Founder and CEO of Parity
FFM-Team: The FFM study reveals that there are relatively few female founders with a STEM background. You are one of them – can you briefly tell us something about your background?
Jutta: I studied mathematical physics. This meant dealing with a lot of theoretical and abstract mathematical concepts, but with a tangible physical or technical relationship. I have always been interested in applied mathematics and that also relates to what I am doing now. The surprising thing is that mathematics was mostly only applied to problems in the natural sciences at university. But with Blockchain you can use math to fix problems coordinating people. I found that very exciting right from the beginning. This new field of application immediately fascinated me – i.e. not just statistics and pure analytics, but a constructive approach.
FFM-Team: How many women started studying with you? And did many women from your own circle of friends choose STEM subjects?
Jutta: During my time as a student women were the minority. However, it varied a lot depending on whether you could study for a teaching position or just for a degree. So maybe it was around 20% who started with me.
FFM-Team: Did it scare or bother you that there was such a small number of women in the program?
Jutta: No. What I did notice in the first year though was that some of the guys I started with seemed to have received a lot more support during their secondary school years and were much more advanced at the beginning of their studies. This gave them a real head start, which didn’t scare me directly, but did irritate me until I questioned it. Some universities now offer introductory courses which should make it easier to get that same head start. These intro courses turned out to be quite successful, particularly in the field of computer science. What I appreciated during my studies was that there was already a female math professor at my university. It makes a difference to have a role model with whom you can identify, even if only subconsciously.
FFM-Team: You founded a Blockchain company with no explicit background in coding or computer science. Has that ever been an obstacle to you?
Jutta: I had already coded at university, albeit a little differently. So I already had an understanding of how computer science and the internet work. It’s difficult if you don’t have this basic understanding. Overall though, the most important thing is that you really have to want to learn something and dare to take the plunge and try new things. I also took online courses, such as in web development – they were always good and helpful. Otherwise I just read a lot about the subject. There is now an incredible number of sources and good lectures available online (reddit, You-Tube, Medium, Twitter), which are often free, especially in these new areas.