LEAD: Ms. Borchert, from your experience in German media companies, how is the state of affairs on diversity?
Katharina Borchert: It is now much more frequently discussed, but still too often one finds male-dominated structures too often. This goes hand in hand with a “We’ve always done that” mentality and a lack of openness to other perspectives and really different ideas.
Recruitment processes are often intransparent, the decision is made by individuals and so is always set the same type that brings as little unrest in the store and fits well into the existing culture. Although a change in culture is usually urgently needed.
How do they differ in this area to international tech companies like Mozilla?
It starts with not only talking about “diversity”, but also very consciously about “diversity and inclusion”. It does not do much to target more women or people with a migrant background if they are not related to the corporate culture, are left out of the decision-making process and always feel that they are exotic. So you do not make sustainable change. Then the topic is also much broader and not just reduced to the share of men and women in the company.
And last but not least, the discussion is much more based on numbers. It sets measurable goals and corporate programs are based on scientific evidence, not sentiment. After all, it’s not just about diversity as an abstract value in itself, but about the tangible benefits that more diverse employment structures bring.
More diversity topics can be found in the current issue of LEAD magazine 04/18, which you can also order online.
How does Mozilla specifically promote diversity and inclusion?
Mozilla has had its own team for a long time, focusing exclusively on diversity and inclusion. In addition, we have taken a number of measures, the positive results of which we are beginning to feel. For example, we have changed our recruiting processes and have given targeted interview and evaluation training to all employees who participate in recruitment in some way to make the application process fairer.
We also publish our diversity figures, and all executives have diversity-related annual goals that they are measured against. Even if our numbers are far from where we would like them, we can clearly see the progress.
Also interesting: “As far as diversity is concerned, Germany is a developing country”
Is the workforce open to such action?
We have developed a code of conduct that applies to all employees as well as volunteers. And we have clear processes for dealing with violations.
Brand new is our event code, which states, among other things, that we do not support an event – be it financially or through speakers – that does not actively seek to increase diversity among speakers, not at least one woman or a person of other skin color or disability on a panel.
In addition, we interview our employees twice a year in great detail on various topics relating to our corporate and communications culture and have set ourselves the goal of women and men achieving the same level of satisfaction in the long term.
“In Germany too often is argued about the whether, in America almost exclusively about how.”
Is progress noticeable in the team, how does it work?
In the daily work of my team, we try to integrate people with very different personality and communication patterns whenever possible. Please do not always the same three people dominate any discussion and there are usually several ways to get involved in a topic. Anyone who feels rather uncomfortable in a lively discussion, is just getting in writing.
How does working in a diverse team work?
My team is one of the most international and perhaps most heterogeneous in Mozilla. People come from a wide variety of countries and cultures and have very diverse professional backgrounds: I work closely with developers and designers, but also with economists, community managers, sociologists and open source experts.
It is, of course, a challenge to develop a harmonious team if the individual members have so different backgrounds. But it’s also incredibly rewarding for any project, if that succeeds. Interestingly, I experience that the professional background, the world view and perspective usually more influenced than the language or culture.
What are the different diversity problems faced by Germans compared to US companies?
In Germany too often is argued about the whether, in America almost exclusively about how. In the US, social inequality is much greater than in Germany.
This makes it all the more difficult not only to look at suitable employees from a more privileged shift in attitudes. You have to be much more willing to shelve certain ideas – for example, an elite university degree as a recruitment criterion – and invest more in candidates.
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What concrete steps do companies have to take to be diversified?
You have to set measurable goals and make executives responsible. You have to work both on recruitment and career development. If these are based on intransparent decisions made by individuals, it is high time to change that. But it’s not just the numbers that have to change, but the desire for cultural change that needs to be there when it’s not just about diversity, but about real inclusion.
It is simply not enough to hire a Muslim woman in a headscarf – she must be able to feel accepted in her working environment and receive the same opportunities. And you should definitely seek advice from experts whose work is evidence-based. Research has shown a great deal in recent years what really works in practice and what only looks good on paper.
Mozilla’s work in this area is supported by Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research. As a reading I can highly recommend the book by the Swiss Iris Bohnet from Harvard University: “What Works – How behavioral design can revolutionize equality”.
Also interesting: companies benefit from new perspectives