Why I Owe My Career to Men and Why I Want to Change That

Judith Kühn
Director Conference DMEXCO

No matter in which industry, the higher the management level, the lower the proportion of women. And the current situation is hardly improving. This is not because women are less educated and less ambitious – they simply fail to break through the glass ceiling.

But in my experience it doesn't help much to complain about it. Since I am a very pragmatic person overall, I think that you simply have to make the best of the situation. And if the vast majority of managers are male at the moment, then women must dare to make the respective Mens Club aware of its duties and actively involve it in our career planning. I call this the MAN-toring system.

It is not only up to men to promote women, we women must also be prepared to conquer the big stages. At DMEXCO, for example, 37 percent of all slots on curated stages this year are occupied by female top speakers. Noble restraint is the wrong way to advance development. Women are great networkers. Dear "Sisters in Arms", why don't we use this ability much more to make our economy and society fairer and more balanced?  For me, this means first and foremost taking responsibility, driving change forward, but also using existing resources to your advantage.


Courage for adventures


In the ten years of my professional career so far, not only the right timing and a spark of luck have determined and promoted my path so far, but above all men. The first man I met on my way was a McKinsey consultant. Through his impulse lecture, I realized that my original goal of becoming a history and German teacher would not make me happy in the longterm. After 13 years of school and five years of study, it was clear to me that I needed to broaden my horizons.

I was able to do this more or less during two assistant positions in classic family offices. My bosses quickly realized that I could do more than book flights and coordinate appointments. I was able to try things out for myself, gained a lot of insight, but unfortunately there were no real opportunities for development. So it was time for me to move on quickly.

I was ready for an adventure – and I found it in New York. An old friend of mine founded a start-up and I became his second employee. Thus, I simply did everything there. Today I would describe him as my first real mentor. He showed me, how to awake enthusiasm. I don't know if I would have gone to New York if he hadn't been so daring and confident when we had our job interview. It was clear to him that his new venture would simply work and this attitude had an impact on most investors and within a year we were totally funded.


Growing with responsibility


But as fast as the team and the responsibility grew, my homesickness grew as well. I wanted to go back to Germany. My boss at the time recommended me for a job in the start-up Gründerszene. Over the years, it has developed into a serious medium. Sales increased, responsibilities were reallocated and we all gained in professionalism. I would argue that this was the most formative time of my career so far. In addition to all the ups and downs of the company, the managing director always had an open ear for his employees and their needs and recognised and promoted their potential. At the same time, he has always made sure that his family was not neglected. If necessary, he gave lectures with his baby strapped on. During a feedback interview I once asked him how he could get all this together and he answered that he didn't know that himself. He just does.

In recent years this man has become a close confidant and mentor. He gave me more responsibility when I demanded it, but he also warned me when he thought the task could be too big. But he never held me back. 

Finally, I came to DMEXCO via recommendations. Dominik Matyka, Chief Advisor of DMEXCO, already made it clear to me in the first conversation: "This is gonna be big". And I just could agree and since 2018 I am part of the team. And since March I am even the only female member of the DMEXCO board.

So my career path was quite unusual and anything then linear. But in the end I arrived exactly where I belong. In order for more women to find their place, I have summarized my following five lessons:


  1. Leave classic patterns from time to time.
  2. Don't be afraid of big names.
  3. Show courage and enthusiasm.
  4. Have confidence in your own abilities /  have self-confidence.
  5. Be willing to take risks and opportunities.


Dear women, make your way and conquer the leadership.