Diversity Day Special
Our host Mark Felstead marks World Diversity Day (18 May) with a session involving a trio of Berlin’s leading supporters of diversity and all its glorious colours.
Although the image of diversity is seemingly bright for Berlin, there is a dark cloud threatening the rainbow, Mark notes.
Guests for this second episode of BAB Series 3 are Irene Wolters from the AXICA, Gregor Blach CEO from We-Do communication agency and Philip Ibrahim, MD of The Student Hotel Berlin, host venue of the podcast this time round.
Irene (pictured left) dreams of travelling the world and visiting her Asian roots, but has made her home in Berlin; Gregor is a Frankfurter (with a mix of rusty Scottish!) whose heart is now firmly in Berlin, and Philip is a Berliner who represents the second most ethnic group in the city – the Swabians.
Gregor (pictured below) has been recognised for promoting LBGTIQ themes in business and taking a stand for visibility and describes what it meant being voted one of the top 100 “Out” CEO executives in German business in 2019.
Philip (main photo), who’s father came from Ethiopia, was one of the co-founders in 2008 of the ‘Pink Pillow’ hotel initiative to promote a group of Berlin’s hotels to the LBGIQ community.
Gregor gives his end of term mark for the city, with a warning, however: “Berlin, good so far but could do better…” He agrees with Mark that there is much progress to relate but says there is plenty of work still to do with 560 homophobic and transphobic attacks reported in the city in 2019. “Diversity is challenge for all of us to work on everyday. We haven’t achieved enough,” says Gregor and suggests every company needs to act and do something in their own field and surroundings. His agency, he says, has developed a three-week agenda for activities to mark Diversity Day, including inviting speakings and internal training. “It’s about communication and finding understanding and knowledge, but there is a long way to go,” says Gregor.
‘Meet them where they stand’ is a principle Philip espouses for a positive approach to diversity and describes the importance of choosing the right words.
Irene adds that diversity means accountability and dialogue for her. “You need to commit and be intentional. It’s not enough to compose a diverse team just for the sake of it. That just scratches the surface,” she says, noting that her team had signed a charter of diversity. “By signing a certificate you assume commitment to remove barriers that prohibit inclusion,” she says, adding that leaders can do a lot to create ‘psychological’ safety for their employees and that creating a safe environment is a real step forward.
Gregor sets out six key dimensions of diversity and says it is important not to overlook some of these individual strands of diversity, which he lists as gender, ethnicity, age, physical and mental ability and sexual orientation. “We have to face all these dimensions in diversity,” he says.
Irene talks about the power of co-workers to help each other settle in unfamiliar environments and new countries. She tells the story of a gala dinner for an incentives group from southeast Asia in the convention centre where she worked in the Middle East. One of the main courses was lobster. The organiser asked for a whole lobster, head to tail rather than the beautifully plated arrangement. There was no criticism of the chef’s approach, rather a desire to imbue the dish with cultural meaning – the whole lobster standing as a simile to the company’s holistic approach to business from beginning to end. Understanding that cultural element was part of the effective translation and, with roots in Asia, Irene says she felt she was able to bridge translation gap for cross-cultural communication.
Mark makes a round-up with the speaker team to tease out some fascinating stats at the end to provide final diversity of dessert food for thought.
Joining Mash Media and AXICA Berlin as sponsors of BAB Series 3 is www.kopus.com