy, society and politics. To realize the full potential of technology you need to understand the different dimensions and connect the dots.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

If you want to convince more women to seek a career on the tech sector you need to start very early – actually in kindergarten and primary school. One of the learnings from the educational programs I have established is: If you don’t excite girls for technology before they enter puberty – it is often too late.

Furthermore: You need female role models. Imagine if Bill Gates and Steve Jobs would have been women! We would by no means have a debate on the lack of female talent in tech. That’s one reason why we started F-LANE. And surely a main reason why “Women in Tech” was set up.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Actually, I am tired of the lip service of politics and the private sector. Let’s walk the talk, let’s simply do it. Promote great women at scale and double down on getting at least 50% women on the boards. Vodafone does a lot in this space, e.g. by starting the campaign “Change the Face” in Tech, but as most companies in the sector, we still have a long way to go as well.

There is currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Set up a multi-billion-euro global fund to support female tech entrepreneurs. The VC market is actually a market failure when it comes to funding women-lead ventures. If we want to change that, we need big money. Period.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Media

Azeem Azhar – Exponential view newsletter and podcast

MIT Review and Wired (still)

NYT Tech section

Economist (not just the tech section!)

Books

Jaron Lanier – Who owns the future?

Maria Mazzucato – The value of everything

Events/Networking:

Websummit

DLD


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