Sandra Westermann: The jobs broker for parents

04. November 2020

In the first instance, it’s always a joyful experience to welcome your first child into the world. Getting back into the world of work after parental leave is often less enjoyable — as Sandra Westermann found out at first hand. Her experience prompted the TV production manager to launch – a job exchange that brings parents and family-friendly companies together.

Sandra Westermann




What is is the first platform in Germany to bring mothers and family-friendly companies together.


How did the idea come about?

The idea came to me when, as a TV production manager, I found it incredibly difficult to get the kind of job I wanted after my daughter was born. Asking around in my circle of friends and at the daycare centre, it became obvious that I was far from alone in this. Two out of three mothers have to take a job for which they are overqualified, whereas others can’t find work at all. On the other hand, you sometimes get companies having to spend three months looking for the right staff. And it was when I delved deeper into this inequality that the idea for Superheroine was born.


The world needs because...

... there are so many talented mothers out there on the one hand, and a lot of family-friendly businesses on the other. With Superheroine, you now also have a platform that can bring the two together.


What kinds of resistance and prejudice do young parents face in the labour market?

You often come across the prejudice that young mothers are only interested part-time working models. But that just isn’t true. Many of them want to work full-time; they just need a little more flexibility in terms of working hours. It’s also difficult for mothers to find a job after parental leave that matches their qualifications and work experience. On our portal, companies and jobseekers can enter specific criteria such as flexitime models, company kindergartens or the possibility of holiday childcare.

And, by the way, ever greater numbers of young fathers also want to get involved, but there’s often a lack of flexible working time models for fathers too.


What kinds of skills do parents contribute to working life?

It’s obvious that someone who’s raising children must be a real team player as well as a genuinely talented organiser. Employers can benefit enormously from these skills. Mothers make for motivated and extremely efficient employees. There’s a huge amount of potential here, and the beauty is that more and more companies are recognising it. However, there’s still a long way to go. For as long as there’s a major shortage of specialists, on the one hand, and mothers looking to get back onto the labour market, on the other, then Superheldin will continue to be needed and grow and be successful — as will all the companies that collaborate with it.


What makes a company family-friendly?

The magic word under which pretty much everything else is subsumed is FLEXIBILITY.

This especially includes flexible part-time or full-time arrangements, complete remote working, working from home or arrangements under which the employee is simply trusted to get the work done. In Scandinavia, for instance, you have reduced full-time work for both parents, which amounts to about 30 hours a week each. Employers have got a lot of things right over there. And a process of rethinking old ideas has also started in Germany. But there's still a long way to go. 


How do you make sure that the companies on your portal really are family-friendly?

Companies which register for our jobs board have to complete a ten-point catalogue of questions concerning flexible working models and child care. The more family-friendly criteria they satisfy, the greener the bar becomes which also shows up in job advertisements. Once the process is complete, the companies are given a Superheldin seal of approval which they can integrate into their own websites. We screen every advert published and can also offer help in formulating them, if that’s what the company wants. If we aren’t sure about the familiy-friendly credentials of a particular advertisement, we will contact the company to talk about it. We value quality over quantity.


Your jobs board is mainly aimed at mothers. Don’t fathers have the same kind of needs?

Of course they do, we also include fathers! 20 percent of our Facebook followers are men. They are very welcome to use our platform. The only thing is that men tend to need the kind of push a family-friendly job board offers somewhat less than women with children. Fathers don’t get asked in job interviews about their plans for having children. 80 percent of managerial positions are held by men. It would be enormously helpful to mothers if, for instance, fathers were also to be offered more flexible working-time models. Men should also be able to benefit from access to family-friendly jobs.


How has developed since its launch in 2019?

We’re on a very positive path, even if the coronavirus crisis has set us back by a few months. But the current situation basically isn’t changing the fact that more and more family-friendly companies are looking specifically for working mums and adapting their recruitment models to that end. A lot of companies have already recognised the benefits that come with this. Including Coca-Cola, Vattenfall, Kreditreform and the branded food seller Kühne. These are just four of the 350-or-so companies we work with.


Which digital product has yet to be invented?

Everything that might help in the digital education of our kids. I think there’s a huge hole in the market here.


Would you like a household robot?

Who wouldn’t want one, whether they’re a man or a woman?


When were you last offline for 24 hours?

Hmm, I can’t actually recall.


A holiday without Wi-Fi - is that a dream or a nightmare?

A dream, no question. And the beauty is that dreams sometimes even come true.

In the #explore format we’re giving a regular voice to exciting and inspiring people from the digital scene: Researchers, bloggers, start-up founders, entrepreneurs, hackers, and visionaries.