I attended an event last March, just after International Women's Day, with theme: "Investing in Women". Helge sat on the panel as one of the speakers along with four women, all experts in their respective fields, in industries/professions where women, especially in senior or leadership levels, can rarely be found (in Montreal).
Helge, we learned, as they introduced him at that event, was responsible for bringing-in at least two of the other panelists. But as the CEO of a "startup foundry" firm, he meets, works with, and mentors men and women alike, in a very diverse environment (from gender, race, to professional backgrounds - as you will learn by his inspiring interview here below.)
Pleased to introduce you to Helge Seetzen, technologist and CEO of TandemLaunch.
As a “HeForShe”, how do you act "Bold for Change" within your company/department?
Supporting women - or anybody really - has multiple layers. First, you need an environment where people can work free of fear. That's the easiest layer, though even here the recent wave of sexual harassment revelations have shown that some organizations struggled at even this basic level. You can manage this through policies and vigilance, but ultimately you fix this by continuous vocal confirmation from the top that inappropriate behaviour is, well, inappropriate.
Without going into the details, I suspect that everybody at TandemLaunch is well aware of the career-ending fury that would result from stepping over that particular line. The second part of empowering women or other minorities is to create diverse organizations. This is harder - hindered by obstacles such as immigration for ethnic diversity, gender imbalances in STEM education, under-representation of Female senior execs to source, etc. - but can of course be done.
At TandemLaunch, we maintain a rough 1:1 gender balance across our leadership team, staff organization and the founders that we finance (and 50-70% visible minorities). That alone helps with a lot of these issues because it creates critical mass for diversity.
Thirdly - and this is the hardest to turn into quick "rules" - you need to invest in coaching (everybody). That's mentorship, openness, inspiration, and lots of other things that would take a book to cover. But it needs to be done.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? What is your definition of Feminism?
In my definition, feminism means equal opportunity for all sexes and, if necessary, the advocacy thereof. Equal opportunity doesn't necessarily mean equal outcomes - all people are different - and it certainly doesn't mean affirmative action which, while well intentioned, just undermines the affected class in the long term. For us at TandemLaunch, this means making sure that we have a diverse mix of candidates for every position and then hire whoever the best person is. Balanced candidate pools lead to balanced teams.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Empowerment takes on a life of its own once it reaches critical mass. If you are building an organization, try to get that critical mass as quickly as possible