Diversity Manager of the Month: Elke Heitmüller, Volkswagen AG

Each month we nominate a diversity manager who has impressed us with his or her commitment. Our September pick is Elke Heitmüller, head of diversity at Volkswagen AG

Why does every modern company need a diversity manager?
In a perfect company, diversity would be in the DNA of every process, structure, and thought. But nothing is perfect! Therefore, and because diversity is so important for the success of every company, having a diversity manager is vital. A diversity manager empowers diversity within the company and is an ambassador who puts ideas into action in every aspect of the business area. This role focuses on helping the company to achieve a higher degree of diversity in the workplace and promotes an open, positive, and co-operative culture.

What are the best measures for more diversity?
At Volkswagen, we set ourselves a diversity KPI to focus on specific dimensions of diversity. We’re looking at gender and internationality right now. Maybe in a few years we will add or switch dimensions, it depends on what we think is necessary for us to focus on. The aim is to foster a culture that is psychologically safe for each and every employee in the company. Leaders act as role models by bringing about awareness and discussing unconscious biases. In the end, diversity is not necessarily what you see at the surface – such as age, gender, skin color, etc. – but what you do not see, which is a big part of one’s personality: needs, feelings, and thoughts.

What would you like to tell the world about your company and its diversity?
In our togetherness at Volkswagen Group we focus on openness in teams and respect for one’s individual identity. Diversity and inclusion is a commitment and a cultural change which is a slow but sure process. We realize that everyone has a different perspective and values that drive where they come from. And it is in this difference that we can be more innovative and successful as a company.

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