Portrait: Susanne Weigert
June 3, 2008
The team around Susanne Weigert, Manager Operations FedEx Express Central and Eastern Europe, comprises a total of 50 men. Together, they sort packages and documents arriving from abroad at Frankfurt am Main’s airport, for instance from the US, for further distribution throughout Germany by truck, van or airplane. Moreover, Weigert regularly stands in for each of the other six Operations Managers, whose teams consist of around 250 male hub workers altogether.
Susanne Weigert does “not want to over-evaluate” the fact that she is one of the few women working at the Frankfurt hub. Particularly during her beginnings as a hub manager in 2002, however, she was sometimes challenged by her employees. “But I have always been quite quick-witted and could answer appropriately anytime.”
Over and above dealing with the occasional harsh but hearty comments, Weigert wants to treat her employees with respect and fairness, and actually be there for them: she spends 70 percent of her working time at the sorting centre, despite the other personnel responsibilities she needs to fulfil such as employee evaluations and meetings. “Prejudices only work from a distance”, says Weigert, “that’s why I maintain close contact with my employees.”
Besides, working at the hub requires a high degree of cohesion. If, for example, a special early shift must be organized at very short notice because a plane is delayed, Operations Managers such as Weigert depend on the commitment and goodwill of their employees. And they would “not have it, if they somehow inappropriately distanced themselves from them, be it as a women or a manager,” explains Weigert.
For this reason, Weigert very much supports the FedEx Express corporate culture, where women are not given inappropriate advantages such as those offered by workplace quotas: “It wouldn’t work here at the hub anyway, because what counts here is the person and not gender.” However, she thinks it is important that FedEx pays men and women equally for the same job and that the company reacts very flexibly to the needs of female employees when they get pregnant, for example with regard to working hours when they return from maternity leave.
Furthermore, Weigert appreciates the fact that FedEx Express offers male and female applicants the same opportunities if they are equally qualified: “I believe that a balanced ratio of male and female employees is good for the working environment – even if this certainly has no impact on the company’s success”, says Weigert.
Even after more than ten years at FedEx, she still sees lots of potential for her professional future: “There are still so many challenges in my current job”, says Weigert. “Furthermore, the opportunities are diverse – particularly because FedEx Express is a global company – regardless of whether you work as a man or woman at FedEx Express.”