Due to ongoing digitization, demographic change and the corona pandemic, the question of what the jobs of the future could look like is being asked more and more. Flexible working arrangements and the compatibility of work and family are becoming increasingly important. Diversity, equity and inclusion can help to use the tools correctly, says Ilana Rolef-Heberling.

What do diversity, equity and inclusion mean and what role do they play in the work context?

Diversity includes both visible and invisible characteristics that influence people’s individual views, perspectives and attitudes. Seven core dimensions associated with a person’s personality can be identified: age, gender

The diversity of people plays a role in all areas of life – in the corporate context, but also in our professional and private everyday life. Because the benchmark for different areas of life is a 75-kilo man working full-time. Whether in medicine, local transport, car seats or protective clothing – our environment is geared towards this standard. This means effort for everyone who does not meet this standard. The question arises as to how we can better take into account the people who deviate from this norm and how we can use the differences between people in a meaningful way. Diversity is not only beautiful, it is also useful. Teams with different backgrounds develop innovative ideas and solutions and not only that – diverse teams also solve problems faster. At the same time, it is easier for a diverse team to address a larger target group. In order to be able to work well in these teams, you need an awareness of the differences and the corresponding strengths that each person brings to the table.

Ilana Rolef-Heberling ist Head of Brand Transformation, Communications

According to the Bertelsmann Foundation, the shortage of specialists and managers in German companies is greater than expected: Two thirds of those surveyed stated that they currently have a shortage of skilled workers. In order to avoid this, companies use flexible working time models to reconcile work and family life and thus react to the wishes of their employees. For a long time, the distribution of roles in Germany was clear: the man earns the living, the woman takes care of the children and the household. A role model that many people in Germany still live voluntarily, but in the long term another trend can be seen: more and more women are focusing on their careers, while more fathers are staying at home with children. Companies that provide appropriate working models increase equal opportunities in companies and enable more people to realize their potential beyond social expectations.

The pandemic has shown that inequality in our society is increasing. Families fall back into old role models: while men pursue full-time employment, women reduce their working hours to ensure childcare. Families with little money, in particular, often cannot afford to forgo the usually higher salary of their husbands. This can have long-term negative effects on social cohesion in society.

After the crisis, there is some catching up to do in terms of diversity. At the same time, the topic is being demanded more and more intensively and is becoming increasingly relevant – for example as an important future topic for German retail, according to a study by the auditing and consulting company PwC Germany together with Google and the German retail association. According to the German Diversity Monitor of the Beyond Gender Agenda 2021, however, only 26 percent of all companies make diversity a top priority, and 70 percent of companies do not provide a diversity budget.

Frightening numbers when you consider how important it is for employees to feel seen, heard and understood in times of uncertainty. For this it is essential that companies develop a diversity strategy, including measures such as awareness training, flexible working models, mentoring programs for disadvantaged groups. A holistic strategy that takes diversity as well as equity and inclusion (DEI) into account ensures that the potential of diversity among employees can be developed. “Equity” means recognizing and taking into account the different backgrounds and conditions of people. An example of this: A company orders t-shirts for all employees in the same size, as a result the t-shirts will fit some employees better than others. Equity means ordering t-shirts in different sizes so that everyone is the right size for him or her. Inclusion describes the belonging of employees to a work environment and means that companies actively create practices that break down barriers and form a company culture in which employees feel valued and safe.

In order for diversity, equity and inclusion to work in our everyday (work) life, communication is needed. Communication is the key to drawing attention to the topic, stimulating exchange and inspiring enthusiasm for diversity. Asking and listening to what other people have to say is the first step towards a society where different and diverse voices are equal. This attitude must be reflected in the brand and communication strategy of companies. The anchoring of DEI goals and the communicative integration of all areas of the company are the focus of holistic DEI communication, with which stakeholders and consumers are reached as part of a diverse society.

The Mission Female business network, founded by Frederike Probert, is actively committed to more female power in business, society, media, culture, sports and politics. It unites successful women across all industries with the aim of making further professional progress together.