What drives you to aim for Diversity & Inclusion?
Regine: For Christi and me, diversity is a very important topic – personally and in our professional lives. Diversity is not just about organizational processes, but rather the people behind them. We have a responsibility to create an environment where people can bring their whole selves to work. Developmental opportunities are important, but without an open environment, we fall short.
Supporting others has always added value to our lives, and diversity and inclusion are at the heart of that. For example, we are often approached by colleagues who are moving internationally and face cultural surprises, or when an employee is going through a gender transition and is facing challenges in their day-to-day work. Listening and understanding are a very essential first step. Supporting our colleagues and creating processes that help employees makes us a strong employer.
Christi: At Evonik, we aim to create a strong community for our employees both regionally and globally, but we did not start from nothing. Evonik has been focusing on diversity and inclusion for years. As we lead this department, we know that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. That enables us to reach further than we ever have. For example, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) started with groW in Germany, and in the last two years we have created six additional ERGs within North America, with a desire to expand those globally. ERGs are focused on underrepresented groups coming together to connect, encourage, and learn from one another. Creating this community gives employees in small departments or at smaller sites an opportunity to interact with similarly situated employees and not feel so isolated. That increases employee engagement and strengthens retention.
We just held our first diversity fair at a production site in the US, with our ERGs as the focal point. We also brought in community partners, offering volunteer time off opportunities for our employees. This opportunity for connection was well received, and we hope to bring diversity fairs to other countries so that the topic of diversity is promoted worldwide.
What do you think is the biggest challenge in implementing Diversity & Inclusion in the company?
Regine: Across the organization, we have a different understanding of the definition of diversity and inclusion, and the needs for D&I vary among countries. While this is a challenge, it is also an opportunity for us to learn from one another and capitalize on our strengths. Sharing knowledge with one another and creating tailored approaches is vitally important as we work to create a culture where all employees feel welcome to contribute and showcase their value.
Christi: I totally agree! We need to be diligent in incorporating Diversity & Inclusion beyond the hiring process. Diversity is about so much more than our demographics. In the post-COVID era, we know that employees and candidates want to work for a company that shares their values and cares about employee development, sustainability, and diversity. Diversity is a major part of our employer value proposition, and we have to take care to integrate diversity into every aspect of the employee life cycle.
Do you see a change in the company and society in terms of Diversity & Inclusion?
Regine: As Christi mentioned, the working environment has changed. For employees, suppliers, and customers, values like diversity and sustainability are a major factor when deciding to work for and with a company. In addition, we have a shortage of specialists in many professions. Diversity brings new ideas and perspectives to a company and is the key to being innovative and successful. Companies cannot afford to ignore the topics of diversity and inclusion. But change does not happen overnight. It takes a strong commitment from leadership and open dialogue with all the employees who want to be part of the change.
Christi: In recent years, our focus globally has expanded to include more dimensions of diversity. As we have elevated the conversation around diversity, we have been met with tremendous support within Evonik. While there are still employees who are resistant to diversity, there are a growing number of employees who are raising their hands to be involved and deepen the work that we are doing – and that is what excites me the most.
Learn more about Regine’s and Christi’s career paths!
Regine: I joined the company in 1991 and held several positions in Sales, Marketing and Innovation across various organizational units and regions, including assignments in Italy and the United States. Before taking over the role as Head of Diversity & Inclusion together with Christi, I had been Dean of the in-house academy “Evonik School of Marketing”.
Christi: Since joining Evonik in 2011, I have held various HR roles in North America. I have worked in manufacturing for over 20 years and started my career with Evonik at the Mobile, AL, site. I joined Engage and Retain in 2020 as the Regional Coordinator for NA. In that role, I worked to implement #SmartWork and culture topics in the region, with an emphasis on the topic of diversity. In my current role as Head of D&I, I feel privileged to be able to continue working on this important topic with Regine.