Vielfalt feiern! Celebrating Diversity Day in Germany

26 May 2020

Vielfalt feiern! Celebrating Diversity Day in Germany

As Germany’s 8th Diversity Day falls on 26 May 2020, this is a good time to evaluate how far we have come and how we are doing today in terms of diversity and inclusion.

In 2006, some of Germany’s largest companies created the Charta der Vielfalt and committed to promoting the recognition, appreciation and integration of diversity in business culture. Today, more than 3,400 companies and organizations, including Odgers Berndtson Germany, with a total of more than 13.3 million employees have signed the charter.

At its heart, the charter recognizes that all employees should be valued regardless of gender, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or worldview, physical and mental ability, age, sexual orientation and identity.

Doing well by doing good

Of course, doing the right thing is also the smart thing. Multiple studies have shown that more diverse organisations tend to be more successful. Diversity is linked to increases in sales revenue, profits and customers. More diverse organizations are better at problem solving and achieve breakthroughs in research and development. In addition, increasing diversity fosters open-mindedness and makes an organization a more attractive employer. And successful diversity management increases managers’ and employees’ satisfaction and loyalty.

Doing the right thing is also the smart thing.

To that end, Odgers Berndtson launched a global initiative called ‘Unlimited’ in 2019 to help our clients create more inclusive and diverse leadership teams. This initiative reflects a methodology, belief and commitment to putting inclusion and diversity at the heart of everything we do.

Celebrating our diversity achievements

To fulfill our charter commitment, Odgers Berndtson Germany is committed to considering candidates without regard to personal characteristics like gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Today, international candidates are included in over 50% of our search mandates and in 2019 we filled 26% of our searches with a female executive. Importantly, we practice what we preach. At Odgers Berndtson Germany, two-thirds of our partners and 80% of our practice heads are women.

At Odgers Berndtson Germany, we practice what we preach. Two-thirds of our partners and 80% of our practice heads are women.

Katja Hanns-Terrill, Odgers Berndtson Germany’s first female Managing Partner, notes, “I am proud that we are one of the executive search firms in Germany with the highest number of female partners. Our diversity makes us stronger.”

Indeed, German companies have come a long way with their diversity initiatives in recent years. But there is more work to be done. In terms of gender diversity, the efforts of German companies are slowly bearing fruit. According to Deutsche Welle, in 2019 women still only accounted for 10% of executive positions.

And we need to look beyond gender diversity. A 2016 survey by EY found that in Germany, companies had adopted flexible working policies and were focused on hiring and promoting women but hadn’t paid as much attention to minority groups. Similarly, in 2018, Handelsblatt Today published an article titled, “When German companies talk about 'diversity,' they only mean women.” The article argued that diversity management strategies must encompass more than just gender diversity to be successful.

Silvia Eggenweiler, a partner in Odgers Berndtson’s Frankfurt office who was the first female general manager in a previous employer’s 175-year history, admits that broadening the understanding of ‘diversity’ remains a challenge. “It feels great to have shattered a glass ceiling,” she shares, “but as a working mother of Peruvian origin, I know corporate culture still has a long way to go to increase diversity in all its facets.”

Setting our sights higher

So, on this Diversity Day, let’s celebrate how far we’ve come but also admit that we can do better, both in terms of elevating women into more leadership roles and increasing the representation of minority groups. This includes people from different cultural backgrounds, people with disabilities and those who identify as LGBTQ.

Technological advances will help. Daniel Nerlich, Managing Partner of Odgers Berndtson Germany points out that “AI has great potential to reduce human bias in all aspects of talent acquisition.” This means search firms can research suitable candidates without knowing their names, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, places of origin or even where they went to university. These are all things that could unconsciously cause someone to favor one candidate over another. “Using technology to mask candidates helps us to embed diversity into the search process”, Daniel adds.

“AI has great potential to reduce human bias in talent acquisition processes.”

While there is still work to do, recommitting ourselves to our diversity efforts every day, broadening what we mean by ‘diversity’ and developing further techniques to combat unconscious bias are a good place to start.

If you’d like to discuss diversity & inclusion topics and your organisation’s leadership requirements with us, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.