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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Helping to build a better society

The forumWHU congress – Responsible Business

The theme for this year's forumWHU student congress, which took place on November 18-19, was "BRAVE NEW WORK – be committed, work flexible". Topics such as future working practices, growing mobility, digital networking, demographic change and labor migration were addressed in a wide variety of workshops, lectures and presentations, as well as a plenary discussion. The Federal Minister of Family Affairs, Kristina Schröder, was kind enough to act as forum patron.

In his welcoming address, Professor Michael Frenkel, Dean of WHU, emphasized that students need to think outside the box and look beyond their individual specialties – and that the forumWHU congress offered a perfect opportunity to do so. "The tight synergies between business, society and politics are a key issue for business schools in particular, because they must face up to social changes and challenges in their efforts to help build a better society in the future."

Once again, the conference demonstrated its value as a platform for debating contemporary issues, involving students, academics and high-profile representatives from major corporates and specialist institutions. In particular, forum delegates acknowledged that the appointment of more women to senior management positions is becoming an economic necessity.

In his address, the CEO of RWE Deutschland AG, Dr. Arndt Neuhaus, pointed out that in the near future, demographic change would effectively force companies to employ suitably qualified staff irrespective of age, gender or ethnicity.

Birgit Ossendorf-Will, head of the Change & Culture Management group at Deutsche Telekom AG, reinforced the point, highlighting the benefits of diversity in achieving corporate success. She told listeners that Telekom was one of the first DAX-listed companies to introduce a quota for female employees, because mixed-gender teams are more productive: "It's a powerful combination."

This finding was corroborated by Fritz Müller, CEO of Hesse-based health insurer AOK, who encouraged organizations to make the most of women's leadership potential. On the basis of his own experience, he was entirely in agreement with Roland Berger's view that male potential has been exploited to the full, whereas businesses have scarcely scratched the surface of what women have to offer.

The many presentations and discussions repeatedly highlighted the fact that modern working practices are undergoing a profound transformation, driven by unprecedented globalization and an "always-on" attitude characterized by 24-hour availability. According to Dr. Ulrich Walwei, Deputy Director of the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), the only viable response is to focus on ongoing personal development and skills acquisition: "Qualifications are absolutely indispensable."

This year's student congress focused on the multifarious aspects of tomorrow’s working world, providing participants with a host of stimulating ideas for planning their lives and careers.