Embracing Diversity: a Social Experiment

Leoni Janssen
Picture this: fifteen remarkable women and one brave man. We embarked on a social experiment, offering one man a glimpse into the experience of being the 'only one'.

Last week, in celebration of International Women’s Day, we hosted a BaaS lunch, with a special twist. We wanted to provide our guests unique perspectives and spark inspiring conversations. To enrich our discussions and experience – we invited ONE man to join us. 

Setting the scene

Picture this: fifteen remarkable women and one brave man, gathered to talk about their experiences with Generative AI. Inspired by Katie Street, we embarked on a social experiment, offering the man a glimpse into the experience of being the 'only one' in the room—a scenario often faced by women in tech.

Meet our man 

After receiving numerous applications, we selected Jörg Jung, CEO of ecovium, to live through this with us. Jörg's presence wasn't just to fill a seat; it was a deliberate effort to challenge norms and foster understanding in our wider networks.

Reflections and insights 

Our lunch proved to be a memorable afternoon filled with good food and even better company. While we didn't treat our male guest differently, we did seek his perspective on the experience. Interestingly, Jörg shared how the anticipation of the event had already shifted his thinking, prompting him to take more notice of minority voices in his meetings leading up to the lunch.

How did ‘the guy’ feel

When we interviewed Jörg at the end he said that although he felt very welcome he was very aware of ‘not being entirely in his comfort zone, not knowing what the culture of the group would be’. He noticed this through little things. For example, when he was on his way over, in the taxi, he wondered if it was okay to come in early and how early would be okay. He said that normally, when he is not the odd one, he never wonders about these things. 

The numbers game

This was a women’s meeting all the way. It felt like one and it looked like one - see pictures. It wasn’t about female versus male careers, it was about ‘How we use Generative AI’. Yet in such a setting the topic of gender and career does come up naturally. We had some very strong female voices in the room, talking about empowerment and they had all the space to free flow. In a male dominated room, that rarely happens. 

“Can’t find the right women in hiring”

In one of the table conversations our male (ally) CEO shared his frustration with his journey of not just looking to hire female executives, but being really serious about it and time and time again running into the issue of ‘they are not there’. He can’t even get them on the shortlist. He did well in Sales and Marketing Leadership but was unable to find a female CFO for example and their sales teams are male dominated. What is with that? Are they looking for the wrong profile? Are they using the wrong words, the wrong agency or are female CFO’s in Germany just a real scarcity? And if that is so, should companies invest time in training good people to executive roles in house? 

A Shift in Perspective

Jörg clearly heard very different ways of talking around the table, to him and to each other, than he is used to on a typical Thursday. He was, in many ways, simply a participant talking about how to automate his ‘personal life with AI’. His private challenges were quite similar to those of everyone in the room, yet he got different responses from the people around him. His main takeaway from sitting in on a meeting like this - where people around the table did not hold back and challenged much of what he said - captures the essence of our experiment well. Jörg said: "What I am taking home is not to take my own perspective for granted. I’ll now even more consciously consider all viewpoints and strive to extract value from diverse perspectives." His insights are a great reminder of the importance of inclusivity and empathy in driving change.

A call to action

We hope this experiment serves as a challenge for more men to show up outside of their comfort zone, and think differently. To provoke a discussion and through action we can make the tech world an even better place for everyone. Who’s with us?!

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