Every 20 minutes, a start-up tech company is founded in Germany’s capital, Berlin. For the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to work within the digital recruitment sector within this exciting tech hub. With the plethora of digital job opportunities, the variety of sectors and the excess number of tech-based starts-ups; it seems Germany truly has it all, except for one important consideration – their diversity, equity and inclusion commitment and policies.
The problem with Germany’s DE&I stems right back to the 1950’s where there were huge cultural gaps between the natives and non natives; guest workers were invited to build Germany back up after the war, however it is still up for discussion whether they were truly integrated into German society. This lack of acceptance or integration can clearly be seen still today; 25% of people in Germany are from migrant backgrounds, but only a sore 8%make up for members of Bundestag. If government institutions are not representing German society, it’s unlikely the majority of companies are.
While this has certainly started to slightly shift in the last 10 years, in 2016, it was found that only 1/3 companies have implemented diversity management measures. One key problem when companies perceive diversity, is that they focus too narrowly on gender inequality, and ignore the other issues that must be recognised and spoken about, factors including, people from ethnic backgrounds, religion, sexual identity, disability, education and socio-economic.
The term ‘unconscious bias’ means we have natural affinity to people we relate to, who look like us, who have had the same experiences as us, the same education and more. As a society, we need to be aware of this bias when hiring because non-diverse teams with homogenous groups of people can create an exclusive environment where problems are less lightly to be spotted, and innovation levels could significantly decline.
A report from 2015 showed that companies who had diverse teams were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean; therefore, what can we do to ensure diversity and inclusion in Germany is at the forefront of company director’s minds?
There is no quick answer or method to build a diverse workforce. It takes time and resources to tackle, the first step is recognising the need to address it and not just virtue signaling. As a leader, it is important to focus your efforts on those who lack opportunities in your organisation; create and listen to ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) and any other unheard employees in your organisation, ask them for pain points and their input, allow them to do this anonymously if they wish.
A good DE&I strategy should not focus on one or two dimensions of diversity, and should not set its goals to only empower, hire and promote women – a good strategy will take a holistic approach, focusing on race/racism, sexual identity, trans and non-binary gender, disability and age.
Another key factor to remember is to learn from feedback and criticism; take time to review processes across the board (for example, hiring, promotions, compensation, company culture, ethics, healthcare etc.), with an eye of inclusion and anti-discrimination to figure out where the problems lie.
Finally, create opportunities for low-income individuals, go into schools, reach out to people who aren’t typically applying to your job applications and offer them exciting opportunities. You can always pair up with a digital recruitment partner like SODA who strives to represent the diverse world we live in!