We spoke to Ursula Schwarzenbart, Head of Talent Development and Global Diversity Office, about the many facets of justice at Daimler and beyond the corporate boundaries.
Ursula Schwarzenbart established the Global Diversity Office at Daimler in 2005. In this role she has been responsible for the multi-faceted, worldwide diversity activities. Alongside this function, Ursula Schwarzenbart has furthered corporation-wide talent management since 2010 and is engaged in human resource development topics for Leadership 2020 – tasks she greatly enjoys, and which she thinks go particularly well with diversity management.
Ms. Schwarzenbart, in your role as the Chief Diversity Officer, your remit is to encourage diversity within the corporation. What does justice mean to you personally?
Justice is a many-faceted term – especially when we are talking about social justice. Because it is not always so easy to answer the basic question of what is fair and just. Perhaps that is precisely why the subject is so omnipresent in society. This might be a straightforward comparison of salaries, but it can also arise when we watch the evening news on TV, see reports on crisis situations that arouse sympathy and think "that's really unjust". Many questions relating to justice can only be answered personally – what one person perceives as unfair can be seen quite differently by another.
What does this mean for your own understanding of justice?
Social justice gives rise to many questions that are looking for answers. We need to find these answers, as individuals, as a company and as a society. Otherwise we will also be unable to answer urgent questions concerning the future. For example, how do we create fair educational opportunities for our children? However, we also need a clear and common understanding of justice as a company. It regulates our day-to-day activities, whether it is a matter of a level playing field for men and women seeking management positions, or fair and equitable vacation planning in a team.
Why are the urgent questions surrounding social justice so important to Daimler?
Because as a major corporation, we are also part of society. We reflect the current trends in this society. However, there is another very decisive aspect to this: We are in a position to enliven and encourage public discussion on various topics, and get something moving – for more social justice.
When does social justice become especially relevant for Daimler?
Social justice is always of great relevance to us. I believe that social justice is the glue that holds this corporation together. This is why it is important for our company to take a clear attitude - in negotiation rounds with employee representatives, with a fair salary structure, in management matters, in diversity and inclusion, the work-family balance and much more.
How are social justice and attractiveness as an employer connected?
Naturally everybody is proud to be working for a company that produces superb products and is commercially successful. But more is needed to make people enjoy going to work: We want our personnel to feel individually appreciated, and see themselves as part of a team. These are aspects we have addressed with Leadership 2020, and they go hand in hand with social justice.
Daimler has the aim of occupying 20 percent of its leading management positions with women by 2020. Is a quota like this fair and just?
Our 20-percent target is one of many tools we have ongoing at Daimler. We use these tools to achieve certain goals, in this case more women in management positions. This goal is of great importance for Daimler's success, because we need different perspectives to bring innovative products and services to market. This diversity in the workforce, i.e. men, women, people from different origins and of different ages, is the basis for rethinking mobility into the future.
What can you cite as a good example at Daimler of how justice might look in day-to-day business practice?
I remember a time when status – and status symbols – played a very important role not only in society, but also here. Today I can see that we have changed a great deal in this respect. We are all working towards the same goal, which is to successfully shape the future with Daimler without distinguishing features exerting an influence.
What do you say to the gender pay gap?
There is no pay gap at Daimler: our evaluations have shown that the salary structure for men and women is absolutely comparable. We regularly put our salary matrix under the microscope and have only been able to identify marginal differences in the last years. These differences derive from the amount of time an employee is active in their role and how the previous career path has been shaped. Nonetheless, we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent and stay focused.
How do you perceive the social change when it comes to reconciling working and family life, and the contribution you can make to a fair division of tasks in the family?
Naturally every family must assess the fair division of tasks for itself. What I can say is that over a period of more than twelve years, I really have observed a major change. With our nurseries we have contributed to fathers and mothers being able to stay dedicated professionals and children are naturally a part of life. There are many fathers in our locations who are proud to take their children to the nursery or share this “parent-job”. Moreover, flexible working hours have long been a common practice, and more and more positions are occupied on a job-sharing basis. This shows me that we are on the right track.
What form can the fair management and recruitment of young talent take?
Naturally we ensure equality of opportunity. All in all, it is all about finding the best minds and characters with the wide variety of skills that we need. In the end, everybody who has sent us a job application and is rejected in some way feels unjustly treated. But as a company we take care to weigh a person’s skills against those of other applicants. That is why it is difficult to individually perceive the selection process as fair. It is always a competition. What is important is to give fair and just feedback.