International Women's Day - Interview with POLYTECH CFO Maria-Johanna Schaecher

POLYTECH Health & Aesthetics GmbH 2024-03-08

In December 2023, Maria-Johanna Schaecher was appointed as CFO of POLYTECH. Maria –who initially joined POLYTECH as Interim Manager– is a seasoned professional who brings a wealth of impressive and meaningful experience in management roles. Her appointment marks a significant milestone for our company and contributes to the growing presence of female leaders in our industry.

As we celebrate Women's Day this year, we had the privilege to sit down with Maria to learn more about her remarkable journey and her thoughts on leadership.


• Why did you choose POLYTECH and what excites you about your new role at POLYTECH?

POLYTECH is a fantastic company with great potential.
I worked my whole life in the healthcare and MedTech industries because it is important to me to pursue a purpose. I am particularly enthusiastic about women’s health and FemTech. I am convinced that we, at POLYTECH, make a significant contribution to women’s quality of life, especially in the field of reconstruction.  

That's one reason, the other reason is that I really enjoyed working at POLYTECH from the very beginning because the team is exceptional. Everyone has a lot of experience and is committed to achieving the best for our customers. I felt integrated into the POLYTECH family right from the start and I am very grateful that I was able to have this experience.


• What defines you as a CFO and what is your leadership style? 

I really enjoy working in a team, my door is always open. I love structuring projects and improving processes, so everyone needs to be prepared to change, once I have taken over the responsibility. My standard question is: how can we make this better, how can we create value?


• What characteristics do women have that make them particularly suitable to be CFOs?

I believe that more than gender, a management style is shaped by personal experience and social background. As a CFO, you should not only have the figures under control, but also always find a good balance between assertiveness and team spirit. Setting one-sided targets without gaining the commitment and understanding of colleagues leads to objections and frustration. I believe that women have a good feel for the culture and informal structures that inform company processes and therefore base their decisions on more data points.


• Throughout your career, you've likely encountered some of the professional challenges that women face at the workplace. What advice would you offer for navigating them?

My advice is not to be put off. It's important to find your own style and stay authentic and then follow your own path. This also includes being courageous, women are more often comfortable in the second row. Stand up and get actively involved when it comes to tasks and positions, otherwise you tend to be "forgotten".


• In your experience as a female manager, have you encountered negative biases and assumptions from others? If so, what strategies did you employ to overcome them?

When I took on my first managing director position, this was rather unusual and there were far fewer women in management positions than there are today. It was largely "topless". It was often an advantage for me that my male colleagues didn't know exactly how to deal with the situation. Therefore, I had a certain "fool's freedom" and was able to shape a lot of things. So, as mentioned above, don't let yourself be put off.


• What advice would you give to aspiring females at the beginning of their career. Do you believe that the glass ceiling is still a real issue? If so, what advice would you give them?

A lot has certainly changed in recent years, but it is still fundamentally more difficult for women to get to the top because male networks continue to function. As the proportion of women in management positions is still far too low, I am now of the opinion that quotas and targets are necessary to bring about change more quickly. The necessary framework conditions must also be created so that women can better combine career and family without any conflict.


• POLYTECH has a significant female participation throughout the organization, including management roles; what practical tips can you share with other employers seeking to increase equity within their organizations?

Especially in companies that manufacture products for women, women should play a key role in management. Women understand much better what women need. Since most products also have a significant proportion of female customers, it is important that women are appropriately represented in management. Women in management positions should also take advantage of this, show they can provide valuable insight on why it is important to win over female customers and how to achieve this. Everyone will listen when it comes to winning over women, who are an ever more important customer group. And invest in networking. Build your own networks and support each other. 


• How do you envision the future of leadership? What role do you believe women will play in shaping that future?

I'm sure that it will become more and more natural to have women in management positions. I fundamentally believe in mixed teams, our environment is becoming ever more complex and changes are becoming ever faster. Agility and adaptability are the key skills for the future. This requires many talents and diverse skills. The more diversified a company is, the more likely it is to remain successful even in times of disruptive change.


• What does International Women’s Day mean to you? 

For me, this is an important day that should be celebrated by every company. But I believe that a daily commitment to finding and promoting the many talents in our company, especially female talents, is more important than celebrating the International Women’s Day once a year.


As a company dedicated to women’s health, we are proud to have women represented at all levels of our organization. Maria's leadership is not only a testament to her undeniable capabilities, but also proof of our increasing commitment to creating an inclusive environment where everyone, regardless of gender, can thrive and make their mark.

As Sheryl Sandberg said, “in the future there will be no female leaders, there will be just leaders”. In the meantime, we thank our CFO Maria-Johanna Schaecher and all the phenomenal female leaders around the world for paving the way for a brighter and equitable future for all.