Employee Spotlight: Women in Leadership

By Shona Mulligan, Talent Scout at Runtastic with the help of some wonderful women at Runtastic

As a team, we are the sum of our parts. We see ourselves as a strong international team that works hard to cultivate an inclusive environment. Since we are so proud of our talented, creative, and innovative team, we want the rest of the world to get to know us too! We have created an Employee Spotlight blog series, where people from all over the world can get up close and personal with some of us Runtastics.
In our first Employee Spotlight blog, we get to know a handful of the women in leadership positions at Runtastic and hear about their opinions and challenges on being a woman in leadership.

“Who run the world…Girls!” This famous quote from a Beyoncé song kicked off our last blog post dedicated to women in leadership and, while I will always be a Beyoncé fan, I believe we need a diverse and inclusive team, made up of a range of genders, ages, nationalities, experiences, skills, opinions, and talent in order to properly run the world, I mean, Runtastic!

Representation is Key

Our female leader Amanda is presenting runtastic at a running event

While currently at Runtastic 26% of leadership positions are held by women, only 12% of these are international women. As you will most likely notice, the women featured in this blog, although some are international, are still classified as white women. We are aware that we are lacking in terms of intersectionality and representation of people of color and are working to improve this in order to ensure our leaders are representative of our team members. Our Head of Social Media Marketing, Amanda comments on the importance of representation:

“When we talk about women in leadership roles, we cannot underestimate the value of representation. From the beginning of my career, I have almost always been led by outstandingly unshakeable women who I could look up to, and this was no different than when I joined the Runtastic family a couple of years ago. Ultimately, this representation removed any hindrance in my mind of what I could achieve in my lifetime, which I am incredibly thankful for.

With that being said, the greatest challenge that we face in our company, industry, and society is promoting intersectional representation of women in leadership roles, which is why one of my main goals as a leader is to both professionally & personally amplify the voices of all women and challenge the current adidas & Runtastic discourse surrounding diversity topics as a whole.”

Leading with Kindness 

Close up of our female leader Paula

It is a known fact that women struggle to be represented in leadership roles, but many also struggle once they get into leadership positions; they struggle for their opinion to be taken as seriously as their counterparts and they are encouraged to be “mean” in order to be taken seriously. Our Head of Communications Paula, says we need to set an example of what a leader can and should look like:

“Let’s dispel some myths: Being nice doesn’t make you a bad leader. It doesn’t make you a doormat, it doesn’t mean you can’t say ‘no’ and it also doesn’t mean you can’t make difficult decisions. 

I think the year 2020 is a year as good as any to throw that old-fashioned way of thinking out the window. What it does mean to be a woman in leadership who is also kind and empathetic is that you are there for your team, you can offer support when needed, and you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes before passing judgment. I am convinced that you can be kind, empathetic, understanding, and patient all while leading your team to success. As a matter of fact, I am convinced you must be all these things in order to be a good leader. 

Let’s collectively rid ourselves of this notion that nice women don’t make good leaders. Nice women, and men, are the future of a happy, thriving, and successful workplace. Let’s set an example.”

We Learn From Each Other

Close up of our Head of CRM, Edit

However, as a leader, it is also important to stand your ground and to reach out for support from your peers when needed, and to put your team first. Our Head of CRM, Edit, shares her experiences as she grew into her leadership position:

“It is really rare that one has an incremental way to become a leader. In a really short period of time, the everyday routine has changed for me.

We are human, and people-pleasing is a phenomenon that is always in the air. Once you are a leader it can get to completely different levels. As I was aligning with more people on a daily basis, I realized I was falling victim to it. I had to face it really fast that it was not helping my team members nor me at the end of the day. You can imagine it resulted in last-minute tasks and a tremendous amount of overtime. I believe that our values and time dedicated to effective communication are the North Star in situations like that.

Leadership is a journey that is hard to be accomplished alone. My fellow team leads are really open and supportive which helped my transition, especially the internal mentoring program that we have at Runtastic.”

We Must Embrace Change

Lisa, our Head of Content Planning, standing on the runtastic terrace

While changing your role and taking on leadership responsibilities can be a challenge in itself, doing this while your team is undergoing massive changes also poses a new set of challenges. Lisa, our Head of Content Planning comments on how she handled these demands:

“Taking on a new challenge as team lead at the beginning of this year was a big step in my journey at Runtastic. But my role was not the only thing that changed. I had the chance to form a new team with my colleagues and be part of the restructuring of our content area. So it was a time of change for many of us. 

We worked together on bringing in and combining different views and ideas, building a new common ground, rewriting our rules – this is for sure not always easy! But I also believe that this let us grow as a team – forming something new. It’s important to recognize and understand how different change feels and is experienced by each team member. Everyone needs and feels supported in a different way. Everyone IS different – and that’s the best part of working in a diverse team in which everyone contributes their previous experiences and knowledge coming from different areas. 

Change is a great learning opportunity on so many levels (personal, professional, emotional), and in many cases it just makes you get things done. So this showed me once again that change is what makes us move and what brings us forward even if the new can seem quite intimidating in the beginning.”

Women should not hold back

Close up of our Head of HR Babsi

I am in the fortunate position of having a strong, kind, empathetic female leader, who shares her real experiences with us as a team, challenges us to empower ourselves, and always encourages us to follow our passions. Babsi, our Head of HR comments on the importance of not holding back as a woman in the workplace:

“When I got promoted to my first leadership role at Runtastic, I got lots of positive feedback and encouragement. What got stuck in my head though was unfortunately a cynical comment from someone (outside the company) that I don’t even know personally, along the lines‚ ‘it’s easy to slip into a leadership role if the company is small’. I told myself that person probably has their own little burden to carry and their envy hinders them from acknowledging how hard I’ve worked, that I’m smart, and know what I am doing.

I’ve had the experience that people who ask what I do are often surprised when I tell them that I lead the HR department – I wonder whether they’d be as surprised if I were a man.

I think it takes female role models for women not to hold back applying for a leadership role. That’s why it’s super important to me to always be authentic with my team, tell them about the challenges I face, the struggles I have, but also share my successes with them.

My absolute favorite part of being a leader is empowering my team. Seeing how they develop and shine makes me proud and is super motivating for me.”

As an international woman, not yet in a leadership role, I can say with confidence that Runtastic is on the right path to creating an inclusive and representative leadership team and setting the stage for a more diverse team in the future…watch this space!


Human Relations Team Human Relations strives to continuously strengthen the Runtastic team. On the blog, they share insights into the international work environment. View all posts by Human Relations Team