Dusseldorf Real changes and innovations for women and diversity in business and technology want the in Berlin living Israeli Mali tree reach. Not only did she set up her start-up WLounge four years ago for this. She's also hosting the Tech Awards Gala in her hometown on Saturday. Motto: Women are the engine of innovation.
“My vision is that more women have the courage and the vision to start a business. I hope to gradually come a step closer to this vision,” she says. Just in the still male-dominated tech industry she sees a lot of catching up to do and has decided to ensure more diversity there.
Because the gap is currently large: just under 18 percent of all founders were female in 2021, according to the German Startup Monitor. And the proportion of women has only increased minimally for years.
"There is nothing that women cannot do compared to men and vice versa. But the men have more support and a better ecosystem, which makes it easier for them,” says the 45-year-old, who has already founded seven companies in her life, including the Israeli toy manufacturer Beezeebee.
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With her company WLounge, she wants to remedy the situation and specifically takes female founders by the hand. Their network now includes 25,000 people - including many men - and has ambassadors in cities such as Tel Aviv, New York and Zurich. Baum is concerned with bringing female founders together with investors - through learning programs, conferences, workshops or events such as the Tech Awards Gala.
Special support for mothers
The award ceremony is taking place in the capital for the second time. Selected start-ups will be given a stage in the luxury hotel Waldorf Astoria. A well-known entrepreneur has taken over the patronage: Brigitte Mohn, board member of the Bertelsmann Foundation.
"We want to honor the makers behind the products," says Baum, who is expecting a total of around 400 guests. This could result in more than just nice dinner talks: At the last award ceremony, two start-ups even found fresh investors.
Stefan Franzke, Managing Director of the Berlin Partner business development agency, celebrates the idea and the start-up scene in the metropolis. He appreciates Mali Baum as "an outstanding personality who makes a huge contribution with her projects - especially the Tech Awards".
The mother of two has made it her mission to encourage other mothers in particular to find a place in the world of work and start-ups. “We are not encouraging and supporting mothers enough to return to work. We don't show them enough how to combine motherhood and a career," she says, urging women and mothers to capitalize on their position and not behave in a biting manner. So far, unfortunately, it is “not common practice for women to support women”.
In her opinion, families and schools should already address the issue of diversity. "There's a problem Germany still a long way behind,” says Baum. It cannot be that there are sometimes 80 men for every two women at the Hasso Plattner Institute events. "The women immediately feel like outsiders."
Crisis should not be an obstacle for female founders
Baum doesn't take the time to lean back. In addition to WLounge, she runs an accelerator program for women who want to invest in start-ups themselves. "Ultimately, the person who sits on the money tap makes the decision," says Baum. Well, if something changes there, something also changes in the ecosystem.
In order to accelerate the change, the committed entrepreneur also collects money for a fund of funds that is only intended to support female founders. According to the "State of European Tech 2021" survey by venture capitalist Atomico, start-ups whose founding teams were exclusively female accounted for only 1.1 percent of all venture capital collected last year.
“What motivates me is that I can see my impact directly – in the form of exits, growth or progress. Together we can ensure more diversity,” Baum is certain.
She doesn't want to be stopped by the general mood of crisis. Venture capitalists continued to invest. Perhaps everything is developing a little more slowly because of the crisis, but there is no reason to be pessimistic.