Miriam Wohlfahrt (she/her)

If we can truly embrace diversity, we can do anything!
Who are you and what do you do?

I am founder of the payment service provider Ratepay, co-founder of Banxware – a fintech startup for digital instant financing in platforms – and mother of an 18-year-old daughter. I am also a supervisory board member at Mercedes Benz Mobility AG, talentsconnect AG and Freenet AG, a shareholder at Payment & Banking and Startup Teens and a supporter of the Hacker School, among others.

What does diversity mean to you?

If we manage to really live diversity, we can do anything! But diversity for me is much more than gender, origin and all the other aspects. I simply believe that it is extremely important to bring together people with very different personalities and motivations. After all, it is often the interaction of this diversity that leads to better decisions. If I only hire white students from the WHU business school in Vallendar, the likelihood is much higher that they will all have a very similar view of the world. As a result, decisions are less likely to be discussed and questioned – which can get in the way of innovation and new processes. In itself, the value of diversity is obvious: people are different. So if you want to develop a product or service, you have to take this diversity into account as best you can. But diversity helps not only in customer acquisition, but also in day-to-day business. Complementary skills or work preferences of introverted versus extroverted personalities are an important aspect for me, for example.

When you look to the future, what are the most important changes you would like to see in Germany for the next generations?

It has always driven me crazy that my daughter still deals with the same topics in class at school as I did as a child. From my point of view, the subject matter is simply not adapted to the times and does not teach the key skills of the future. Neither do you learn programming nor communication, presentation or how to deal with data and media. This lack of practical relevance led me early on to become active in Startup Teens and the Berlin Hacker School. Nevertheless, it is important that schools take on this responsibility. Because the fact that in private initiatives it is often the parents who ensure that their children receive additional key qualifications widens the gap in terms of equal opportunities.

What tips do you give entrepreneurs and managers for recruiting diverse teams?

Young entrepreneurs in particular often recruit through their network in the beginning. But there are often relatively many people in my network who are similar to me. That’s why you should invest in recruiting from other networks right from the start and, at best, introduce diversity criteria for recruiting early on. Of course, this requires getting out of your comfort zone, but it’s worth it! Role models and diverse representation are also critical to success: At Ratepay, for example, we had a higher application rate from women simply because I was a female founder. Of course, it’s a similar story with other diversity aspects. Basically, I pay a lot of attention to hiring groups of people with the same qualifications who are still underrepresented in the team. In FinTech, these are usually women or people with different academic and also non-academic backgrounds. In today’s world, where knowledge changes so quickly, soft skills are usually worth more than good credentials, but this also has to be taken into account in general recruiting. The technical manager does not have to have studied IT, quite the opposite!

What is important for an inclusive culture?

A clear definition of shared values as guard rails for cooperation, sensitization of managers, but also of the entire team, to cultural differences, and clear feedback rules are the basis for our cooperation.

Nevertheless, it is of course a challenge every day, especially since a lot happens remotely today and it is therefore often more difficult to read people.

What advice would you give to founders today?

Due to their socialization, women simply tend to focus on their faults instead of their strengths. It’s never about having to be able to do everything, but above all about knowing what we can do and what we can’t do. I also started a FinTech even though I was never good at financial math or Excel. That’s why I then looked for a team complement that did it very well. You can always achieve high performance with a diverse and complementary team, but not alone.

For those who are afraid of starting their own business, I can only recommend that you make your fear very clear: What exactly am I afraid of? Failure? Financial failure, etc.? This is a better way to deal with the fear. I would also advise all founders to start as early as possible. The younger you are, the less fear you have. But of course it is never too late to start a business, some of the most successful founders started very late.

What other changes would you like to see in Germany?

Besides a complete reform of the education system? I wish that we no longer had to talk about the gender pay gap and the gender care gap, that equality would come about naturally without us having to discuss it all the time. I wish that we no longer needed women’s networks because it’s simply clear to everyone that equality is important. My wish for business is that culture and leadership are thought of in such a way that more people have real fun in their work and can thus develop their full potential. Of course, I also wish for companies to operate more sustainably and for this topic to become “normal” as well, since we only have one world. Therefore, of course, in addition to sustainability, peace is also the most important wish last and the basis for the realization of all other wishes.

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