Diversity-makers at RWE
Laura Hesseln is working at RWE Vertrieb. She has been deaf since birth, yet she only sometimes needs a sign language interpreter for her job.
What proves to be more of a barrier: your deafness or the behaviour of your fellow human beings?
There are always barriers in the way, both in my private life and at work. In some meetings I need an interpreter. If people don't articulate clearly it can be difficult for me. The colleagues that I work most closely with do, however, make an effort. They speak so clearly that I can lip read everything.
Is there anything you would wish for from RWE?
RWE is on a good path with regard to inclusion. It would, of course, be lovely if more colleagues were to learn a couple of basic expressions in sign language.
What do you do in your free time?
I play football in a club for the deaf in Augsburg and in the national team for the deaf. Apart from that, I play in my home town together with people with normal hearing ability.
Silke Hansen was the first woman to finish the advanced training as a train driver at RWE-Rail Operations in Bergheim.
What fascinates you about locomotives?
Just take a look at this machine! My locomotive has 3,800 HP. With a trailer full of coal my train is 180 metres long and weighs 2,000 tonnes. Moving such weights is a really great job.
Did you want to be a train driver as a child?
I found this profession, which is usually one of the classic dream jobs for boys, by chance. After leaving school I trained to be an electronics engineer. However, RWE Power then offered me the opportunity to then train as a train driver. So it was a case of continuing to swot: the theory and basics of “shunting”. Then I was able to operate the big locomotive under supervision through the lignite mining district. Seven months later I passed the exams.
How did friends and colleagues react?
My friends think it is really cool that I am a train driver. Colleagues had problems with it at first. After all, this job at RWE had only been done by men for 45 years. However, we got used to each other quickly and we all got on well.
Is there also a downside to it?
I'm a passionate horse rider. This hobby is somewhat restricted by shift work. But, no doubt with time I will manage to balance my job and free time well.
The RWE Chief Economist Graham Weale is originally from Britain, however since May 2007 has lived with his wife in Essen.
You have worked in Germany for years. Are there still peculiarities in everyday German office life that surprise or amuse you?
Definitely. I still find it amazing how formal the Germans conduct themselves in their daily chores. For example, I still find it strange that so many Germans are not on a first name basis with their colleagues
What do the British do better than their continental neighbours?
The British are certainly better at getting round red tape at times and taking a more relaxed view of things.
And the other way round?
Germans often have more of an eye on everything and ensure that details are not overlooked.
Why are international mixed teams more creative than national homogenous teams?
International mixed teams have a vast range of perspectives and experience which they can use; indeed just like teams whose members have different training backgrounds.
Tamás Steványik manages HR at RWE in Hungary and, as a "Diversity Champion", ensures that diversity ideas are shared with the company.
What is the role played by Diversity at RWE Hungary?
We place great value on the issue of diversity. With our Knowledge Management Programme we want to make the most of the new knowledge generation and the experience of previous generations. Our Mentoring Programme also pursues such experience sharing and talented students can apply for a grant.
To what extent do the challenges in Hungary differ from those in Germany?
Almost all mothers are employed here. We offer these women various working hour models so that they can balance work and the family. This includes part time work and working from home. Before and after maternity leave we provide support through our Mother Management Programme.
How did your friends and relatives react when they found out about your job?
In Hungary it is unusual for an employer to be so committed to their employees. The pioneering role played by RWE can be seen in that even the unions praise us. I am proud of what we have already achieved in this area.
Diana Custodis has been the CFO at RWE Slovensko since 2013 and at the same has been CFO at Východoslovenská energetika in Slovakia since 2011. She is campaigning for more women to take on executive positions.
Why should women have equal opportunities for high level positions as men?
Equality of opportunities is not an end in itself. Companies are wasting potential when they recruit their top managers primarily from the male part of the population. Currently, men are dominating the key positions. Women usually have less experience with male habits and strategies of success, communication and self-marketing as they tend to have mostly female friends from early childhood onwards. This causes a competitive disadvantage within a male-dominated environment even under otherwise equal circumstances. This problem can only be solved by forcing more female decision makers for a transition phase. Mentoring programmes can provide additional support.
Which of your personal attributes do you owe your promotion to management to?
In addition to what is required anyway to fill a management position, as a woman you have to bring a disproportionately high frustration tolerance and the will to persevere.
What would your advice be for women who on their way up feel a “glass ceiling”?
From my point of view there is no glass ceiling, but on any management level there are daily challenges in a male-dominated environment. Women should confront these facts and develop strategies to be successful even under these difficult circumstances.