This month’s Member Spotlight
Global Diversity & Retention Manager, Lidl
Can you tell us a bit about your background and your role?
I was born and raised near the Baltic Sea and have been living in the Stuttgart area for over ten years now. It was the study of Historical and Cultural Anthropology that led me from the northeast to the southwest of Germany. From there, my studies took me to several places including Luxembourg, Stockholm and Glasgow. More importantly, my studies got me in contact with people who were living very different lives compared to mine because of their religion or their social status. The insights into these “foreign” worlds and the associated subject of social injustice inspired and motivated me to become active in this field. After working as a research assistant and doing my PhD on migration-related diversity in cities, I joined Lidl International. This was almost four years ago. At Lidl, I focus on Diversity & Inclusion as well as Employee Engagement and Retention in the department of Leadership & Culture. With over 280,000 employees ranging from white to blue collar in over 30 countries, no day is the same at Lidl. This is particularly enriching as my colleagues and I have to be creative time and again in order to find solutions for the female store manager in Lithuania as well as for the warehouse picker in the US.
Why are you passionate about the mission of the LEAD Network?
I believe in the power of diversity. For me, diversity means being surrounded by people with a variety of mindsets, attitudes, motives, interests and abilities. Time and time again, I have met people who have enriched me with their different views or ways of approaching things. I am convinced that we as people as well as an industry benefit from these enriching experiences. The retail and consumer goods industry has a strong influence on people’s everyday lives, more so than other industries. With regard to the topic of diversity, this creates both an opportunity and a great responsibility. Being part of a network that has taken up this challenge fills me with pride and motivates me to make my contribution to the German Chapter Committee.
What is the role that men can play to advance gender diversity?
In order to play an active role as a man to advance gender diversity, asking questions and listening as well as a change of perspective is essential. For me, the most important point is to understand the challenges and problems that are not one’s own. It is also about understanding why they are not one’s own problems; to understand the privilege one has. At the majority of companies, men still hold the most important positions of power. This is not the problem – men should see their position as a crucial part of the solution. To ask questions, to listen and to think about their privileges means that men need to learn to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable. To show these feelings and to show their own vulnerability is, from my point of view, an important contribution to break our social image of (male) leadership and to make it more diverse.
What would you tell your younger self to ease her/his heart?
To ease the heart of my younger self, I would tell him that you will feel different in many situations – as the first child to study in the family, as a child of the GDR, as a gay man. I would tell him that these feelings of being different are not a stigma but an opportunity. They are a chance – a chance to see situations from a different point of view and to question things that others take for granted. To ease the heart of my younger self, I would tell him that being different is one of the most important resources you have for making a difference.