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News > Alumni Spotlight Series > Rea Eldem (Class of 2011) - Gender & Diversity Consultant and Entrepreneur

Rea Eldem (Class of 2011) - Gender & Diversity Consultant and Entrepreneur

This month we chatted with Rea about being a female entrepreneur whose business focuses on driving diverse and inclusive work cultures. She shares with us how GSIS has helped shape her journey.

Name: Rea Eldem

Graduation class: 2011 German branch

Years at GSIS: 6 (grades 7 to 12)

University & Degree: Bachelor at Zeppelin University, Communication and Cultural Management, Master at University of Cambridge, Multi-disciplinary Gender Studies

Current place of residence: Berlin

Could you briefly introduce yourself (background & profession)?

I am a Berlin-based entrepreneur and consultant for gender & diversity and have several teaching positions, including at the Hasso Plattner Institute and at the Berlin School of Economics and Law. After graduating from GSIS, I completed a university education in communication and cultural management in southern Germany and Japan. I then moved to Berlin and took part in the “Design Thinking” innovation management program. During this time I attended a number of courses at the Center for Women's and Gender Studies at the Technical University before I graduated from Cambridge University with a Masters degree. At Cambridge I acquired the knowledge of intersectional feminist theory that is now the basis for my work as the founder of IN-VISIBLE BERLIN, an agency that develops approaches for companies that promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

What sparked your interest in working in the area of gender equity?

I grew up in the expatriate communities in Tokyo and Hong Kong and was surrounded by children and teenagers with very successful parents. It wasn't until I was at university that I realized that I didn't meet a lot of career-oriented parents, but rather career-oriented fathers. At university I began to analyze the underlying social structures and norms, institutional and interpersonal practices that shape these constellations, life choices and my own personal understanding of gender roles.

What is your biggest success in your career so far?

I am very happy that I have managed to shape my career in a way that makes sense for me. Towards the end of school I felt a bit torn between something that made sense for me and a traditional career. I am very grateful that I never had to choose between these two aspects; instead, I've done something that I can make sense of and that has helped me build a career.

Starting your own business is a great achievement. You must have faced some challenges along the way. Can you tell us what was the biggest challenge you faced?

As I am a very sociable person, it was a challenge for me to start a company on my own. I felt and often feel overwhelmed by the plethora of things to think about and had to remind myself to set boundaries. The pandemic has made this even more difficult as there are few opportunities to share with like-minded people. I also have to struggle a little with the male-dominated start-up scene in Berlin, which is very technology and startup-oriented and in which there is little room for deficits.

What do you like most about your job?

The start of new projects. Together with my team, we go to organizations and hold one-on-one discussions with employees. To hear their personal stories and experiences touches me again and again. In these interviews I get very blunt insights into work cultures that are anything but inclusive. Learning something from employees about their working life, their needs and perspectives reminds me of how much there is still to be done.

What advice do you have for graduates who want to start their own company?

It wasn't until I finished my bachelor's degree and moved into a shared flat in Munich with a single student mother and a 32-year-old social worker that I realized how straightforward the career paths that had been presented to me were. Putting things in perspective and realizing that there are endless ways to live your life has taken the pressure off of meeting any supposedly objective standards. There is something to learn in all contexts: in the context of a private school like GSIS, in the context of a career-oriented business school, an alternative learning environment, a mega city, a rural village. On this basis, my advice to anyone who wants to tackle their own project would be: Get out of your comfort zone and broaden your horizons, there is no ultimate truth or one right way to make a career.

What are your plans for the future?

My team and I are currently working on making our programs accessible beyond Germany. For the future, I would like IN-VISIBLE BERLIN to offer international training and advice and promote the topic of gender equity in a business context around the world. I want to move the discussion away from what women should do to how the systems in which we are all stuck need to be changed. To this end, we are currently developing formats (open training, podcast, free community events) that aim to close the gap between diversity and inclusion debates in the corporate context and what is currently being discussed in academia.

Tell us about your time as a student at GSIS. What were your most memorable GSIS moments?

When I think of happy moments at GSIS, I think of the Christmas bazaar. I think it's great to invite guests into the classroom, come up with something that appeals to the students, and do this project together. But there is much more: I also think of theater rehearsals, sleepy bus rides on the Peak, Sodexo, the sofa in the common room, soccer practice, the smell of the pool ...

Which friends or teachers you met at GSIS did you keep in touch with?

I couldn't be more grateful to have made one of my closest friends at GSIS. Many teachers and students shaped my time at GSIS and we stayed in contact in different ways over the years. It gives me a sense of home, to have these people in my life and some even close to me in Berlin.

How did your GSIS experience contribute to who you are today?

For me personally, the theater group and the commitment of the teachers was one of the most valuable experiences. The working group was a constant opportunity to try myself out and gain self-confidence. Having the chance to work on a project for almost a year, to become increasingly emotionally involved in it and then to bring it out is extremely scary and valuable. It helped me overcome my fear of judgment and showed me how important it is to set your personal standards for success.

What was your favorite subject at GSIS and did it have something to do with what you actually did later?

I have always admired students with a clear profile. It seemed like her skills indicated a career path. While I was a good student, there wasn't a single subject that stood out and I was concerned that I wasn't particularly good at anything. After school, I stumbled upon communication and culture management, mostly because I liked the learning environment at my university. That turned out to be much more important than the content. I was able to try my hand at a community that empowered me. By the end of my bachelor's degree, I had founded two projects. When I look back at GSIS, it was the work culture that resonated with what I do today, not any particular subject.

