Diversity is an integral part of the Bosch corporate strategy. The term “diversity” is not limited to different cultural backgrounds, genders, or age groups. It also encompasses ways of thinking, experiences, perspectives, and lifestyles. Some examples how Bosch associates stand up for diversity and tolerance in their day-to-day work.
Diversity: Part of the Bosch corporate values
Member of the Board of Management Filiz Albrecht views this topic as especially important in her role as Director of Industrial Relations. “Diversity has always been firmly anchored within our corporate values,” she points out. “We work with diverse teams because we know they often develop better results and find solutions. Different perspectives provide important impetus for new ideas.” People from more than 150 different countries work together at Bosch worldwide. As a result, the company has been working to fight unconscious bias and promoting reflection on prejudice and stereotypes for years, Albrecht explains. Workshops on these topics are offered for associates worldwide. “At Bosch, we stand for respectful interpersonal dealings and take a stand against discrimination and racism,” she notes. Should there be any complaints about discriminatory statements or actions, the HR or compliance department investigates in all cases.
Associates have various ways to report violations of Bosch values. In addition to persons of trust in every department who are assigned to listen to associates’ concerns, they can also make private appointments to speak with the social counseling team or diversity managers. All communications with both are privileged and confidential.
Stefanie Jekal’s job title is Global Diversity Manager. Her responsibilities include making sure associates are aware of their prejudices and unconscious biases and consider them from a critical standpoint, for example during workshops. “No one would admit to being a racist, and no one wants to be one,” she says. But if a person does not have much contact with people from other cultures, there is often a simple lack of understanding. “When that happens, you can see situations in which someone unconsciously and inadvertently discriminates against international colleagues.” And that, she says, makes it even more important to cultivate that kind of understanding. The fact that Bosch, as an international corporate group, focuses a great deal on diverse teams is a step in the right direction. When problems do arise, Jekal and the approximately 70 regional diversity coordinators around the world serve as points of contact for those affected.
“The most important thing is to listen first. Depending on the case, one thing I do is advise people and work with them to come up with strategies for how they can respond,” she explains. If necessary, she can also accompany them to meetings. “It’s definitely important to take the matter seriously and act to the affected person’s benefit.” There are also numerous international diversity networks, such as Chinese@bosch, afric@bosch, and the Turkish Forum, that give people a place to share their stories and concerns.
“Our networks are so important because they help foster better understanding for other cultures,” Jekal says. Of course, the networks also exist so people can talk to each other. “But they also organize open dialogue events, which often contribute to a better understanding of each other. What is more, networks are always our ear to the ground in the Bosch community.”
Ghislain Mouil Sil is one of the founders of the afric@bosch network, which has existed since 2008. “The target group goes well beyond Africa and African-Americans,” Sil explains. Alongside the network’s 100 or so members, it is also supported by several hundred other associates in countries including Germany and France. “We learn a lot from each other, since we often have similar experiences. Targeted activities and campaigns also let us raise awareness of this topic among our colleagues.” Sil himself works in an international team, and in his role as an executive, he is responsible for 50 people from eight countries. “As an associate then and now, as an executive, I always focus on respect and acceptance with the goal of ensuring optimum development and personal growth for all colleagues,” he says. “Our company is a cross-section of society, so it’s only natural that racism isn’t totally absent from our day-to-day work.” And that, he says, makes engaging in dialogue via networks even more important. “The very best situation is when many networks come together to have a positive impact,” he says. For example, the Turkish Forum and afric@bosch joined forces to launch a new initiative called Orientation Day. Its goal is to give secondary school and college students with and without immigrant backgrounds guidance and familiarize them with the entry-level and development opportunities Bosch has to offer. Sil is confident: “We as a company can use diversity deliberately to combine our strengths and compensate for our weaknesses.”
Lan Fang, chair of the Chinese@bosch network, agrees. “With such a diverse workforce, Bosch can rely on a broad-based understanding of international markets, technology, culture, and politics,” she says. “This is especially important to a company that also has a responsibility to society.” Diversity, she notes, has many advantages in people’s day-to-day working relationships. With that in mind, the network, which was founded in 2013, is increasingly offering events that are open to all associates. One of the aims here is to foster better understanding between Eastern and Western cultures. Lan Fang firmly believes forging connections with others also helps to fight racism. “In China, there is a saying by Confucius: 三人行，必有我师. That means, ‘When I walk along with two others, they may serve me as my teachers. I will pick out the good qualities of one and imitate them, and the bad qualities of the other and correct them in myself.’”
Carmalita Yeizman is a diversity officer in North America and therefore knows the importance of networks like these. They are important ambassadors for issues such as diversity, equity and inclusion — topics that she herself promotes in her daily work. “As a woman of color with different ethnic backgrounds, racism is a real experience for me that I have had at different points in my life,” she says. The issue therefore also affects her in her private life. At Bosch, she campaigns against prejudice in her daily work and is the contact person for associates in North America. In addition, she organizes discussions on how to deal with uncomfortable conversations in working life or racism. “I have never experienced direct racism at any employer, but it is important to understand that this does not apply to all people of color,” she underlines. Diversity, she says, is a cornerstone of Bosch values — not just in North America, but throughout the company. “We stand together against racism, hate and violence in any form.”
“The diversity of our colleagues makes us who we are at Bosch, and it makes us strong,” says central works council chair Frank Sell. The employee representatives stand together against all forms of xenophobia. “Working to promote integration and the ongoing fight against racism are a key topic for us as employee representatives.” For example, the works council in Feuerbach teamed up with the company to place signs at the plant gates reading, “Show respect for others. Racism is not tolerated here.” Sell comments: “These signs send a clear signal that there is no place for racism or exclusion in our society or at Bosch.”
Taking action against discrimination
Bosch investigates all possible cases of discrimination. If associates feel they have been discriminated against, they have various options for reporting the issue. They can contact their executives, the HR team, and the worldwide diversity coordinators. In Germany, for example, it is also possible to approach the social counseling team or the employee representation. Reports of possible misconduct can also be made confidentially online via the Bosch incident reporting system. The mailbox in this system can also be used to exchange information anonymously with the compliance organization.