Lisa, nice of you to take the time for this interview. The first question I'd like to ask you is about your exciting career at Haiilo. But maybe from the beginning:
How long have you been with Haiilo by now and how did you come to Haiilo?
I started at Haiilo in Sales at the beginning of 2019 and before that, I was in the tourism industry for six years. On the side, I did my Master's degree in Marketing and Communication part-time, which I completed in August 2020.
Funnily enough, in September 2020, one month later, we opened the position of Product Marketing Manager and I applied internally within an hour. Since October 2020, I have been Product Marketing Manager at Haiilo.
Since I started my studies in Marketing and Communication back in 2015, I knew pretty early that I wanted to work in marketing at some point. Then I was lucky enough that my job in the sales area also meant that there were an incredible number of interfaces with marketing. When it came to trade fairs, conferences, webinars or speaker slots, I very often coordinated with marketing, took over some topics, and was therefore already quite visible as a person.
You are now also the Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Haiilo. How did this come about?
I have had the role of Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Haiilo since April 2022, and fortunately, it was created by our C-Level. The driving force at that time was the desire of the employees because we simply wanted to do more on the topic. We believe that our corporate culture is very open and we put a lot of emphasis on transparency and want to make sure that we create an environment where all employees can feel comfortable at all times. But we never addressed that strategically until now. And as a result, the C-Level created this position, advertised it internally, and I applied for it. Since April 2022, I have been able to devote 10% of my working time to DEI topics.
10% is very little, and the topic of Diversity & Inclusion itself seems to be a big topic for you personally, but also for Haiilo as a company. Do you have plans to give the topic of D&I more space?
So for me, it's a topic that keeps me very busy in my private life. That's why it effectively takes up more than 4 hours a week in any case. But I actually do my job full-time as a Product Marketing Manager. The topic of diversity has increased attention externally and I have lots of opportunities to combine the two topics of marketing & diversity, but also product & diversity. In addition, I make sure that I also drive all the measures internally. So 10% is relatively little time. But I also have really great colleagues who are actively involved and drive topics forward. I think it will remain at 10% in total, for the time being, maybe we'll expand it to 20% at some point. But what I will definitely implement is that more people are actively involved and that diversity quads or ambassadors are formed to take over some topics or initiatives and, above all, to push them forward at other locations.
What Diversity & Inclusion topics have you initiated since April?
We have actually done quite a bit since then. Most of them are small things that we implemented quickly. For example, we already had a community on our social intranet on the topic of gender equality with the hashtag #balanceforbetter. I then took it over, renamed it and made it a general diversity & inclusion community. The other topic we have initiated is gender-neutral language. Primarily in our external communications, we have already started to introduce gender-neutral language. But we've also made some changes internally. Among other things, we have changed our restroom signage and now also have at least one unisex restroom at each location. We introduced the ability to specify pronouns in our internal communication tools. I've also written blog articles on various topics, such as the different dimensions of diversity. It's often the case that people associate diversity primarily with feminism and racism, but then it stops there to some extent. This is also where I want to raise awareness that diversity is so much more. I also wrote an article about Pride Month and shed light on where it actually comes from.
Another important measure is an internal survey on the topic of diversity in which all employees were able to participate. There were about 20 questions in which we had various statements evaluated with regard to identification, belonging, and fairness - many topics that provide information about diversity and inclusion, but also about the sense of belonging. And that's what matters in the end: how do our employees feel they belong and what do they want for the future?
On the topic of external communication, do you have the impression that the topic of diversity and inclusion is becoming increasingly relevant?
One of our products is a social intranet for internal employee communications, and we've already heard from our customers several times that they want pronouns to be able to be entered into employees' personal profiles. We notice that there is a demand on the customer side for digital products to be more inclusive. We have a large customer that has introduced pronouns themselves as a profile field. This is not an optimal solution, but we notice from such workarounds that the demand is there and growing.
Our lovely product design team is currently working on a concept to be able to map the pronouns of the users. Another big topic is gender-appropriate language in our products, for which there are some initial approaches. But above all, the will is there for it to be implemented, and that's good to see.
What measures do you have planned for the future?
The next big topic is budget planning. What do we want to do in 2023 and why? For us, this includes above all training in the areas of unconscious bias, female empowerment, various events and also different formats in general in which we want to inform and involve our employees.
I will also develop a guideline for gender-neutral language, for our external communications, but also for gender-appropriate language in our own products.
You really drive a lot of topics out of the 4 hours per week. Where do you draw the energy from and what is your motivation?
Right away in April, I presented company-wide what I envisioned the role to be. My hook at the time was headlines and quotes from the media talking about how much more profitable, innovative and creative companies and teams are with a diverse workforce.
But once we look at the definitions of diversity and inclusion, it quickly becomes clear: it doesn't take a business case to understand that the issues are important. For me, it's all about values. And a topic that often doesn't directly affect me as an individual. So it's often also about taking other perspectives and learning.
Broadly speaking, I think it's about establishing a certain mindset, among other things. I see this all the time on social media, like the current example with the remake of "Arielle the Mermaid," played by Black actress Halle Bailey. The comments on this nearly always start with “I…”. This phenomenon can be observed in many social media posts on such topics. People assume exclusively about themselves and communicate their own claims as if there is only this one perspective and it is right. When diversity & inclusion is downplayed, it often happens from a person who has internalized their own attitude of entitlement. But there are many things that each and every one of us doesn't know in the area of diversity and that I don't yet know and perhaps don't understand. I believe that being aware of this would be a first small step in the right direction.
I also notice that a lot of people don't deal with the issue because they're afraid of doing something wrong. But in my opinion, it's not about right or wrong, it's about being more empathetic and understanding what we all can do better together.
What are your future plans to drive D&I?
The first step is to anchor the topic of D&I strategically in the company. I will define goals and derive measures for how we can achieve these goals as a company. There are a lot of things we can do that have a big impact. That's where I'd like to get going next year.
And I plan on making us more visible externally as an inclusive employer. Everyone is already welcome here, and we don't want anyone to pretend to be someone else or make them feel that they can’t be themselves working at Haiilo. Our five different locations alone already make us very diverse. And I would like to bring this diversity more to the outside world.
Finally, do you have 3 tips for people who also want to drive D&I in their business?
- The best thing is to work out a joint vision with the C-level and define mutual expectations from this. I also expect our CEO to back me up and stand up for me when I make mistakes. And I communicated that clearly right from the start because I know that we will make mistakes at some point.
- I advise everyone not to think too much about single things, but to start running right away. We don't need a super-defined long-term strategy with a big budget to get started. There is so much that can be implemented in the short term and quickly with great impact. Even though the topic of D&I is complex, it's often not that complicated to start doing the right thing.
- Don't expect the world to change overnight. The DEI issues are also a mindset topic. We are suggested in many places that we need to make behavioural changes and such changes do not happen overnight. Role Models can be internal drivers here because they model certain behaviours. There should also be informational opportunities because we all need to learn. Ultimately, it's about creating an environment where everyone feels welcome and safe.