Kira Kern, Head of Human Resources & Legal, provides insights into the status quo of diversity efforts. She highlights challenges as well as levers within Techem’s overall social responsibility.

Kira, how important are diversity and inclusion for Techem?

Techem works with over 4,000 people worldwide to drive the global issue of climate protection in buildings. The associated changes require innovation and out-of-the-box thinking – we can only do that with a diverse workforce. Techem has the opportunity to have an impact on society as a whole. Not only in terms of climate protection, but also in terms of diversity and inclusion.  

If we can all collectively adopt a diverse and inclusive attitude, it will have a positive impact on society because this understanding and the resulting behavior will carry into private life and not be brushed off at the office door."

How diverse is the workforce at Techem already today?

Ultimately, our workforce reflects the mood of society. I have been part of the Techem team for nearly twenty years and have witnessed the process of change in society as a whole over the past decades. Particularly when it comes to diversity, we can observe an enormous change: On the one hand, this is expressed in numbers. Nearly half of our workforce is now female - in view of the industry and our technical environment, this is a great success. On the other hand, it is reflected in the openness of management and employees. At Techem, cultural diversity is highly appreciated. A recent survey on diversity and inclusion confirmed this. But, of course, there is still a great need for action in some areas with regard to the many aspects of diversity."

In the percentage of women in management positions, for example?

„Unfortunately the equal distribution between women and men is not yet reflected in the filling of management positions. At this level, Techem is still clearly too male-dominated. It is therefore important to actively promote women at the earliest possible stage and encourage them on their way. This is a process and will not happen overnight. However, we have set ourselves the clear goal of significantly increasing the proportion of women in management positions - for example, we want to fill 35 percent of our Group-wide management positions with women by 2025. Thanks to targeted support, almost half of our young talent development program is currently staffed by women. Now it’s time to keep at it!"

So a lot has already been done! Are there other areas of action where Techem is already taking countermeasures?

Yes, other dimensions of diversity are just as important, of course. Our everyday life is often still too focused on the majority society and not inclusive enough. It starts in the communal kitchen: Cups and glasses are on the top shelves or doors don’t open automatically. For people with physical disabilities, this is an everyday problem of discrimination. That’s why we are using current renovations to improve accessibility in buildings wherever possible. We want to understand the needs of people with disabilities even better in the future. Other diverse groups of people have also received too little visibility in the company to date. By forming networks such as an LGBTQ community and events for exchange between the groups, we want to strengthen self-awareness and better meet their needs in the future."

Discrimination within companies is getting a lot more attention these days. How do you deal with misconduct at Techem?

Unfortunately, discriminatory behavior and undesirable comments can also be observed at Techem. Therefore, we need to sensitize all employees and encourage them to reflect on their own behavior. This is the only way to bring about changes in our common culture and attitude. For a working environment in which everyone feels comfortable, the motto should be: 'Zero tolerance' towards inappropriate misconduct. On the one hand, this must be followed by appropriate consequences. On the other, we want to create a climate in which it is easy and natural to report these grievances. To this end, we want to further strengthen and expand our reporting channels."

How do we ensure that long-term rethinking takes place and that everything does not return back to the old way the day after tomorrow?

Above all, continuity is important. We must constantly evaluate where there is a need for action and reassess our approaches. Today, our focus is on women in management positions; in five years, completely different topics could be relevant. Basically, it is extremely important to keep awareness high in the minds of the entire workforce, to listen and to remain active in the exchange. Following a diversity training course that was mandatory for all employees at Techem Germany, we have just experienced that the discussion about the relevance and content has had a huge impact on how people think - especially because not all voices were positive. Controversy is worth its weight in gold. As an organization, we gained just as much insight through targeted in-depth interviews and group discussions. I experience a great deal of openness in the company and believe that achieving our aspirations should be as diverse as the term implies. I therefore call on people to be courageous and to keep trying out new formats."