This International Women’s Day (8 March), we invited Claudia Hagedorn (Director Marketing and Retail at Bremer Baumwollboerse / Bremen Cotton Exchange) to provide us with an interview on her experience in the cotton industry:
When did you join the cotton industry?
I joined the cotton industry in March 2020. Having worked for a multichannel retail company for many years and there mostly in the fashion segment, it is fascinating to now be part of the cotton industry.
What do you like the most about the cotton industry?
The internationality of the industry. There are people from so many different cultural backgrounds involved.
What are the biggest challenges you have had to face?
Actually one that has nothing to do with the industry: starting a new job during the Corona pandemic. A prerequisite of my task at BBB is to get to know the people from the industry on the one hand and build a retail and brand network on the other. In 2020 only digital meetings were possible. And yes, digital meetings work well but from time to time it would have been nice to meet people in person.
What is it like being a woman in the cotton industry?
So far, I have not experienced any attitude towards me that I would trace back to gender. Many women work at BBB and our current president is also one. As for the people I have met from outside BBB so far, most of them are men. So, the industry seems to be a male dominated place, as are so many other industries. Even within fashion retail, the share of women still gets smaller the higher the hierarchy level. Over recent years there have been positive developments, though.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for women in the industry?
I cannot answer this from experience in the cotton industry but generally I think that the mere majority of men sometimes intimidates women and inhibits them from displaying all their knowledge and expertise. An ex-colleague of mine founded a management consultancy for women. In her book she describes this situation, that probably most of us recognize: a woman contributes something in a meeting, and nobody reacts. Two minutes later a male colleagues says the same thing and gets the applause. I think that women tend to be more self-critical than men and often do not insist on being heard. Networks like Women in Cotton can help women to feel more empowered.
What is your message to other women in the industry?
Today’s problems can only be solved with diverse approaches. One part of this is the female approach to things. We can contribute important input to issues because we think differently, and complex tasks need many creative proposals to find the right way.