Laura, what are the major challenges to ensuring that women not only advance to leadership positions in retail but are also valued?
That is a big question that we could talk about for hours. Let me highlight 3 points. Firstly, operating business, where we haven’t seen many women in leadership roles thus far, calls for an especially high degree of flexibility. The job that represents the next rung on the career ladder may not be where you currently live, so you have to relocate or accept a longer commute. And the working hours that are a factor of the long store opening times in retail are not necessarily family friendly. More flexible conditions need to be created here. Secondly, when I talk with women about their careers
, I often notice that they don’t think big in terms of their career goals. They limit themselves because certain things are not possible under today’s conditions rather than widening their lens, changing their perspective and taking things as they come. I would like to see a great deal more self-confidence here. A third major issue is the society we live in. Matthias mentioned the example of Norway. In Germany, for instance, we are still very traditional. A female CEO
? A mother who goes back to work soon after the birth of her child? A man who stays home or works part time? A man who works as an early years teacher? These are all still very rare and not entirely accepted by society. Here, I hope to see more role models taking a public stance. More openness and reflection in cases where we find we have preconceptions yet again.
Matthias, you have been involved with the issue of diversity and inclusion for quite some time. Do you think there can be a world in which gender, skin colour and sexual orientation truly do not matter and all that counts are a person’s qualifications for a job?
Yes, I am confident of that, at least as far as the second part of the question goes. Today, there are already plenty of methods that show how to minimise bias in the selection process so that the focus is on qualifications. As far as the beginning of the question, however, I want us to live in a world where differences still do play a role. After all, diversity isn’t about making these differences disappear. Sexual orientation is a striking example. Companies often claim that that plays no role and then when you listen more closely, you realise that the reason it plays no role is that nobody talks about it, and some people even invent fake double lives. To my mind, the next step would be to make the processes that smooth out the differences obsolete, so we can be who we are and the focus is on our performance.