More communication around the advantages of diversity — As mentioned earlier, diversity and gender equality are not favors we do to those that are underrepresented — they are important factors in improving the innovative capacity, user focus, and many other areas of our businesses. Instead of focusing on targets, we should probably focus the communication more on the benefits derived from building diverse teams.

As part of my series about “the five things we need to do to close the gender wage gap” I had the pleasure of interviewing Maike Gericke. Maike is the co-founder of Scrypt.Media, a consultancy and innovation studio for impactful projects using emerging technologies like blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology. Her work focuses on strategy development, user-centric innovation, communications, education and impact measurement. She is a core contributor at PositiveBlockchain.io, an open source database and community around blockchain for social and environmental impact, and a member of the Board of Directors at INATBA, the International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications. Prior to founding Scrypt.Media, she defined global strategies and worked as program manager with a focus on SaaS business models and digital transformation in Financial Services. She previously founded a globally sold and featured sustainable jewellery brand and worked as an independent graphic and web designer / developer. Maike is passionate about the potential of technology in enabling equality, inclusion and access for all.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” that brought you to this career path?

My career path is actually a long and winding one that spanned many sectors and industries before I got to where I am now. I went all the way from fashion design to financial services and emerging technologies, and I went back and forth between my own business and corporate work. A big part of the backstory is that every step involved being a little more intentional about the things I wanted to do, at the same time learning more about my own skills, preferences and beliefs. This ultimately led me to really focus my work on things I really care about and get excited by every day. In my case, it is all about using emerging technologies in the areas where we need the most impact, and about building meaningful organizations.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

I am quite amazed by the things that happen daily once I decided to get real and put focus on things that matter to me. It is a bit like this focus is magically attracting others that do the same and creates the most amazing chance meetings that lead to new opportunities and lifelong connections.

Can you share a story about the funniest or most interesting mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I can probably fill a book with all the mistakes I made on my path, but a really important one is trying to be too many things for too many people, or the famous saying NO to the things that do not directly fit into my path, and I am still very much struggling with this one.

I’m naturally very curious and inclined to see opportunities in everything, and when you start a new business and really care about the things you do, saying no becomes quite a bit harder. This is an extremely funny problem to have as a long-time strategist and project manager, but prioritizing is somehow easier to do for other people. Thankfully I have a great co-founder as a sounding board.

Ok let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. Even in 2019, women still earn about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. Can you explain three of the main factors that are causing the wage gap?

Picking 3 things on this is pretty hard, as there is a very complex system behind this gap that is really hard to see in full. But let me try!

The first one is Stereotyping — In my opinion this is the number one factor for gender inequality. Over the course of the last centuries, we have internalized a lot of beliefs about gender and the differences it makes in our daily life, our choices and behavior. Those beliefs are included in the way we raise children, the way we present ourselves, the way we perceive and judge other people we meet, and of course the way we hire people.

The second factor is about job limitations based on stereotyping — When women do not get hired because they are in an age where they could theoretically have a child, when a women’s leadership potential is underestimated because her leadership style might be different, or when a new mother is downgraded in her role because she wants to spend a few hours less in the office (while usually delivering the same amount of work or more) or needs to go pick up her children at a certain time, her career is taking a hit because of stereotyping.

Another big part of this is women judging themselves too harshly and not even pursuing opportunities because of limited beliefs they internalized about themselves — and not having enough role models that have been through this situation themselves to guide them on their way.

The third factor is not making diversity a priority — or not making it a priority for the right reasons. We often argue for gender equality from the perspective of creating equal chances for women and targets that need to be achieved in this context, which is of course important. The interesting thing that often gets disregarded in the conversation is how gender equality will bring even more benefits to the system as a whole. So gender equality is really not only about giving women a chance to improve their situation, but benefiting from their capacity and expertise to create better systems overall.

Can you share with our readers what your work is doing to help close the gender wage gap?

