Bayer CEO Werner Baumann: Diversity Needs Clear Commitments

Feb 24, 2021 10:15 AM ET
Blog

Let's be completely honest here: I am a white, German man in his late 50s who spent his entire professional life in the same company. If that resume leaves you thinking that I’m not a suitable ambassador for inclusion and diversity, I’d think that’s too bad, but I could understand it.

During my time in leadership, the perspective on diversity in business and society has changed. This also applies to our company and to myself.

Personally, I was able to spend eleven years of my career in Spain and the USA. This time has significantly broadened my horizon and opened up perspectives that have helped and shaped me. But completely apart from my experience, there are solid reasons for more inclusion and diversity. As so often, science should guide our way – and the science is clear: Inclusion and diversity matter more than ever and diverse teams produce better results.

That certainly doesn’t mean that we are starting from scratch. For a long time, Bayer has been a diverse, inclusive and – of course – international company that consciously promotes an open atmosphere in the workplace and embraces our employees’ unique identities. This is an important pillar of our corporate culture. Nevertheless, we want and need to do more, understanding that real inclusion and diversity requires clear commitments and action.

Roadmap to gender parity

That is why we have set ourselves specific targets to achieve real gender parity in all management levels by 2030. Already by 2025, the company aspires to establish a 50/50 gender balance as an average across all combined management levels. In the Group Leadership Circle (Top 540), the proportion of women is to be at least 33% by 2025.

In addition, we have the aspiration to significantly strengthen other elements of inclusion and diversity. For example, the composition of top management will increasingly reflect the national and cultural background of Bayer’s business footprint. All generations are to be represented appropriately within Bayer. The interests of LGBT+ employees will continue to be advocated at Board of Management level.

The company will continue its efforts to advance regionally defined diversity elements such as ethnicity and race at the country level. Moreover, Bayer strives to increase the proportion of people with disabilities in the workforce to more than 5 percent by 2030. Just recently, we joined the global initiative "The Valuable 500", which advocates for greater inclusion of people with disabilities in business enterprises.

Our official announcement was released a few minutes ago.

What is important to me

These commitments are our news of the day. And I would like to provide you with some more background on what is important to me regarding this decision:

  • No symbolic debates: I have always been against limiting the issue of gender diversity to the management or supervisory boards of major companies. While a female senior executive moving from one company to another may make headlines, it does not automatically bolster gender equity. It is more important that we live up to our responsibility to drive long-term, continuous, and sustainable support for women at all levels of our company.
  • More than gender: Improving inclusion and diversity must go beyond the question of gender. Particularly in a global corporation, it's about systematically leveraging different perspectives. The best way to do that is to support and provide opportunities for people of different backgrounds, origins, and experience. Yes, this fosters a diverse workforce, but above all it serves the success of the company.
  • Performance is the deciding factor: Of course, qualification and performance are still the decisive factors for career growth. For a company that competes in the global market, this must be the standard. Nonetheless, the lack of inclusion and diversity in today's business world can’t be explained by performance. That’s why we also need to focus on a variety of factors including workplace culture, inclusive behaviors, and leadership as role models.
  • Cultural change in the workplace: For too long, the sheer presence in the office was often treated as performance. Let's face it: the last person in the office could be the most diligent team member but could also be the slowest. I believe that in the long run, the pandemic will help to distinguish presence from performance. For diverse teams, this is an opportunity.

At the end of the day, taking action to continuously improve is in the very nature of companies. This relates to inclusion and diversity, but certainly does not end there. In the third decade of the 21st century, the global community must deliver. That is true for tackling climate change and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is true for innovative technologies and inclusive growth. And it is true for inclusive workforces, effective talent management and true equity.

This is not just about doing what’s right. Because what’s right is quite obvious. This is also about doing what’s necessary as a company.

Those who purposely drive their transformation towards sustainable business models and an inclusive culture put themselves in the best position to attract and retain talents and build teams best suited to win in a constantly changing world.

Our promise to deliver

Within one year, Bayer has now adopted, communicated, and started to implement very ambitious goals on sustainability and on inclusion and diversity. Our goals point towards the year 2030. It is our roadmap for this decade – and our promise to deliver.