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Promoting equal opportunities instead of stereotypes

“Change begins in your head”: This is a saying used by “Chefsache”, a German initiative advocating equality at the top tier of management. The KION Group is an active member of the initiative and the diverse make-up of its Executive Board is just one way it offers a positive example of how to drive change in company culture.


Males and females, four nationalities and a broad range of skills and experience: The KION Executive Board proves that diversity at the top tier of management can offer huge benefits. Since Chief Digital Officer Susanna Schneeberger became the KION Executive Board’s second female member last October, the proportion of women on the board has stood at 40 percent, which is well above the national average. Indeed, the Allbright Foundation’s 2018 report revealed that women still only account for 8 percent of German executives. The finding clearly shows that a lot still needs to change in the minds of decision makers. And that is precisely where the “Chefsache” initiative comes in.

Leading by example

The proportion of women occupying senior management roles in German companies is still low; the gender pay gap is real. Thus, the initiative is committed to ensuring equal opportunities for male and female employees. It is a network of leaders from industry and science, the public sector and media. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the initiative’s patron and it is committed to leading by example and exploring new concepts and approaches to promote the required mindset change throughout society. Especially at the top management levels, the aim is to heighten awareness of how dated stereotypes influence communication and behavior and continue to hold back both women and men in the workplace.

“Diversity enriches all of us, both on a human and corporate level.”

Eike Böhm, KION Group CTO

Unbiased and diverse

“Diversity enriches all of us, both on a human and corporate level,” says Eike Böhm, KION Group CTO, who is committed to championing equality and diversity through the company’s membership in “Chefsache”. “The onus is on individuals at the board level to promote and implement greater diversity. We are ready to take on this task – for our employees, our customers and our partners around the world.” Böhm and the other board members are fully aware that KION is still at the beginning of a long journey when it comes to diversity. Ultimately, the goal is for diversity to become the norm for the entire workforce.

Some important steps have already been taken to facilitate the journey. The will to challenge stereotypes held in society is embedded in the corporate values, which creates scope for greater equality of opportunity in the company culture. Since 2017, a set of leadership principles has promoted respect for other cultures, attitudes and opinions. In 2018, further HR tools were added that encompass recruitment and executive development. They include a groupwide female mentoring program.

Focusing on the development of female talent

The mentoring program is a platform for sharing information and experience and is aimed at women who have the potential to take on an executive role. And women who already hold an executive position and have proven their worth can still benefit from the 1-year program. The objective is to identify and develop more female executives and to retain them over the long term. The fact that the KION Group assigns an experienced executive to work with the mentees underlines the value it places on the program, which has been well received and entered its second round this summer.