Fair Pay Management Circle on 7 August 2018 at the Thyssenkrupp quarter
What do Diversity and Inclusion mean in a business environment on a day-to-day basis? How can we get more women into leadership? And why is it that diverse teams really are so much more efficient and better at solving problems? The Fair Pay Management Circle at the Thyssenkrup quarter in Essen looked at barriers in practice, political and economic revolutions as well as transparency and its positive signal effect and finally businesses’ substantial wish-list in terms of policy.
Quarter 1: right. Quarter 2: left. Day nursery: straight on. Upon arrival at the Thyssenkrup quarter in Essen it was clear that there had been considerable changes within the industrial group over the last decades. Steel and men once largely dominated the commercial activity, but the change witnessed across the entire region also affected Thyssenkrup. Nowadays, themes such as Diversity, Inclusion and Innovation are firmly incorporated into the corporate agenda. The Fair Pay Management Circle in Quarter 2 looked at “Equality from a Corporate Perspective” - and all that this entails.
Despite the best intentions in many cases, there are still considerable challenges to overcome in business practice. “The best way to ruin your career in Germany? Become a mother!” says host Oliver Burkhard, HR Director and Employee Relations Director at Thyssenkrup while winking, but he went on to stress that “Digitisation offers a great opportunity for women today.”
Thyssenkrup, with a €43 billion turnover and 160,000 employees worldwide, have acknowledged the fact that being at work is not just about the what, but also the how. Since 2014, 15% of the executive level have been women and this “fair share” corresponds with the proportion of women in the company as a whole.
Breaking the Thomas cycle
Taking Germany as a whole, the boardrooms at German companies today still boast more men named Thomas, Markus, Michael and Stefan than there are women in total - this means that Germany is performing worse than any other country. In Germany, middle-aged men dominate the economy. The reasons for this are complex.
But how can we disrupt the “Thomas cycle” discovered by the Allbright Foundation? Juliane Seifert, State Secretary at the German Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, views the Gender Pay Gap and (lack of) women in leadership as particular challenges. So measures to address these areas would be particularly welcome. The upcoming German Law on pay transparency as well as initiatives such as Klischeefrei, with which the FPI is working, are further steps toward equality. “Women are less vocal - inside and outside companies” says the State Secretary. “As a result, networks play a significant role in disrupting the Thomas cycle.”
Between a “fig leaf” and transparency at the touch of a button.
But equality does not feature in future strategy for all companies. In too many companies the notion that “testosterone-fuelled petrol heads” still monopolise daily operations is regarded on the whole as “women’s hoo-ha”, and this is openly admitted around the table. But the momentum is gathering, especially in cases where fair pay is the most important issue on the way to equality. On the one hand, there are companies who are meeting the German Law on pay transparency using avoidance strategies and minimal solutions and see transparency at best as a fig leaf. Then there are companies like SAP, where strict transparency is practised. Entire worlds lie between them. The expense was considerable for all involved - which meant that in many companies there were only a very few discussions. It was worthwhile on the whole but nevertheless, the company representatives present were unanimous.
Nowhere else would so many colleagues benefit from this right than at transparency pioneer SAP, where they do indeed only need a touch of a button to access the information. Dr. Daniel Holz, Managing Director, SAP Deutschland SE concludes: “Pay transparency has a substantial positive impact on the DNA of a company - having said that, even if people don't exercise this right, the signal effect cannot be underestimated. The expense is therefore absolutely worth it.”
Equality as a hard-hitting business case
Finally, participants expressed their hopes for the policy: The immediate abolition of tax splitting on a partner’s income. A quality initiative for day nurseries. The early preparation of (expectant) parents in the face of gender clichés. Comprehensive occupational studies as a school lesson subject. The right to mobile working in accordance with the British model. However, laws are only needed for those companies preferring not to comply - nobody has to sit around waiting for the law. The challenges of balancing traditional and modern perspectives are very deliberately tackled even within companies who recognise equality as a tough business case, as at Thyssenkrup. Oliver Burkhard knows that change doesn’t happen by itself: “In politics it’s exactly the opposite, but in companies, revolutions always start from the top down.”
As at every Fair Pay Management Circle participation was exclusively by personal invitation; the event itself was subject to Chatham House Rules – the best prerequisite for an open and constructive dialogue. We therefore relay nothing that would allow it to be traced back to the people involved or guests, or to their companies or organisations – unless they have explicitly agreed to be identified.
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