THE GERMAN DIVERSITY DILEMMA

Due to the pandemic, the failures of German companies in the area of diversity have come much more into the focus of the general public. Therefore, the apparent inequality of opportunities for people with disabilities, of different genders, ages, sexual orientations and identities, as well as cultural and social backgrounds, once again significantly increases the pressure on companies to change. Equity, diversity, and inclusion are being demanded more and more intensively, leading companies to engage in pronounced diversity actionism. For example, women’s quotas are published, rainbow flags are waved, and Diversity Weeks are held in a way that is noticeable to the public. As pleasant as this intensified commitment by the German industry to diversity is, the title of the German Diversity Monitor 2020 still applies: “In German companies, diversity is more lip service than reality”.

The results of the German Diversity Monitor 2021 show the standstill in diversity and highlight the risks companies run if they ignore diversity as an economic success factor and thus are in danger of slipping into the spiral of ignorance. Furthermore, we identify a clear relevance gap between the various diversity dimensions, which leads to the discrimination of individual dimensions.

OUT OF THE DIVERSITY DILEMMA

The results of this year’s German Diversity Monitor are alarming: two small steps forward and one big step back. 

The diversity standstill is putting German companies under pressure to act. To fully exploit the potential and not lose further economic power, diversity must be recognized as an economic factor critical to success, be given appropriate responsibility within the company, be provided with resources, and be defined as a strategic corporate goal.

Three measures are an essential starting point to resolve the diversity dilemma:

CEO is responsible for diversity
Provision of resources critical to success
Determination of an ambitious diversity quota

Despite the current diversity dilemma, companies should focus on the opportunities of diversity and initiate a comprehensive diversity transformation. The benefits will quickly outweigh the costs and will be appreciated by stakeholders in the early stages of the transformation.

MALE DEFIES LEGAL MINIMUM REQUIREMENT

The dimension most often associated with diversity is GENDER. The high level of attention and relevance that this dimension experiences in comparison to the other dimensions leads us to expect a correspondingly high proportion of women in the top management of the companies. 

Board members in the DAX remain male despite the legal minimum requirement. The expansion to 40 companies in the German share index has even intensified the dominance of male board members.


“The history of Douglas is shaped by strong women. The support of women is part of our daily practice and a central cornerstone of our success. We have at least 50 percent women at all management levels, and the trend is rising. At the top management level, the proportion of women is 2/3 – unique for companies of our size. This makes us a pioneer in Germany. With a variety of formats and campaigns, we set an example against discrimination and for inclusion: For example, on International Women’s Day, we create space for exchange, networking, and dialog with our #FORWARDfemaleLEADERSHIP initiative. As a member of the “Initiative Women into Leadership e.V.,” we support women in their professional development. At the same time, we provide targeted support for female founding teams. Gender equality is a matter of course for us. We must live up to our role model function. This is the only way we can make a real contribution to social progress.“

PALE FACTS BEHIND COLORFUL RAINBOW FLAG

The conspicuous presence of the colorful rainbow in corporate communications and marketing suggests a deceptive equality of people of different sexual orientations as well as gender identities. The reality of everyday corporate life is different.

Specific measures for the target group are rarely offered and implemented in a sustainable manner. The gap between communicated ambition and actual improvement of the situation urgently needs to be bridged.


“Deutsche Bahn sets colorful, loud, and visible signs for diversity and has strengthened its commitment to LGBTIQ* in the Group strategy with the diversity initiative “Einziganders” (uniquely different). The diversity of our employees is a valuable asset for us and an asset for Team DB.
For us, active support is not tied to campaign months. We work very closely with our LGBTIQ* employee network “railbow” throughout the year and help LGBTIQ* colleagues to stand by their identity. For example, we enable participation in coming-out seminars, offer peer-to-peer counseling on the topic of “trans* at work” and engage in close exchange with trans* employees through a wide variety of formats. At job and career fairs, we introduce ourselves to the LGBTIQ* community as an open-minded employer. We are also continuously committed to AIDS Aid.
For us, pinkwashing is a red rag. The flag of tolerance, recognition, and appreciation flies with us every day.“

DESCENT INTO INSIGNIFICANCE

Apart from gender, the dimension DISABILITY is the only diversity dimension that is subject to legal regulations. However, the specified quota of employees with disabilities can be circumvented relatively easily and inexpensively by paying a compensatory levy for severely disabled people. But it is not only people with disabilities who are at a disadvantage when they are excluded from the primary labor market altogether.

Companies also miss out on a major opportunity. It is high time to stop the DESCENT INTO THE INSIGNIFICANCE of people with disabilities as employees. People with disabilities must no longer be perceived as a burden, discriminated against, and their attitude perceived as charitable.


“There is no work that cannot be done by a person with a disability. It used to be unthinkable that a woman could become a doctor or head of a company, today it is quite normal for most people. How long will it take before it is commonplace for all of us that someone with Down Syndrome teaches at university or a deaf journalist asks questions at the federal press conference? Once employers stop using the payment of the compensation levy to keep outstanding colleagues away, we can finally begin to work in a 21st century work environment. We can all only benefit from this, both humanly and economically.“

VOICES FROM THE BOARD OF MANAGEMENT

What importance does the economic success factor diversity have for your company?


“At Allianz, we are convinced, that a diverse workforce is key to high-performing teams, innovation, and creativity, as we can only understand and serve our customers best if we represent their diversity in our workforce. Our success factor for promoting diversity are clear goals supported by transparency, passion and strong management commitment!“


“Diversity and inclusion are very important to Bayer because they are crucial building blocks for our long-term success. An inclusive organization where people with different backgrounds and experiences are enthusiastic to contribute creates the environment needed for future growth. Creative brainstorming drives innovation, open and transparent communication improves effectiveness and productivity, and a caring yet stimulating work environment attracts and engages the best talent.“


“Diversity and participation are important for Deutsche Bank because they help us to be innovative – and that is the basis for sustainable growth and business. Innovation does not come from everyone thinking the same, from everyone having the same background. It arises from the competition of ideas and from different experiences, insights, and perspectives. And from the desire and the freedom to introduce this diversity.“


“We are 9,000 people from over 100 countries in 60 locations worldwide. For us, recognizing people in all their diversity is not only an ethical imperative; it is also crucial for our economic performance. Diversity means more than national origin and culture; it includes not only social background and educational history, but also sexual orientation, individual character and much more. And only those who appreciate and encourage this in their workforce will also do justice to the diversity of their customers and remain innovative as a company.“

MONITOR 2020

In the founding year of BeyondGenderAgenda, the German Diversity Monitor 2020 provided an initial assessment of diversity on the boards of leading German companies.

As part of the German Diversity Monitor 2020, two studies were conducted to obtain a comprehensive overview of the status quo of diversity in the German corporate landscape. By combining primary and secondary data, the study draws a representative picture of objective diversity in DAX-listed companies as well as the subjective perspective of top managers and employees of German companies.