Women at the Top: Reality at Heinlein Plastik-Technik
Heinlein manufactures high-quality primary packaging materials made of plastic. Many women work in the family-owned company, which is managed by Saskia Wellhöfer-Meyer. In an interview, Marketing Manager Martina Engelhard reports on small success stories in the matter of the advancement of women.
What is the situation at Heinlein with regard to the proportion of women in the company?
Martina Engelhard: We employ many women, and I am one of them. The company owner and Managing Director Saskia Wellhöfer-Meyer recently gave birth to her second child in her mid-30s and is currently on parental leave. That’s why I, and not she, am conducting the interview with you. I’m responsible for marketing and organization, the boss’s right-hand woman, so to speak. In upper management in addition to Ms. Wellhöfer-Meyer, we have another young woman at the top; she is in charge of quality management. Women have also taken over the management of the design department and the technical office, and the plant engineering department is also headed by a female colleague.
Why is that?
We are a family-owned company in Middle Franconia. Our boss sets a good example. She shows that having a family and a career can be compatible, is always well organized and visible in the company. We don’t have a women’s quota; we select people according to their skills and competencies. Mixed teams have formed everywhere, that’s how it turned out. And we realize that this is a good thing. We actively promote young people in order to retain them in the long term. I don’t know exactly why but: Lately, we’ve been getting more applications by female students who want to get a taste of our technical professions as interns. We support that. Next year, we’ll be hiring a woman to start her training as a Plastics Technologist, which is a profession that more men have been working in up to now. We have several such small success stories.
Name another one.
Our Electronics Master Craftswoman, who manages the department on a deputy basis, started with us as an apprentice, and we supported her in continuing her education. The master craftswoman’s examination was a basis for moving up a hierarchy level. In the meantime, more women than men work in her team. That’s something special in the electronics sector. When we hear that there is a desperate need for female applicants in the industry, then we realize that our current organizational structure is not a matter of course. However, I have to say that at European trade shows such as FACHPACK, for example, I sense that the industry has come a long way: young people and women are now represented in all professions in the packaging industry.
What else do you do to attract and retain young people?
Saskia Wellhöfer-Meyer is very keen to ensure that employees continue their professional development and that managers receive training. We have established a leadership seminar in which small teams learn about leadership topics over a period of three years. When it comes to time management, we offer flexible options. Even though most of our employees now want to return to work in the presence of others, it is also possible to work remotely from home, depending on the area of responsibility. This flexibility that employers like us offer is an opportunity for women to develop their potential in all areas of a company.
What we want to do on top of that: I’m currently considering setting up a women’s regulars’ table in the company. So that female employees from all hierarchical levels and departments can exchange ideas and network. Women are sometimes not as self-confident as men, and networks like this can be a boost.
Ms. Wellhöfer-Meyer joined the company at a very early stage. How did this happen?
Yes, right after she graduated in industrial engineering, she took over the reins of the company as owner in 2010, but also hired a Managing Director who ran the company in tandem with her until a few years ago. When Saskia Wellhöfer-Meyer’s mother Patricia Heinlein died, she was only eight years old. Patricia Heinlein joined the company management in 1980 and led Heinlein Plastik onto the international market.
About the company:
The family-owned company, based in Ansbach in Middle Franconia, has 170 employees. Heinlein Plastik supplies customers in over 60 countries on five continents with high-quality plastic closure and dosing systems as well as application aids for liquid products. Founded in 1932, Heinlein Plastik-Technik is now managed by the fourth generation of the company’s owner.