Female empowerment in the digital industry - Interview with Zerrin Börcek

Zerrin Börcek is the founder of the fe: male innovation hub. As a STEM enthusiast and zdi heroine, she has set herself the goal of getting girls and young women interested in STEM subjects and leading them there. She is 41 years old and graduated from the RWTH Aachen Technical Communication with communication sciences and computer science.

On the occasion of the zdi heroines October, we spoke to her about how more young women can be prepared for self-employment in the digital economy and which traditional thought structures they have to struggle with.

Her credo: learn to face prejudices with acceptance and just get started!

Ms. Börcek, this year's zdi-Heldinnen-Oktober focuses on “Entrepreneurship”. What about female entrepreneurship in Germany? Surely there is still work to be done here, isn't there?

In fact, the proportion of startup founders in Germany is only 15,7 percent. I would cite several reasons for this small proportion. For one thing, many women struggle with traditional ways of thinking. This includes, for example, an increased sense of security. Girls often hear that they should learn a trade and focus on permanent employment. Or they do not dare to be self-employed as long as their idea is not perfect.

Another reason for the low proportion of female startup founders is that women tend to refine their concept to the last detail. So you get stuck in conceptual thinking and don't just get started.
The fact is, women are more likely to rely on social and more sustainable business models. the Females Founders Monitor reports that female founders are more strongly motivated by overarching goals than founders. For example, ecological sustainability is often very important to them. This is also referred to as social entrepreneurship.

You have founded a platform for women who want to become self-employed in the digital industry. What drove you to support women?

In the digital age, new working models and structures are being created. Networking is crucial, but not sufficient for building new models. My realization was that women become designers in this process. This gave me the idea of ​​founding a new platform to create access to the digital economy and to empower women.
The value of equal opportunities is my top priority. I am convinced that women are accelerating digital change and are driving forces in the digital economy. They are solution-oriented and very pragmatic, creative and good networkers.
With the fe:male Innovation Hub we want to set an example. We are committed to female founders in the digital economy and their positioning in order to bring about lasting change. Our mission is to empower girls and women to implement their own ideas and bring them to market. At the same time, in this process we open up the space for female founders to grow with their tasks and develop their personalities.

What exactly do you mean by female empowerment?

Empowerment means enabling, encouraging or strengthening self-confidence.
The fe:male Innovation Hub focuses on women's digital education. We want to empower women in the use of technology and enable them to actively shape the digital transformation. What helps us all in these challenging times is to remain curious and have the courage to be designers of our own projects.
Only if we succeed in convincing women of their abilities can we persuade them to start their own business.
For example, we support women in developing their ideas or designing a prototype. Since many women start a business part-time or still have children of primary school age, a good structure, but also flexibility, is required. We achieve this by teaching agile methods. They also receive programming skills, workshops on personality development and entrepreneurial knowledge.

Now you are also an entrepreneur in the digital industry. Are you struggling with obstacles or prejudices?

I believe that there will always be obstacles and prejudices about my topics. It's not about me personally, but about a social problem that I've tackled and made my topic. I am committed to equal opportunities and it is about breaking up old structures and finding partnerships and allies.
My experience is mostly that communication takes place at eye level and in respectful encounters. Of course, I also gained experience with provocative conversation partners. Sentences like "Women and IT, will that work out?!" were used. The trick is to remain confident in these conversations and not to react. Above all, I learned to face these prejudices with acceptance. Because the fact is that we currently live in a society in which we are experiencing major changes and we are creating new structures.

How can girls and young women be encouraged to become entrepreneurs? What does self-employment offer young people?

Girls and young women are often afraid of implementing their own digital projects. Over time, this unconsciously becomes an inner hurdle. Formats are therefore necessary that arouse curiosity, inspire enthusiasm for future technologies and for designing your own projects. In our format #startdigital we show new perspectives in the digital economy and social entrepreneurship. Pupils receive technical basics and develop their own ideas in a team. They are accompanied by young coaches so that they can communicate at eye level. It's about giving young women an emotional experience. Because I believe that changes are only possible through emotional experiences.
Self-employment offers the discovery of one's own abilities and thereby strengthens an important character trait in people, the solution orientation and the preservation of flexibility in order to be willing to change and to progress with new solutions in the face of change.

Anyone who would like to try it out for themselves and immerse themselves in the world of mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology will find the right courses on the MINT community platform: https://mint-community.de

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