Diversity is something positive! A climate characterized by openness, diversity and equal opportunities is extremely important to WHU. Part of this mindset is the student initiative "Diversity at WHU". Five questions to Chairman Jan Walsken:
1. How did your initiative come about? Who can get involved with you?
We founded the initiative in 2015, on the one hand out of our experience that, for example, diversity groups in the US were an open meeting point for all students and always contributed to the exchange between people who would otherwise not talk in normal everyday life. On the other hand, from the very beginning, we were also keen to actively support LGBT and diversity-related topics on campus. Many female students, as well as many LGBT students, do not have a direct contact person at WHU, or they may have difficulties finding their peer group.
With more than 30 active participants and great support from the faculty, the administration and of course the alumni network, we have created an intermediary for informal exchange. For example, students can exchange ideas with other women in management positions or where, as LGBT students, they can exchange ideas with young professionals about how they deal with their sexual identity in their daily work.
2. How do you contribute to the topic of diversity at WHU?
We can proudly say that we have given strong impetus to the topic of diversity at WHU. From the outset, our goal was to develop accurate and fact-based proposals to solve problems such as the low proportion of women or homophobia. We want to contribute to achieving the university's goal of being pluralistic and cosmopolitan even better. We focus mainly on presence, interaction and causal problem solving, and not on formal regulations such as quotas or prohibitions.
We also offer many informal events, such as get-togethers in various cities, get-togethers in Vallendar and, of course, the WHU Diversity Day, where we work with companies to highlight management aspects of diversity.
3. What does "Inclusion of diversity in working life" mean to you?
Inclusion, first of all, suggests that you don't exclude anyone, but include them in a community. But we are convinced that without adequate differentiation this will only lead to assimilation if not every person is considered as a whole. This includes factors such as gender, sexual identity, and ethnicity.
You often hear statements like: "I don't care if someone is dark-skinned, gay or a woman, all I care about is that I can work well with that person." That's the wrong approach because it neglects a small part of the person's identity, which is part of the overall picture.
The right approach in the company would be to pay close attention to the fact that, for example, a dark-skinned person finds a peer group in which he or she has contact persons who can react with empathy and the right means to racist experiences with customers or colleagues (almost half of all dark-skinned Americans have stated that they have experienced discrimination based on their skin colour in their working life). A company should not send a homosexual employee to a customer in a country where homosexuals face the death penalty (homosexual partnerships are still criminalized in 72 countries worldwide). And last but not least, of course, the topic that women still have it harder than men to be accepted into management positions, which can be seen from the number of women on German DAX supervisory boards.
As you can see, these are all topics that do not affect everyone and are therefore not always at the top of the agenda, which makes them no less important. Ultimately, it's also a question of corporate strategy whether you really want to be overtaken by competitors in the race for top employees because you don't want to respond to the individual needs of your employees.
4. How important are corporate cooperations for you?
In contrast to many other initiatives at WHU, we are not dependent on financial sponsoring, but want to offer companies a platform to present their solutions to the problems mentioned above. In this way, we can prove that diversity management is not only a social or ethical issue, but also a strategic one.
Cooperation is therefore particularly important for us in which companies (such as McKinsey, EY, Oliver Wyman or Axel Springer) present their approaches, such as on WHU Diversity Day, which is open to every member of the WHU community, but also create tailored offerings such as specifically for women or LGBTs to create the right framework for questions and needs. We explicitly support these latter events because we are convinced that they are the right ones to address sensitive issues, such as how women can cope better in male-dominated industries, or whether LGBTs can talk openly about their partnership without fear of discrimination. These are topics that are simply not of interest to everyone at regular corporate events, or where the inhibition threshold is too high to talk about private matters.
5. What can participants expect at your third WHU Diversity Day on November 23?
To say it straight away: WHU Diversity Day is aimed at all members of the WHU community (from students and doctoral students to employees of the administration and faculty) and explicitly revolves around strategic corporate approaches to diversity - a topic for everyone involved in management.
Those who manage to register in time (FCFS, no CV screening, no participation fee) can enjoy workshops with Oliver Wyman, EY, Viessmann and Axel Springer, a panel discussion with Gregory Kochersperger (Senior Partner at Oliver Wyman), and a wine tasting.
The event starts at 3:30 pm on 23 November. Afterward, you did not only learn something about diversity, but probably also got to know new people at WHU with whom you wouldn't usually work in workshops.