At our second Let’s Talk Conversations: Diversity & Inclusion event we had three amazing speakers talk to us about their experiences on Diversity and Inclusion. Below a summary of the conversation, some of our guest’s wisdom and their stories.
Overview of the Speakers:
Geraldine Freeman started her working career in Düsseldorf and has worked for Johnson & Johnson since 2000, working in Germany, Ireland and Belgium. She currently holds the position of Commercial Director & General Manager Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health Benelux and is also a Board Member of the Consumer Health Organisation in Belgium.
Birgit Bassarak currently holds the position of Global Head of Learning at Siemens Healthineers AG. She was born and raised in Dusseldorf and has also lived in Zurich, Barcelona and Munich. Birgit has over 22 years of experience in the area of employee learning & development and has worked for several large corporates including Deutsche Bank, Zurich Insurance Group, Siemens and Deloitte.
Since 2018, Eva Leihener-Stefan has held the position of CEO at LOGOCOS AG (natural certified cosmetics acquisition of L’OREAL). She has over 23 years experience working with L’OREAL in Paris, Düsseldorf & Melbourne and also spent 2 years on sabbatical in Beijing, China.
Question: Why is Diversity and Inclusion Important to You?
Birgit: Getting the best of the best and benefiting from all perspectives is why D&I is essential in organisations.
Geraldine: My international affair started as a teenager and it has allowed my most enriching experiences.
Eva: I am married to international differences! Munich and Vienna are close geographically but very different! The international mindset at work and home is important. I recognise that each time I move, I need to unlearn in new countries.
Question: What does Diversity mean?
Geraldine: Diversity should mean representation. The world is diverse and complex. We have to reflect on the real world or we won’t solve real-world problems. Can be strategic but it needs to represent.
Birgit: I totally agree! It is about providing space for people and their differences. Respect is important. Diversity targets and goals are good but it needs to be everyone’s responsibility. I am, as a leader, responsible. Not just the person with the D&I hat on in the company.
Eva: We can’t just talk about diversity. It must be about inclusion too. Black Lives Matter, for example, is a big thing but we must also include everyday small things. Inclusion must be linked back to diversity.
Questions: What does being an Expat bring to the table?
Birigit: We must use talent better. We can look at partner profiles and help them move. Agile working models and using them in the workforce is an opportunity. There is a war for talent and we need to use these women.
Eva: It comes down to the person. It can be hard and missing your network doesn’t help, especially now with home office. But use that freedom! Do something you have always wanted to do!
“It’s your own motivation and iwibdus have been great to help this!”
Geraldine: In international companies, we look to address areas in populations that we have not tapped into. We need to be more proactive in helping find them.
Question: What happens when you are the only woman in the room?
Birgit: I look for integration and involve and connect with people. I tell myself:
“I know what I know. I cam capable, that’s why I am here”
Eva: at points, I was the only Non-French person at the table. I would feel like a child. Listen and try to join in the conversation. Show your interest. Offer personal exposure and you need to be involved.
Learn German – it really helps!
Geraldine: Get to know the natives! Make friends. The difference in experience in learning the language is huge.
When you learn a language, you gain a soul.
Quick Fire Round
Inclusion means to me:
- A sense of belonging
- Create space for differences
- Respect for differences
My biggest learning working with diverse teams is…..
- Everybody Wins
- Enriching better results
- Constantly reflect unconscious bias
Women helping women is important because….
- Together we are better
- We can inspire each other
- We provide platforms for shy women
As a leading woman I have learned, always…
- Always be confident about myself
- Be firm, fair and kind
- Admit to my mistakes
My final message for this audience tonight is…
- Be curious. Use your time abroad well
- Find Your Community
- Drive your own experiences.
Thank you so much for all your answers. We loved having you at the event. See you next time.
Our final word goes to Geraldine: