On diversity, the root of the issue and how to not stunt its growth, IBC365’s Sheryl Hickey talks to Daniella Weigner, tech company founder and Rise Woman of the Year 2022 for her insights on tech, diversity, inclusion and workforce retention strategies.
Daniella Weigner, Co-Founder and Managing Director of software and tech company, Cinegy GmbH, has gained a reputation for compassionate leadership, being family-focused and has been hailed as ‘an extraordinary and inspirational woman who has made a significant contribution within her field’.
She is also winner of the Rise Award Woman of the Year, honoured for her cooperation in bringing staff and their families back from Ukraine, assembling over 400 broadcast and media companies and individuals ‘to provide resources, solutions and hardware to Ukrainian TV channels and media outlets to ensure they could stay on air amid ongoing conflict.’
Weigner took time out to speak to 365 about the more significant technological advances she’s seen in her niche over the past few years, shifting attitudes within the broadcast industry, and her take on the challenges around the industry’s gender and diversity gap.
Flexible growth - open to change
Major world events of the recent years have kept us all on our toes and presented not only challenges but opportunities for the industry. According to Weigner, keeping an open mind has been a fundamental skillset: “New approaches to broadcast and production have through necessity brought huge change, even in the most traditional of broadcast sectors.”
Speaking of the consolidation in hardware manufacturing that has occurred over the last few years, she said: “[This trend] has given opportunities to smaller organisations who have been able to use the dissonance and industry disruption to advantage, where smaller means leaner but not less important.”
According to Weigner, evolving attitudes and approaches to broadcast has come a long way: “Twenty years ago when Cinegy started talking about digital asset management, using commodity hardware, running software that was based on IT-based approaches, the market acceptance was very low, shall we say. Broadcast was all about boxes - expensive boxes. Roll forward a decade when we started deploying IP-based solutions, and talking about virtualisation, we also found it hard to break through to the traditional broadcasters.
“We have now seen a vast adoption of all of these approaches in the last 5-8 years, the market now accepts and embraces these, which gives companies like ours access and market acceptance. It does also help that we’ve been able to prove the value of our solutions, and the strengths of developing all of our software ourselves. The industry needed to do this really, to add value to their offerings and to help better run more cost-effective operations.”
“Not only did the industry change, we as people had to as well. This was a seminal, historic sea change.”
Current employment and retention issues are a key concern across media and tech firms of all sizes. Weigner warns of the dangers of industry redundancies: “We are seeing a lot of attrition at the moment, as well as many significantly large corporations letting a lot of their staff go. This seems foolhardy to me, these companies can certainly afford to keep staff. If you let people go, they will go and become your competitors or work for your competitors, especially if they feel badly treated. Treating the lifeblood of your company badly seems a bad strategy to me.”
A post-Covid era is taking shape
She acknowledged that the remote working strategies we have adopted “would not have been possible without developments in cloud-based technologies and much faster and better access to the internet.”
She then addressed the trends that have developed since the world has been recovering into a ‘normal’ state: “Streaming certainly had its heyday three years ago, and now we see subscriptions falling off and we can expect further consolidation there. Not only did the industry change, we as people had to as well. This was a seminal, historic sea change - there will be a before and after Covid-era, for so many reasons.”
“The risk is the inherent learned bias in AI tools, and this needs to be carefully considered when trying to promote diversity. Algorithms are after all written originally by humans, who are themselves biased. Rather than promote fair and equitable values, we may just see an amplification of the human condition.”
With all eyes on AI, Weigner shared her thoughts on the impending changes and issues it will bring: “Without a doubt, AI will be the biggest game-changer. From creating content to replacing certain job roles, this is the big unknown. The risk is the inherent learned bias in AI tools, and this needs to be carefully considered when trying to promote diversity. Algorithms are after all written originally by humans, who are themselves biased. Rather than promote fair and equitable values, we may just see an amplification of the human condition.”
Rooting for a diverse and inclusive future
As 365 celebrates International Women’s Day, it seemed pertinent to address the elephant in the room: The ongoing diversity and gender gap across the industry. Weigner shared her advice on how to bring about change from a base level:
“We need to make our companies open to work practises that embrace flexibility. I have the immense privilege of owning my own company, it means I have been able to flex my time to accommodate my business needs but also the needs of my family. I didn’t have to put my career on hold, or pay for expensive childcare from my part-time salary while my partner had a full-time job.”
She commented that in the case of women who subsidise the childcare, “they effectively work for someone else to look after the kids - I have wondered if that was some sort of Mum guilt kicking in.”
She added that the root of the problem lies in the need for cost-effective childcare: “To enable significant parts of the workforce to work without worry. Family based approaches, not just in our industry but at government level, need to be implemented or reintroduced where they have been lost. Everyone belongs to some sort of family - it is recognising that life is more important than work.”
“Encouraging people who might feel less seen in an organisation is something we should all be working on.”
She continued to describe the initiatives and attitudes in her company that are already in place: “Being mindful of individual needs over presenteeism is something I have been trying to champion in my own company, it comes down to what sort of person do you want to be. Equality in pay for the same role is also common sense, and something that we have always implemented. Encouraging people who might feel less seen in an organisation is something we should all be working on.
On a similar note, in the long-term future, Weigner’s hope for industry change concerns a workforce where wellbeing and flexibility are fundamental and standard practice, as remote working has become normalised and “should not change.”
“Having a flexible workforce, with employers who trust their staff to work, will give opportunities to parts of the workforce that are usually disadvantaged by the traditional 9-6, five days a week plus commute.
“I hope that companies will put people at the heart of their business, promote a culture of flexibility and respect based on trust.”