Dr Claudia Junker, general counsel, Deutsche Telekom

Based in Bonn, Dr Claudia Junker is general counsel of Deutsche Telekom. She discusses the gender diversity quota imposed on listed companies by the German government, as well as the economic drivers for diversity of all kinds.

Diversity and inclusion is a concept that is very strong within Deutsche Telekom. As early as 2010, the management board of Deutsche Telekom set a goal for 30% of the company’s management roles worldwide to be filled by women. After setting this target back in 2010, the proportion of women in the group has risen by more than 35% in all management positions. The supervisory board of Deutsche Telekom now already has a 40% women share.

Since the start of last year there has been a law in Germany that dictates a ‘fair share’ amongst both genders. Depending on the size and form of the company, a self-set quota for board positions and senior management positions is required. The law sets a 30% quota in supervisory boards of listed companies that are, due to their number of employees, subject to co-determination [the right of workers to participate in company management] − such as Deutsche Telekom.

Obviously, that’s a strong mandate for diversity, both from the board and the legislator. There are many studies that show that companies with a diverse staff and diverse board members are more successful economically − so there’s a big economic driver as a part of this.

Already since 2010, for every individual supervisory board seat within the group, there is an internal requirement that in order for a candidate to be confirmed, there must be evidence that the ‘fair share’ principle has been considered. It’s not that every single seat must go to a woman in every case; but the shortlist for the position has to meet diversity criteria.

Of course, there are people that are sceptical about the notion of a quota as a suitable model for promoting diversity. Still, I think it’s a positive step because it puts an end to the mechanism of so-called ‘homologous reproduction’: people in general tend to think that people who are similar to themselves are better qualified. This is a very human characteristic and it is often done unconsciously, but it still leads to promoting the same type of person. The quota encourages people to consider different criteria and perspectives.

In 2010, Deutsche Telekom was on the forefront of diversity − leading the conversation when it came to gender. But now it’s 2016 [at the time of speaking] and there’s a wider conversation to have. If we talk about inclusion, we are committed to employing people of all abilities, with 7.2% of our employees being severely disabled. We are also looking at age distribution and the inclusion of foreign nationals − we want to be more diverse here in our headquarters and we’re committed to that. From the start of 2017, our management board will welcome its first member from India.

In the legal profession, there is a substantial pool of female lawyers from which to hire. It’s easier to find female lawyers than it is to find female engineers, for example. In fact, 50% of the lawyers at DT Legal, our in-house legal department, and 30% of the legal managers, are female. In order to keep the talent pipeline full, it’s important to pay particular attention to those within the department who are especially talented, but that applies equally for both women and men. This has to be merit-based, irrespective of gender, at all times to ensure fairness.

In the legal department, we are committed to diversity. We are also looking for the external suppliers and firms we use for outside work to assess their own diversity standards. That said, we are also advising the wider company on the implications of the new law and how we as a company deal with it. I’m very proud of Deutsche Telekom’s approach to diversity and I want to see it continue to prosper and grow.