Equal opportunities through flexible work schedules
This article was originally written for the ATKearney 361° Blog.
The lifestyles of DLR employees are as many and diverse as DLR's research areas – this represents both an opportunity and a challenge. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) needs the best people – both male and female – now and in the future, to maintain its excellence in research and development. Therefore, we at DLR endeavour to create an environment in which employees can fully develop their potential. From my own experience, having had two working parents, I can say that, not only do I believe in the issue of equal opportunity in theoretical terms, but am also committed to it practically.
Let's take a look at DLR in 2012: the top level management is male without exception. DLR is not alone in this among employers in Germany with over 6000 employees. At the end of 2011, DLR had over 7000 members of staff, 2158 of which were women – about a third! The proportion of women diminishes 'on the way up' – from 24.3 percent at the fourth level of management, to 8.1 in the third, 4.3 in the second, and ultimately to zero. It has long been unquestioned that we are wasting potential in this way; the situation is obviously unfair. Studies have, for some time now, shown that an organisation’s innovative capability is at its strongest when men and women work together to find solutions.
We are convinced that, in responding to future pressing societal issues, DLR must rely equally on the dedication and commitment of men and women. This requires the creation of structures to support equal opportunities. Our aim is to make equality of opportunity a reality at every level of research, service and administration in DLR – including the compatibility between work and family life. But it is more complex than that. Organisational matters play a role of course. But traditions also have an influence, as do each individual's ideas of happiness, developments within the family, partner relocation or even the challenge of family-unfriendly 12-hour workdays – not unusual among managers. Enthusiasm for one’s work and a good team spirit can stimulate a career, just as monotony or envy can hinder it.
When people feel comfortable in their environment, they are willing to perform at their best. For this reason, DLR integrates the key aspects of equal opportunities throughout the entire career path, from education and career choice to assistance on the way to management positions. We also give great importance to supporting and encouraging academic talent. Men and women with management potential are encouraged equally through training modules and mentoring options. For us, giving employees greater autonomy in their work schedules is key to achieving true equality of opportunity – freedom encourages motivation. What we already offer in terms of family-oriented, career-supporting measures is therefore being constantly expanded. This includes an even more family-oriented environment, for example through specific solutions for childcare and 'career strategies for women', which form part of our graduate programme. Flexible work schedules and teleworking, as well as personnel development measures to increase awareness of this issue among managers are also a part of DLR's family-oriented company policy.
Image: Quinn Dombrowski, CC-BY-SA.