Between Wishes and Reality: Digitalization and Diversity in Companies

How is diversity experienced in German companies? And what impact does this have on digitization and future viability? Global Digital Women (GDW) and the University of Flensburg have investigated these questions together in a large study. Here are some of the most important findings

1. Companies with a high proportion of women in management positions are more strongly pushing diversity and digitalization forward

Specifically, with a higher proportion of women in management positions, more emphasis is placed on diversity in terms of ethnic origin, gender, and age. In addition, companies with a higher proportion of women in management positions seem to have a clearer lead over their competitors in issues related to digitalization. 

2. Women clearly recognize the importance and potential of digitalization

In addition to the development of new technologies, digitalization also involves a change in communication and new occupational fields. These go hand in hand with improved opportunities for women to achieve self-fulfilment and increased career opportunities.

3. Corporations are ahead in diversity and digitalization

In large companies, career advancement of women and the strengthening of female role models naturally play a more important role. Moreover, female employees in corporations seem to be much more convinced that their company is investing sufficient resources in digitalization.

4. There is a gap between desire and reality regarding diversity

In the study, employees were asked about the relevance of individual aspects of diversity and the importance that their companies attach to these aspects. The largest gap is in gender diversity, which 66% of employees think is important (companies: 29%), followed by ethnic diversity with 46% (companies: 25%) and age diversity with 45% (companies: 28%). 

5. The importance of women’s advancement, the proportion of women in management positions, and role models are underestimated

Here, too, wishes and reality diverge: 75% of the study’s participants find measures to promote women’s careers important, but only 30% believe that this is what distinguishes their company. The same applies to women in management positions; 43% think that a high proportion is important, and only 22% think that this is the case in their companies. The importance of role models is also underestimated at 38% (employees) and 25% (companies).

6. For women over 45, role models are particularly important

It is particularly noteworthy that older employees over 45 attach more importance to visible female role models than younger women (under 30).

7. Internal development programs are the key to greater diversity and more women in leadership positions

Female participants in the study are primarily interested in better reconciling family and career. They are also interested in internal mentoring and support programs in which women can better support and exchange ideas. This is particularly important to strengthen women in the male-dominated corporate world and to dissolve limiting beliefs.

Conclusion: What do companies have to do?

1. Critically question practices

As a first step, it is advisable to assess the current situation with regard to digitalization and diversity. Important questions are: What is important to our (future) employees and how do they perceive the company

2. Identify potential

What needs to be done, what measures need to be taken? And: How can employees be involved, because participation is an important driver in these transformation processes

3. Authentic employer branding

Employer branding is only credible if it covers both internal and external perspectives.

4. Strengthening female role models

Making women visible has a particularly high priority. This applies, above all, to digital and IT-related companies. 

Read the full study (in German) here.


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