A female manager explains something on a laptop to a female colleague at ZEISS SMT.

Diversity has become a buzzword these days. And quite rightly, because diversity opens the door to innovation and makes companies more successful in the process. This isn’t news. But why do some companies still have a hard time with diversity – and actually putting it into practice?

A ZEISS SMT employee holds up a lens and looks at it intently.

Diversity – an underestimated success factor

If you open your LinkedIn feed these days, you’ll quickly see that diversity is incredibly important for many companies. The same is true here in the ZEISS Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology (SMT) segment. And there’s good reason for this, because studies have shown that having diverse teams plays a role in a company’s success. According to an international analysis conducted by McKinsey in 2020, companies that are more gender diverse are 25 percent more likely to have “above-average profitability.” In a study conducted in 2021, the Page Group likewise found that diversity management has a positive impact on how the workforce perceives the company and on employer branding, both inside and outside the company. And the Charta der Vielfalt (Diversity Charter) is also actively working to advance diversity in the world of work, because diverse teams contribute to better solutions and more innovative products by integrating various perspectives, skills, and ways of thinking. This helps companies tap into new target groups and markets and ultimately compensate for the lack of skilled workers. It all makes sense, and yet companies – including those of us at SMT – are still just getting started in many ways.

Diversity is in the name

But diversity isn’t just about gender, of course. It also includes characteristics such as age, gender identity and sexual orientation, ethnic origin and nationality, religion or social background. Aspects like family status, income, professional experience and education are also diversity factors. Diversity can even be defined at the organizational level, for example, based on working location, management status or length of employment. All these aspects have an influence on our perceptions, opinions, and perspectives – and organizations can and should make use of this.

Female managers at ZEISS SMT are promoted through mentoring.

Quotas aren’t enough

An important – though not the only – aspect of diversity is equality between women and men. Women are still significantly underrepresented in management positions in Germany. In fact, the AllBright Foundation has found that Germany is trailing behind in international comparisons when it comes to the representation of women at managerial levels. The odd thing is, women make up more than 50 percent of the population – and even more than 50 percent of university graduates in Germany – according to the Women Leadership Network PANDA. How does this fit together?

In any case, even if a company has various characteristics, this isn’t enough to ensure a diverse working environment can be successful. For example, if the proportion of women in a company is higher than average at the management level as well, this might indicate that there is a high level of diversity in terms of gender. But if these women are not included in key decisions or are left out of crucial meetings, the corporate environment isn’t particularly inclusive.

With this in mind, a diverse company culture has to make inclusion – which means involving diverse people and their perspectives on an everyday basis – an active part of its business. And this doesn’t just require official rules or quotas but rather the participation of each individual employee. Are different perspectives taken into account, are other opinions and approaches considered, do we try different things and new things sometimes too? Are we actually already seeking diverse points of view? We can and should ask ourselves these questions every day if we want to use the diversity our company has to boost our success as a business.

Diverse team members make discussions at ZEISS SMT more valuable.

More than flags

At the same time, we know that simply talking about these matters is equally inadequate. “Pinkwashing” is a reproach that has frequently been levelled at some companies, mostly in the annual Pride month of June, and it’s true: Simply putting up a rainbow flag isn’t enough. If you want to talk about diversity, you have to take action on diversity. And not just in your communications, but in the company’s structures. And not just in June, but every day of every year. Only then will we be able to tap into the full potential that a colorful, diverse, bold and successful organization and society have to offer.

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Simply putting up a rainbow flag isn’t enough. If you want to talk about diversity, you have to take action on diversity.

Jeannine Rapp

Head of Communication and Implementation of Group Initiatives, SMT

Job sharing models and mentoring for women: SMT’s journey toward more diversity

Here at SMT, we too are just getting started with our efforts to make our company more diverse and inclusive. Diversity is a key component of our cultural development. As an international company, diversity is often an aspect that’s included as a matter of course. But we’re a mixed crowd in terms of characters, personalities and styles too – from extroverts to people with autism, our team is made up of very different individuals working on the technology of the future. This isn’t something you can put a quota on, but rather the nature of things when we’re looking to recruit the best minds.

But we are also seeing some things change: Not long ago, a group management position in production was advertised as a job share opportunity so two colleagues could share the role by working part time. Supporting different ways of life with different ways of working: This, too, is diversity.

SMT is also working on the topic of women in management positions, and we’ve launched a project that’s very important to us with the aim boosting their development, confidence and visibility. This project is a mentoring program that promotes female managers and talented young women who have yet to take on management responsibility. In the program, experienced executives coach managers, share their experiences and support their mentees’ personal and professional development by offering time, their own network and feedback. The goal is to draw attention to talented female individuals in our organization and drive their development – and help our leadership and company culture evolve in the process.

We’re moving in the right direction. But at the same time, we’re saying to ourselves – let’s be real, we’re only getting started. So, let’s talk about how we can promote diversity – but above all, let’s do something about it!

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Author Jeannine Rapp Head of Communication and Implementation of Group Initiatives, SMT

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