Find out more about Rea's company on their social media platforms:

Website

LinkedIn

Instagram

Facebook

___________________________________________________________________________

Name: Rea Eldem

Graduating Year: Class of 2011 German Stream

Years at GSIS: 6 years (grade 7 till grade 12)

University College & Degree: Bachelor Degree at Zeppelin University, Communication and Cultural Management, Master Degree at University of Cambridge, Multi-disciplinary Gender Studies

Current city of residence: Berlin

Could you introduce yourself a bit (background & profession)?

I am a Berlin-based entrepreneur and gender equity advisor who holds several lecturer positions (eg at the Hasso-Plattner-Institute and the Berlin School of Economics and Law). After graduating from GSIS, I pursued a higher education in Communication and Cultural Management in the South of Germany and Japan. Following this, I moved to Berlin to enrol in an innovation management program called Design Thinking. During this time, I attended a number of courses at the Technical University's Center for Women's and Gender Studies before obtaining my Master's Degree at the University of Cambridge. At Cambridge, I acquired the knowledge about intersectional feminist theory that is now the basis for my work as the founder of IN-VISIBLE BERLIN, an agency that develops approaches for companies that aim for more diversity and inclusion at the workplace.

What made you interested in working in gender equity?

Growing up in the expatriate communities of Tokyo and Hong Kong, I was surrounded by children and teenagers whose parents had successful careers. It wasn't until university that I realized that I didn't meet many career-driven parents but rather career-driven fathers. When I went to university, I began wondering about underlying social structures and norms, institutional and interpersonal practices that shape these constellations, life choices and also my own personal understanding of gender.

What is your biggest achievement in your career so far?

I am happy that I managed to shape my career in a matter that is meaningful to me. Towards the end of high school I felt somewhat torn between doing something purposeful and a traditional career. I feel extremely privileged to never have had to choose between these two aspects; Instead doing something that I can derive meaning from has helped me to build a career.

Starting your own business is a great achievement. You must have faced a few challenges along the way. Can you share with us what has been the biggest challenge you've encountered?

Being a very sociable person, I found starting a business by challenging myself. I often felt, and still feel, overwhelmed by the abundance of things to think about and need to remind myself to draw boundaries. The pandemic has made this even more challenging with minimal opportunities for exchange with like-minded people. Moreover, I somewhat struggle with the male-dominant founding scene in Berlin that is very tech and start-up focused, giving little room to vulnerability or failure.

What do you like most about your work?

I love the start of new projects. Together with my team, we go into organizations and have one-on-one interviews with employees. Listening to their personal stories and experiences never ceases to move me. In these interviews I get very blunt insights into work cultures that are far from inclusive. Learning from employees about their working life, their needs and perspectives reminds me how much there is still to do.

What is your advice for any alumni looking to start their own business?

For me it wasn't until I completed my Bachelor Degree and moved into a fl at-share in Munich with a single-raising student-mom and a 32-year old social worker that I realized how linear the career paths that had previously been presented to me have been. Putting things into perspective and realizing that there are endless ways of living one's life has taken the pressure off to conform to some sort of presumably objective standards. There is something to learn in all contexts: in the context of a private high school like GSIS, in the context of a career-driven business school, an alternative learning environment, a mega-city, a rural village. Based on this, my advice for anyone wanting to kick o ff a project of their own would be: get out of your comfort zone and expand your horizon, there is no such thing as the ultimate truth or right way of going about a career.

What are your plans for the future?

My team and I are currently working on making our programs accessible beyond Germany. In the future, I would like to see IN-VISIBLE BERLIN deliver training and guidance internationally and to push forward gender equity in the business context around the world. I want to move the discussion away from what women should do towards how the systems that we are all placed in need to change. To do this, we are currently developing formats (open training, podcast, free community events) that aim at closing the gap between diversity and inclusion debates in the corporate context and what is currently discussed in academia.

Tell us about your time as a student at GSIS. What were your most memorable GSIS moments?

When I think of happy moments at GSIS, I think of the Christmas Bazaar. I like the idea of inviting guests to the classroom, thinking of something that resonates with the personality of the students and executing this project together. But there is much more: I also think of drama rehearsals, sleepy bus rides up the peak, Sodexo, the common room sofa, football training, the smell of the pool ...

Which friends or teachers that you met at GSIS have you stayed in touch with?

I couldn't be more grateful to have found one of my best friends at GSIS. Many teachers and students have shaped my time at GSIS and I have found ways to stay in touch over the years. It gives me a sense of home to have them in my life and some even physically close to me in Berlin.

How did your GSIS experience contribute to who you are today?

For me personally the drama AG and the e ff ort some of the teachers put into this was one of the most valuable experiences. It was a steady opportunity to try out my personality and to gain confidence. Having the chance to work on a project for almost a year, growing increasingly emotionally invested in it and then showing up and putting yourself and this project out there is extremely scary and valuable. It helped me to overcome the fear of judgment and showed me the importance of setting up your personal standards for success.

What was your favorite subject at GSIS and was it related to anything you actually ended up doing?

I always admired students with a clear profile. It seemed like their skillset hinted towards a career path. While I was a good student, there wasn't a single subject that stood out and I was worried that I wasn't excellent at anything particularly. After school I stumbled onto Communication and Cultural Management mainly because I liked the learning environment at my university. This proved to be much more important than the content. I got to try myself out in an empowering community. By the end of my Bachelor Degree I had founded two projects. Looking back at GSIS, it was the work culture that resonated with what I am doing today, not any particular subject.

Learn more about Rea's business on her social media platforms:

Website

LinkedIn

Instagram

Facebook

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