Leadership
Jul 8, 2022

Breaking the glass ceiling, and staying up there: an interview with Petra Padolsky

This blog post was created in partnership with Volkswagen Financial Services and contains paid promotion. 

Petra Padolsky, Head of Retail Support, Corporate Financing and Sales Steering at Volkswagen Financial Services, is a great example of a woman who has managed to establish herself in a male dominated industry, and we naturally wanted to learn more about her journey. Find out what helped her rise through the ranks, who inspires her and which major trends she sees taking hold of her industry for the future.


What would you say has helped you most to become a leader in a male-dominated industry?

Thinking about it, my first professional leadership position was in an exclusively female collective. Then I changed the course of my career and moved on to the automotive industry, dominated by men. In both environments, my leadership style has been based on the same fundamentals – listen and encourage people to increase trust, creativity and enthusiasm; bring diverse talents together to build a strong-performing team; work hard, be calm, positive, organized, fair and available. Being true to myself and following my fundamentals as a leader has worked well in all worlds - female, male and mixed.


Was there a moment when you realized that you’d broken the glass ceiling?

Well, there was never a moment when I would say “I broke the glass ceiling”. Never actually thought about it. However there have been moments of awareness, when I’d say to myself “Hey, I’m the only woman in this meeting room, at this luncheon, at this management training, on this incentive trip, ….”, and the list goes on. At these moments I have felt a mixture of pride and also concern for standing out of the crowd.


Who has been your biggest inspiration in leadership?

Definitely my husband. When I was a girl, a teenager, my parents used to tell me to study languages so I could get a good job, meaning, to be an assistant to a high-ranking manager in some large global company. So, I studied languages. And it was actually then when I met my husband. I used to call him “the first live feminist I have ever met”. Because of him, I started to think about my capabilities and my professional career with different optics.  



What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your leadership role?

Finding the balance and time to be me (as a woman) – me (as a manager) – me (as a mother) – me (as a friend) – me (as a wife), … Most of the time I find myself to be the manager and the mother, and I’m barely catching my breath. And mostly I neglect to be a woman and a friend. I am very thankful to have a very supportive husband, who is fully engaged in the kids’ extracurriculars, and household duties. This is the current stage of my life, there is just simply not enough time to be all at the same time, 100%.  


What trends have you been seeing in your industry recently?

The days of saving up for a new car for ten years to enjoy it for the next fifteen are over. Times are changing and so are our purchasing patterns. After companies and tradesmen, Czech drivers and women are also beginning to take a liking to operating leases. They are saying goodbye to costly repairs and compromises on technical equipment and safety. 

For many of us, a car is an indispensable part of our lives. As the latest Volkswagen Financial Services survey shows, 77% of Czech women drivers can’t even imagine life without it. And no wonder. We associate the car with fun, work, hobbies, shopping or even holidays. But besides the joys associated with it, owning a car also brings a lot of worries. An increasingly popular operating lease can be a solution to get rid of at least part of them. 

The growing attractiveness of operating leases among Czech drivers is confirmed by hard data. Women are one of the most dynamically growing groups of clients, especially those aged between 20 and 34. Female clients are attracted primarily by the zero worries about running the car and the possibility to replace the car regularly. If they decide to start a business, start a family or travel around the world, it’s always handy to be able to adapt their car to their changing lifestyle. 

The departure from the traditional model is also illustrated by the fact that for many modern drivers, the purchase price of a vehicle is no longer the determining parameter for purchase. They are far more interested in the total cost of mobility. So with an operating lease, they don’t have to worry about anything other than the monthly payment and fuel. All they have to do is just get in and drive. 


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