The Guardian of Data

Sabrina Zeplin

Photo credit: Otto Group

Data, the new gold nuggets of the 21st century. Data helps to gain a greater understanding of customer demands. As Director of Otto Group Business Intelligence (BI), Dr Sabrina Zeplin heads up a diverse team of data scientists, data architects or product managers who work on algorithms and data-driven solutions for the over 100 Group web shops on a daily basis. We talked to her about the next generation of female IT employees and changing gender roles.

Sabrina, in Germany, there are a lot less women working in STEM areas (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) than men. What do you think is the reason for this and what could be done against it?

I think that this is the result of socialisation to a large extent. We are missing out on getting and keeping young girls excited about technology and IT before traditional role models are established. In my son’s elementary school, girls are enthusiastically building robots which they program to win a robot football tournament against the boys. Unfortunately, elementary schools that offer and promote this are the absolute exception in Germany.

A study by the Brigitte Academy says that now women consider financial independence and social security to be more important than their desire for children. How can companies deal with this change in role models in a reasonable way?

Professional self-fulfilment and financial independence should not be a contradiction to family. But: women who are successful professionally are often with men who can take on parenting as well. Companies can contribute to this significantly by offering parental leave and especially part-time work. In my department, this investment in flexibility leads to a significantly higher satisfaction of employees as well as to more allegiance among each other. This obviously has a positive effect on results.

What kind of advice would you give young women today with regards to choosing a profession?

I advise all young people to look into IT. Artificial Intelligence will replace entire occupational groups with algorithms in the near future. Those who can create these algorithms will be the ones who are successful. Other than that I can only appeal to courage of young women especially. If you really want something and work hard enough to get it, there is not much that can stop you. That glass ceiling is only in your heads, nowhere else.

Dr. Sabrina Zeplin will discuss AI in companies, personalised marketing and data protection at this year’s re:publica. You can find the Otto Group stand programme here.