In an interview, organizational consultant Astrid G. Weinwurm-Wilhelm talks about diversity management and its added value for companies
It has now been proven that diversity has a positive influence on the success, competitiveness and attractiveness of organizations. However, how exactly this knowledge can be implemented still poses a challenge for many. It is precisely for this reason that more and more companies are consulting external experts and consultants to learn how they can anchor diversity in their structures in order to be sustainable and to mobilize the potential of their employees in the best possible way.
Astrid G. Weinwurm-Wilhelm, organizational consultant and systemic coach, is one of these experts. As part of her leadership and team development training, the founder of the Blickweise consultancy focuses on diversity. Their innovative approach: game-based learning to break with rigid and often unconscious structures. In addition to this activity, Astrid G. Weinwurm-Wilhelm is President of Queer Business Women and Pride Biz Austria, associations for promoting the inclusion and visibility of sexual diversity in working life and in business.
Source & Copyright by Cynthia Fischer | Astrid G. Weinwurm-Wilhelm
In an interview, she reveals what role diversity plays for management today, how companies can holistically exploit their potential in the future and what parallels there are to dealing with sustainability.
What does diversity mean to you?
Diversity means diversity. And it is present - in society and in every organization. Diversity management means recognizing and appreciating this diversity and using people with their experiences and perspectives in such a way that their potential for good cooperation and the best possible output is used.
Why is diversity becoming more important for companies and brands?
We live in a fast moving time. Our networked world, social media and quick access to a wide variety of information increase the value of concrete and clear positioning in the competitive environment. Companies will only be able to open up new target groups and markets with the right approach: with the right language and imagery, which are used in appropriate channels to advertise products or services. Credibility is the top priority. Networking can quickly lead to companies being confronted with a shitstorm because of inappropriate messages and behavior.
If organizations see diversity as a value, different perspectives can flow into corporate or product communication so that such situations can be avoided.
Can diversity management and HR management be separated from each other these days?
no And even more specifically: Today, corporate management has to think about diversity in all areas. Think of the mindsets of Gen Z or Millennials. They have different expectations than previous generations - and communicate them differently. more offensive. This means that younger generations expect diversity orientation and the opportunity to proactively help shape the structures of the organization.
As employers, we need to be more flexible in what we offer. This is the only way we can position ourselves as attractive in the war for talent. And that is currently more important than ever: the long-predicted shortage of skilled workers has hit us with full force.
What measures, goals and practices does diversity management promote?
Diversity management is a complex field. Whether ethnicity, generation management, inclusion of people with disabilities, sexual orientation, gender diversity & gender or religion & worldview - diversity has many dimensions that can be addressed by diversity management. And should.
To do this, companies must start with a clear commitment on the part of management. From here, diversity management measures can be anchored in the various core dimensions - specifically, but also comprehensively and interlockingly. Depending on where there is the greatest need for action, companies start measures in one or more dimensions in parallel. Every measure in every dimension should contribute to developing a working atmosphere of appreciation. And inspire people to contribute their potential for common goals.
This ranges from equal opportunities for everyone to the possibility of being visible and out as an LGBTIQ+ person to inclusive language in words and pictures. Also: Active commitment to employ people with different physical and mental abilities in the best possible way.
Is diversity a prerequisite for success in leadership?
Can we even call leadership leadership if diversity is ignored? I think that's no longer possible. If managers recruit exclusively according to the "mini-me" principle, then the different perspectives and attitudes that exist in our society are missing.
Of course, leadership is much easier when everyone ticks the same way: no discussions, no friction, no disagreements. However, I doubt whether the best result will be achieved and whether the target groups on the market will be addressed.
What is the biggest challenge for companies that want to implement diversity?
In my experience the start. Companies have to ask themselves what problems they have, where to start and how to deal with different expectations. I therefore recommend one thing to my customers: Just start - of course not completely unprepared. But every (well thought out) first step is a start. And sketching the implementation process from alpha to omega on paper doesn't work anyway.
As soon as some initiatives are up and running, a moment of consolidation is often needed. That is the second big challenge: consolidate many small impulses or measures so that they are strategically embedded and can thus unfold their effect.
Do you see certain parallels between dealing with sustainability and diversity?
Yes. Both topics are very complex and cannot be dealt with "on the side". A lot has happened here in the last 10 years: those responsible for diversity, who were previously only included in organizational plans as an appendage of CSR or HR, are finally being recognized as having the necessary relevance. From my observation, however, there is still a lack of personnel and budgetary resources for these responsibilities. Only with these could the importance of the areas also be reflected in their ability to implement the currently pending tasks.
What is woke or pink washing?
Wokewashing and pinkwashing each refer to "whitewashing"—first, to claiming to be working for social justice; second, to an alleged commitment to the LGBTIQ+ community. So the community of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, inter or queer.
As already mentioned, in my opinion, our networked world is playing into our hands here. People recognize discriminatory behavior, whitewashing or pandering campaigns. And address them on all available social media. Image damage of this kind is difficult to get rid of: the Internet never forgets. When populist slogans or messages are used to position oneself with a specific group, another group is shown where they stand at the same time. However, we mostly experience this in political communication, less so in the private sector.
How will the topic of diversity or diversity management develop in the future?
My hope: soon we won't have to deal with the topic anymore. And that's because it will go without saying that management only works with diversity management. After all, we carry all dimensions of diversity within us:
- Ethnic affiliation (even if it is that of the majority society)
- Age (every age is affected by certain discrimination tendencies)
- Mental as well as physical abilities
- Sexual orientation (even if we are heterosexual or asexual)
- Rituals and traditions (even if they don't necessarily have a religious background)
Only if companies approach these dimensions intersectionally and look at people holistically can management succeed today.
Do you still have something relevant on your mind?
I have been volunteering for LGBTIQ+ diversity in business and working life, with Pride Biz Austria and Queer Business Women for more than 10 years. And in my counseling practice, too, I see that sexual orientation is still misunderstood as a private matter. Not to mention that it is largely unknown that there are more than the two poles of male and female.
To change this, I like to take a playful approach. One of my favorite thought experiments: "Imagine that you're straight and you don't want anyone to know about it. What do you talk about in the coffee kitchen on Monday morning? Who did you spend the holiday with? It quickly becomes clear that it is not about sexual acts – they are actually a private matter. It's about sexual orientation as part of our personality, which cannot simply be left at the company door.
It's important to me that people understand that. That they see how important it is to get involved in the job with their entire personality in order to exploit their potential. The sense of belonging is more important than ever because only then can we perform well. And that is of great relevance for both employees and companies.