Exciting panel discussion „Diversity – From ideal to reality“

Around 60 external and internal guests came together at RBI in mid-May under the motto "Diversität – vom Wunsch nach Vielfalt zur Realität in der Umsetzung“. As part of the "Diversity 2020" initiative, RBI and ABZ invited to this exciting evening.
Fotocredit: © GMR Photography & Film - Johanna Jicha​In her introductory words, Andrea Sihn-Weber, Head of Group Sustainability Management RBI, pointed out that diversity management is of increasing importance. Reasons for that are social changes such as the much-quoted shortage of skilled labour, the aging population, globalization and migration flows, digital transformation, demographic change or the war for talents. The EU Directive on Non-financial and Diversity Information, which has been in force since 2017 and requires banks, for example, to publish their diversity and set measures in the corporate governance report, is changing realities here. "Lived diversity does not just mean bringing more women into management, there are very different topics in diversity, and we want to enable women and men to adapt their working life models to their lives."

Fotocredit: © GMR Photography & Film - Johanna Jicha​Sita Mazumder, Professor of IT and Economics at Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, stated in her inspiring lecture: "The topic is huge and very multifaceted. If it were easy, we could solve it easier. It will not be easily solved on its own either." Humans were a pure production factor for a long time and later a cost factor. Today value management is required. This is quite another concept and requires a changed culture and new management approaches. We live in a world of potential and lived diversity correlates with innovation. "We all want diversity. I do not know any company that says they do not want that. But then it should not be too different from what you do and think yourself. This is a human reaction and very often head and heart or stomach divide. That is a field of tension." Diversity management is not a cost factor, but, if well managed, an investment factor.
Not only the female shift, but also the fact that meanwhile five generations with sometimes very different values and demands on the world of work, are challenging companies. From the baby boomers, the "family breadwinners", to the generation of "good malleable keychildren", people with pronounced self-confidence and clearly defined requirements for working hours and place models have now entered the labour market.
Women are yet classified between the clichés of the raven mother and the career woman. Also, horizontal applications tend to be more common among women and strategic vertical ones among men. Thus, women have to come out of their comfort zone: "Approach the subject with an open heart and good understanding. Talking about it is good and important, but you must do it, you must have the courage. It's a 'Change', but 'Life' is a 'Change'. Then 1 + 1 is no longer 0, but 1 + 1 = 3 !", the scientist made clear.
Fotocredit: © GMR Photography & Film - Johanna Jicha​The followed panel discussion was moderated by Edith Unger, editor-in-chief of the Raiffeisenzeitung – personal interest in the topic was immediately felt. "Lived diversity makes our lives and working environments more diverse and interesting. Many studies show that diversity enhances creativity and encourages innovation. Diversity is a personal asset and a competitive advantage for companies. But how does the implementation work?". This question accompanied the whole podium discussion.



Fotocredit: © GMR Photography & Film - Johanna Jicha​Christian Friesl, Head of Education & Society in the Federation of Austrian Industry, saw changes in the values of the population. But these are not clearly distinguishable by generations. By contrast, the value of work per se is decreasing and leisure time is gaining importance – driven by younger generations but affecting all age groups.




Fotocredit: © GMR Photography & Film - Johanna Jicha​Petra Pointinger, Head of HR Austria RBI, shared that view: "It's not just young people looking for purpose and tasks, people want to understand which companies they work for and what their values are. What is the aim of the company?". Flexible working hours, home office options, etc. – all of these are proactively requested by young employees and RBI meets this challenge. Some have been offered for a long time. RBI has been actively involved in the “Diversity 2020” initiative for many years, focusing on women empowerment, inclusion of people with disabilities and raising awareness of the dimension of sexual orientation.


Fotocredit: © GMR Photography & Film - Johanna Jicha​Doris Partel-Niederreiter, who as CFO of Raiffeisen Informatik has managed to make a career as a woman at RBI, was convinced that socialization by strong women had shaped her. "You need a goal in mind, an internal drive to fight for something with lifeblood and passion. I was always more oriented to the content than to the function. That has taken me bit by bit to where I am today. People who give opportunities to become visible and have trust in you are also important.", the expert knew from her own experience. She was convinced that she could contribute new perspectives. Women need more networking, but these in a strategic way. We need positive role models and a lot of self-confidence. That's why she has talked to female teenagers during this year's Daughter's Day and felt how important it is to take time if you want to change something.

Fotocredit: © GMR Photography & Film - Johanna Jicha​Wolfgang Spreicer, head of the software development department at the Vienna University of Technology, reported that it was a matter of course for him to take use of paternity leave: "Why does 'man' make paternity leave? Clearly, to spend time with the children and to have some equal partnership. I'm not the super-role model, but it did bring a lot to me personally. After all, parental leave is not the challenge, in my experience. During it, one parent is at home and can take care of the child. It becomes difficult when both go back to work.”



Fotocredit: © GMR Photography & Film - Johanna Jicha​Manuela Vollmann, Managing Director at ABZ AUSTRIA, also stated the care of elderly relatives as a topic of the future with challenges similar to parental leave. She added: "I always see an opportunity in terms of digitalization and artificial intelligence too. These are huge drivers and at the same time difficult stories. It is important to combine technical innovations with corporative needs and social innovation. It is still the people who have to deal with it, they should shape it with their diversity."

Christian Friesl recognized slow progress in lived inclusion, also associated with cultural stereotypes. He stated: "Diversity is a political concept that deals with individual and socially structural dimensions of difference. Diversity means the recognition of being different, and here we are less concerned with work organization, but more with ethics and with the question: ‘Are we able to recognize and appreciate being different?’ If this is not done, it will be difficult doing business in the companies."

Sita Mazumder agreed. She spoke of a cultural change in companies: "Cultural change is a Herculean task. Culture is very value and people oriented. Cultural change can take place in two major ways: ‘There is the slow way, in which I look at individual processes and programs. Courage is needed for the cultural shock and it must be quick in crisis situations.’" Companies must then deal with their goals and values and involve each department in the process.

It was visible that a lot is happening, but there is more to do. Diversity and inclusion exist to enable innovation and the future – companies cannot ignore it. That was also subject of the final networking discussions, as one participant commented: "The lecture and the discussion were extremely exciting, interesting and enlightening. From my point of view, the panel discussion could have taken longer."