Interview with Kathrin Menges, Chief Human Resources Officer at Henkel
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Bringing more women into managerial positions
Question: Kathrin Menges, today the chief human resources officers of the 30 DAX companies presented their specific goals and measures for bringing more women into managerial positions. The companies committed to increasing the proportion of female managers in the next few years and underlined their commitment to equality of opportunity between the genders. Henkel also signed this voluntary commitment – why is that?
Kathrin Menges: In our diversity management activities, i.e. those measures aligned to promoting heterogeneity in the company, we at Henkel focus primarily on the issues of gender, nationality and age. Increasing the proportion of females in managerial positions has long been one of our stand-out priorities. And we have made great progress in this regard over the years. Since 2005, the proportion of women in managerial positions – at Henkel these involve all non-pay-scale employees – has risen by around one percentage point each year and now stands at almost 30 percent. Consequently, our support for this initiative is no more than a logical continuation of an established commitment. Our joint approach is to rely on voluntary participation as the most valid and sustainable route. Our aim for the future is to actually step up and expand our efforts in fostering the promotion of women in managerial positions. Hence we intend to increase the annual rate of growth across the Group: from one percentage point to an average of up to two percentage points.
Question: You have committed to increasing the proportion of females in managerial positions, yet avoid citing a specific target figure. How does that fit together?
Kathrin Menges: As I say, we have long been committed to increasing the proportion of women managers at Henkel. Already today, we occupy a leading position among DAX companies and intend to further improve on this standing. Our goals are ambitious and specific, as I would like to illustrate from the following example: Starting from the current proportion of females in managerial positions of 30 percent, and assuming an annual growth rate averaging 1.5 percentage points, in seven years – that is to say by 2018 – that figure will have risen to around 40 percent. And that again would put us in the leading group of DAX companies. We are not interested in establishing a fixed quota but rather in opening the way for more women to occupy top positions in the company. Having rigid quotas is not the solution. Each time Henkel recruits, it has to be on the basis of finding the candidates best suited to the vacancy. The final decision must be based on competence and ability, irrespective of gender, age or nationality.
Question: With what concrete measures, then, do you intend to achieve your objectives?
Kathrin Menges: These differ for various areas of the company and comprise both quantitative and qualitative targets. Together with our Diversity Management, the business sectors and the corporate functions, we have identified three main levers: The first involves the proportion of female applicants that we are able to attract as new hirees and candidates for promotion; secondly we need modern worktime models that offer women and families more flexibility; and thirdly, special career development plans tailored to women’s needs.
For example, when considering promotion or candidates for managerial positions, we endeavor to ensure that at least one of the last three applicants on the shortlist is a woman. We will also be further developing our range of offerings aligned to improving the reconcilability of family and a career. This also means improving childcare provision where state institutions are unable to cope. We likewise want to move away from the office-based culture, as the requirement to be physically present at a central work location places particular demands on women and families.