A Good Thing All Round - Wacker Chemie AG


A Good Thing All Round

On their own initiative and with great personal dedication, six of WACKER’s female staff have set up an internal mentoring program for women executives.

The Mentoring Circle (clockwise from left): Corinna Müller, Dr. Birgit Schwab, Kristina Wilde, Sabine Zallinger. Not pictured here are Dr. Yvonne Oelsner and Antje Grübler, who have been part of the initiative from its beginnings.

Kristina Wilde is a bit annoyed. “These never-ending gender issues,” she sighs. Programs for women, equal opportunity policies, quotas for women... “A disparaging air still tends to hang over the advancement of women; nobody wants to be the token woman filling quota requirements,” says the Purchasing manager. “My reason for being involved in the Mentoring Circle is not because I’m a woman, but because I think mentoring is marvelous.”

Kristina Wilde and five others founded the Mentoring Circle at WACKER of their own accord. Years ago they all took part in “Cross Mentoring München,” where cross-company experiences, views and confidences were exchanged between young female executive potentials from 20 firms and mentors.

“At the time, we wondered why nothing like this existed at WACKER,” relates Birgit Schwab. The coordinator for Incentive Projects and University Relations takes a resolute approach, whether it's tucking into buttered pretzels and biscuits, or tackling the idea of setting up an in-house mentoring program.

In the summer of 2012, the first intake started with seven mentors and seven mentees. “Of course we began by asking ourselves whether we had to ask for permission. Typically female,” says Birgit Schwab laughing. “We approached several people and presented the idea when the opportunity arose. This continued until someone from HR said: Go ahead and give it a go.”

In this year’s intake there are ten tandems. For the duration of one year, the mentor and mentee meet at four to six weekly intervals. The tandems are intended to bring together women who share common interests. The idea works, reports Corinna Müller, despite the participants coming from entirely different departments ranging from Research to Administration. Often the discussions focus on dealing with colleagues, says Sabine Zallinger. Moreover, many mentees want to reflect on the development of their career. Which direction do I want to take? What are my strengths and weaknesses? How can I achieve a balance between caring for my children and my career?

Friends or close colleagues do not make ideal confidants as they are biased. “A mentor is objective,” says Corinna Müller. “And what’s more, it’s wonderful when a stranger invests so much time in you.” Everyone agrees that the mentors, too, profit from the year’s shared time. “You get thinking about your own career paths,” says Sabine Zallinger. “And of course you learn a lot with respect to leadership and counseling skills.”

The goal for the future is to introduce a Group-wide mentoring scheme for all. “But it will be up to others to organize it,” says Kristina Wilde with a laugh. The first step is in progress: HR is planning a pilot project involving mentoring for both men and women.

However, the women from the Mentoring Circle are far from willing to give “their baby” up. “It’s way too much fun,” concedes Sabine Zallinger. The next intake will start in September 2014. Women in leadership positions or those with leadership potential can apply.