With Scrypt.Media, we are trying to set an example for how diversity can work in a different way. We believe that equal pay is not only a policy that helps women to earn more — it directly translates into the results of the business. But in order to get better at building diverse teams, diversity needs to be a part of the DNA of the organization from the get-go. So similar to any other strategic priority, we define our vision and activities related to creating and enabling a diverse team. A big part of that is all about active learning — how can we build a culture that enables different personalities and people with different needs to strive in the workplace?

Of course, a big part of this is also about creating transparent salary schemes, compensation models and incentive systems that make equal pay the default.

Next to that, in my work I am supporting various projects and initiatives that are tackling the UN Sustainable Development Goals and work on gender equality often from the other end of the spectrum, which is financial inclusion and access to education.

In all efforts, supporting other women and bringing more diverse voices into the conversation is another important aspect, as sometimes a simple introduction, recommendation or basic piece of advice can create new opportunities.

Can you recommend 5 things that need to be done on a broader societal level to close the gender wage gap. Please share a story or example for each.

Stop judging — Women today get judged for virtually anything. We are either being too silent, too load, too angry, too successful, care too little about our children or our career, or too much. This noise is leading to a lot of insecurity especially in younger girls, because it is just impossible to follow all these rules. And it also creates unnecessary confusion and setbacks later, especially if the ones judging are in a position to decide about careers, salaries and futures. It is important that everyone (including other women) can just learn to stop judging, and instead help with actionable advice on how to use our strengths, regardless of gender stereotypes.

Awareness on stereotypes — To change stereotypes, we need to be aware of them. This is a difficult point, as we are all in some form or another guilty of stereotyping — myself included. In a lot of cases, decisions based on stereotypes are very much unintentional. For example, I am much more likely to hire someone that has something in common with me. So someone who looks like me, went to my university, shares my hobbies or has mutual friends is much more likely to end up working for my company, unless I take active measures to judge candidates without letting these factors influence my judgement.

More communication around the advantages of diversity — As mentioned earlier, diversity and gender equality are not favors we do to those that are underrepresented — they are important factors in improving the innovative capacity, user focus, and many other areas of our businesses. Instead of focusing on targets, we should probably focus the communication more on the benefits derived from building diverse teams.

Change our definition of a leader — Women sometimes lead differently than what we are used to. This does not in any way mean that they lead worse. But women in leadership positions are often still walking a delicate balance of somehow “fitting” into the image of leadership we have established over the years. To help them reach their full potential, it is time to change that image.

Collaboration — This is an important one as I see the discussion around gender equality more and more turn into a battlefield around men vs. women on various platforms. In my opinion, this does not help anyone. On the contrary, building walls between groups is always going to make things worse on both sides, as it forces everyone to pick a side even if the situation is much more complex than that. After all, some of the best advocates I know for gender equality are men, and some of the harshest opponents might be women.

So instead of projecting frustrations with some onto all, it would be much wiser to work together with those that share common views and goals, and not be exclusive when trying to achieve inclusion.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Luckily, women supporting each other in business and life is a very much ongoing movement for a long time, even (or especially) in the area of emerging technologies where I do most of my work, and where we still see a lot of underrepresentation.

What I would like to see is a movement of companies and startups, especially in the tech space, being more intentional about inclusion by bringing diversity and gender equality right into their DNA, supporting their teams, creating transparency, sharing lessons and proudly discussing about the benefits this brings for individuals and business results alike.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Let me share two quotes as they are both highly relevant to gender equality. The first is by Buckminster Fuller: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”. To me, this is an important reminder that the best way to affect change is to lead by example, and that criticism of the way things are is just not enough.

The other one is from Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming”: “If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll get quickly and inaccurately defined by others”. This goes back to the problem of stereotypes, and is an important reminder that the best way to drown out stereotypical and inaccurate judgements is to be clear about our own definitions of who we are and what we want to achieve — even if it is difficult sometimes.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Speaking of Michelle Obama… 🙂

This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.


5 Things We Need To Do To Close The Gender Wage Gap, with Maike Gericke and Candice Georgiadis was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.