Lena Herkenhoff, Dairy and dairy industry trainer
Women in management positions are naturally also a big topic at DMK. We talked to Lena Herkenhoff, trainer for the dairy industry, about the challenges and her experiences with this topic.

Hello. What is your name and what is your function at DMK?

My name is Lena Herkenhoff, I work as an apprentice instructor (full-time instructor for dairy management) and am deputy plant manager OVOBEST Eiprodukte GmbH&Co.KG, now DMK location Zeve.

What are your daily tasks?

I have disciplinary and technical management responsibility for all trainees in the training program for dairy technologist (m/f/d) and dairy laboratory technician (m/f/d).

This includes the following tasks:

  • Determining requirements and conducting the selection process, including conducting interviews.
  • Responsible for ensuring that the training content is taught in accordance with the training framework plan
  • Appointment and qualification of training officers
  • Assuming organizational and administrative tasks to support the entire training at the Zeven site
  • Communication with LUFA and other training providers
  • Setting up, organizing and, in some cases, conducting internal on-the-job instruction
  • Tutoring for underperforming trainees (m/f/d)
  • Preparation and implementation of marketing measures, in particular making contacts with schools and participating in training fairs in the Zeven catchment area
  • Collaboration on central training projects

What are the challenges here - especially as a female manager? What needs to change? What is going well? How did you experience equality in your job just ten or 20 years ago?e hast du Gleichberechtigung noch vor zehn oder 20 Jahren im Beruf erlebt?

I've been in the dairy profession since 2007, and in the dairy master's field since 2021. At the beginning of my professional life, my impression was that it was all about hierarchy. The master craftsman calls the shots, innovation and technical expertise were perhaps not yet in such demand. The average age of a manager in Germany is (I think) about 51. We need to get younger. I have often noticed that male colleagues or superiors feel intimidated by female, younger colleagues with supposedly better expertise. 

How easy or difficult was it for you to get to this position? Were you supported professionally, did you invest a lot of your own initiative?

I took the dairy foreman course on my own initiative. During the course, I was approached by a fellow master craftsman about the advertised position for full-time instructor for milk and dairy management at DMK in Zeven. At the time, the colleague was employed at DMK in Erfurt. He said that would be something for me. I then applied, went through the normal application process and was able to convince him.

What "other" skills do women bring to management positions in contrast to men?

Women are usually more conscientious in carrying out their tasks. This is already evident during their education, better grades at school, more commitment ... They also show more empathy and empathy for their counterparts as managers (professionally and or disciplinary). The key point is working at eye level. This creates a pleasant working atmosphere and more motivation among the employees.

Why is it so important for DMK to ensure a gender balance at all levels in the company?

Women want more flexibility so that they can combine family and career. This brings new momentum and diversity to the company. If companies take this into account, it can mean significant advantages in attracting and, above all, retaining qualified personnel.

Women are still in the minority in STEM professions. How can DMK - and in general - succeed in encouraging women to work in these areas?

DMK can score points with crisis-proof jobs and very good earning opportunities. But this is usually not enough. DMK is therefore setting a good example. More and more women are filling management positions within DMK. Many apprenticeship positions in supposedly "male professions" are also filled by the trainers with young women, who can also be promoted after their training through internal programs and retained as long-term MAs. In general, a lot of educational work is still needed. We're putting a lot of effort into that.

Do you ever come up against authority barriers with customers/employees/supervisors because you are a woman? Where do you still notice the differences?

Working at eye level is particularly important and essential to me. But of course, you have experienced something like that, or you thought you had experienced it that way. I always try to convince with professional competence. In my current everyday life, I don't notice any differences or that authority boundaries are "set up.