The themes of our time

The German conference of Tagessspiegel and Diversity Charter has become one of the household events for German diversity practitioners. The organisers see this as a mandate not only to present current trends, but also to offer an appealing mix of methods and a broad range of topics. With success.

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D&I faces hefty headwinds and so this year’s Diversity conference of Tagesspiegel and Charta der Vielfalt wanted to give answers on how to deal with populism and digital transformation. In a challenging environment they also wanted to encourage people. This was clearly achieved at the end of the second day, when brain researcher Henning Beck explained not only the advantages of the human brain compared to computers and AI, but also the advantages that the exchange of different people offers (aka Diversity & Inclusion).

Wolfgang from the echo chamber and Anneliese from the diverse network

At the interfaces with ‘others’ we find creative pattern breaking points that take us further. But Beck also names – as Johansson did with his Medici effect – the enemy of innovation: networks in which similarly thinking people confirm our thoughts, praise our approaches and thus hinder development. Beck presented ‘Wolfgang’ as an archetypal representative of this behaviour, somewhat mischievously. The feeling of well-being in the so-called echo chambers is nowadays enhanced by filter bubbles that prevent critical information from reaching us in the first place. In return, we receive all the more messages that reinforce what we already think, suspect or believe. On the other hand, Beck encouraged those present to “exchange with similarities and contradictions“, which was a “huge gain for society”. Beck used ‘Anneliese’ as a typical representative for the desirable networking across mental borders – in full conformity with diversity. And certainly most of the conference topics felt well described, encouraged and confirmed.

An article on echo chambers in the field of diversity can be found here


Privileges and moral hyperacidity

On the previous day, journalist Holger Stark had delivered a film on which critical self-reflection could have taken place. With reference to the USA, he spoke of a “moral acidification” as a result of left-liberal developments, in the context of which he cited the gender starlet as an example. Stark clearly described that large sections of the US population saw their privileges threatened and that they were all too receptive to simple explanations and solutions. His examples showed that the effects of globalisation (relocation of jobs and migration) and digitalisation, but also diversity policy, play a role and lead to “cultural devaluation and the experience of stigma“. From a diversity perspective, valuable impulses could have been given if the moderator had asked for insights from the analyses for the future of Diversity & Inclusion.

Here is a contribution that makes this connection for the case of the Google memo


What makes a society – and who participates in it

A further impulse from Holger Stark also echoed over the course of the two conference days. He described the clashes in the USA as a “cultural struggle for the values of the nation“. In less dramatic terms, it can actually be observed that a discussion on social values is taking place in the USA. Moderator Malte Lehming also asked whether the hostility to migration there was “primordial or un-American”. Stark then described an attitude in US society that exists almost identically in Germany: “We built it [the country] and developed laws”. The parallels to Germany and possible consequences remained unnamed – even in the later Polit-Talk. Isn’t there also a need in this country to have a broad debate about the values of society (before further polarization occurs)? Doesn’t it have to be counteracted here, too, against the arbitrary drawing of boundaries that lead to sovereign interpretations? People who live here 10, 50 or 100 years longer (or shorter) than others should not be allowed to claim without resistance ‘we are the people’ or the definition of ‘leading culture’.

You can find out more about dealing with populism here:

The chairman of the Berlin SPD parliamentary group, Raed Saleh, gave a very personal speech on the concept of the guiding culture. With clear references to the anti-integration policies of the 1960s and 1970s, he gave contemporary integration a clear name: “Not to ask why are you wearing a headscarf, but also not to ask why are you not wearing a headscarf. We must endure this together.”

A selection of 11 contributions on the headscarf from 11 years can be found here:


Diversity is a social issue, isn’t it?

At the beginning of the conference, Wolfgang Huber, former President of the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany, argued that diversity should be above all a topic of ethical responsibility (and not just a business case). Using impressive examples, he demonstrated that the typifying representation of diversity not only does not protect against discrimination, but that the “identity trap” – the reduction to one characteristic – has often led to racism or Islamophobia with PR effects. Consequently, Huber does not only demand “civil society efforts and political framework conditions” in order to achieve positive social effects. He proposes “to speak of human diversity only if the individual human being – and not different types of human beings – forms the subject of this diversity”. Thus he is on a line of diversity futurists who name individuality as the paradigm for the future of D&I:

Visions for D&I

This year, too, the Diversity Conference wanted to look to the future and invited people from different areas to give their suggestions. Professor Katrin Hansen built on Huber’s intentions by proposing a holistic stakeholder approach under the umbrella of CSR. Nina Rehberg of the City of Cologne described the future in a similarly comprehensive way. She linked the idea of the mirror of society and the desire to bring politics, urban society and administration together with the need to change a well-functioning system. Robert Franken also agreed and asked decisive diversity change questions: How to make systems more permeable that are not diverse, how to create experimental spaces and how to bring lateral thinkers into the company? IG-Metall presents the start (2014) of its diversity efforts. The “Feel I’m…” campaign is a component of their broad-based diversity program. Commonalities play an important role – they can give diversity a long promised connecting note and thus be forward-looking.

A basic article on D&I’s future viability can be found in the Spanish Diversity Charter


The digital future of the economy

The mathematician and former manager Dr. Gunter Dueck described with refreshing humour that this future will look dramatically different for all of us. One key finding is that digitisation is also polarising the world of work. Most jobs change in such a way that they either become simple auxiliary jobs or highly qualified expert positions. What this and other aspects of digitisation could mean for future diversity management was discussed during the breaks and in a separate expert discussion. The moderators in the plenum, who the Tagesspiegel offered separately for various keynotes, unfortunately made hardly any reference to diversity practice or other conference contributions.

A brief analysis of diversity and digitization can be found here 


Would you rather have a pleasant overview or critical reflection?

Thematic connections would have meant real added value at some points of the conference and could have led to constructive reflections at other points. One researcher, however, who took part for the first time, suspected that the event might not be the right place for a critical D&I discourse, but that the focus was and should be on strengthening the practitioners, who are often at the beginning. Another participant was surprised by the fact that in many places there was no critical questioning or arousing statements. This also applied to the diversity ambassador of the German Football Association (DFB), Thomas Hitzlsperger. He answered well-behaved, almost shyly, the questions of the seventh male moderator (of 9) who the Tagesspiegel offered. He accurately described the influence of football – or is it superior power? – and the associated responsibility for diversity. The audience also learned that there was a difference between “normal insult” and “discrimination” and that the issue of women in management positions at DFB was part of social responsibility. This seems bizarre, because the women’s national team has been much more successful internationally than its male counterpart for many years (in terms of titles). At the same time, salaries and transfer fees in men’s football continued to rise. Admittedly, such critical views would have been quite strong tobacco at the end of the conference, and so the talk stayed better in the feel-good zone. Also for Hitzlsperger, who was only there for his short interview, this was a good thing and he twittered (possibly in the name of Aller) afterwards “Joy was all mine. Super Event! Keep up the good work!”. We join them, because the event has a strong integrative effect, above all due to its magnetic effect. Critical reflections outside the echo chamber would increase the added value – at least for curious or advanced practitioners.

Here you can find the sister article about the practice page of the Diversity Conference