Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

Taking female advance seriously: the Deutsche Telekom route

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German telecoms operator Deutsche Telekom is to introduce a formal quota for the number of women in management positions in the company (hat-tip: UNI).

By 2015, the company expects that 30% of its upper and middle management positions worldwide will be filled by women. It says that it is the first quoted blue chip company in Germany to introduce such a quota, which it aims to achieve by systematic targets covering the recruitment of university graduates; selection processes; talent pools; and participation in executive development programmes. In this way, the company is seeking to build on its existing work-life balance policies. Policies which promote the participation of women in such programmes are frequent, these days; but the setting of a specific, very public quota and an equally public target date for its achievement are indeed rare.

Of course, definitions are key and it is not clear from the report whether the company is focusing on executive positions (where it is clear that improvements are needed since none of the eight current members of its management board, and only two of the twenty members of its supervisory board, are women) or both executive and management levels together. Certainly the background research that the company cited as laying behind its move is focused on the executive level, although the press release is quite clear that the focus of the policy is also on middle management and, potentially, the sorts of people represented in the UK by Prospect; the initiatives being described as to how the quota will be accomplished also seem to mark out the policy as encompassing management at lower than board levels. At the same time, however, it is not clear how far down the organisational hierarchy ‘middle’ management goes.

It is also not quite clear what impact the ‘worldwide’ base for the policy will have since it may well be that the rather poor example of the German boards is not replicated elsewhere, making the target less of an advance than it might seem. Statistics here need to be be a little clearer, too.

For comparison, a recent membership survey by the Connect sector of Prospect found that 17% of our members in one company who occupied second line management and professional positions and above were women. The picture in Deutsche Telekom will, of course, be different, although its intention to double both its intake of female graduates and the representation of women in executive development programmes might indicate that it is not too far away. An improvement of the representation of women on this sort of scale within five years would be evidently welcome.

UNI’s comment that advances in equal opportunities are associated with trade union representation is correct – as is its approach that equal opportunities need to be taken seriously throughout an organisation. An extension of the active promotion of women at all levels of the management and professional hierarchy on the basis to which Deutsche Telekom is committing itself would no doubt be a welcome application of ‘trickle down’ theory.

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Written by Calvin

19/03/2010 at 10:57 am

Posted in Equality, Telecoms companies

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