Keyword Diversity Management: Black History Month

lesley rudolph

Lesley Rudolph

February 17, 2023 • 5 minutes read

February is Black History Month. But instead of turning it into a mere marketing campaign for that time, like many other companies have a tendency to do, and proudly displaying Diversity Management, we want to dive deeper into the topic.

black history month diversity management

We kick this off with one of the few Black personalities with a reasonably well-documented curriculum vitae from this period: the Ghanaian philosopher Anton Wilhelm Amo (ca. 1703 - 1759), who was - presumably - given to the Dukes of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel and later taught as a professor of philosophy in Halle and Jena.

He completed his studies with a thesis on the rights of Black people in Europe. This made Amo the first Black academic in Germany. He is said to have returned to West Africa around 1750. So let's get a better understanding of Black History within Europe.

The Congo Conference

The European powers met at the Congo Conference in Berlin in 1884 to decide on the division of Africa. Despite his own repeated statements against colonial policy imperial Chancellor Otto von Bismarck was involved, too. He declared Togo, Cameroon, German Southwest Africa, German East Africa and German New Guinea as separate protectorates.

This formed the basis for the increasing immigration of Africans to Germany. In the colonies, many natives were trained so that they could work as interpreters for the German Empire or become part of the Askaris - the German colonial troops. Tens of thousands of them fought in the First World War. Some of the resulting pensions were still being paid out during the Federal Republic.

The Weimar Republic

The demand for equal rights existed at the latest during the Weimar Republic. The "Dibobe Petition", written by Martin Dibobe (originally Quane a Dibobe), said: "Since we are Germans, we demand equality with them, because we are always referred to as foreigners in public."

Dibobe came to Berlin from Cameroon - then a German colony - in 1896 and belonged to a group of Africans who were exhibited for the German population in so-called "Völkerschauen". After the end of the exhibition, Dibobe stayed, did an apprenticeship as a locksmith, worked as a train driver for the Berlin elevated railroad - and campaigned for equality for people in and from the former German colonies.

So much for a very rough outline of early history. Save to say: Black history is part of German history.

And today?

Fast forward a few hundred years, and we find a report from the German government in 2020. In 14 areas of life, people of African descent were asked if they felt affected by discrimination.

The result: sobering. Discrimination in the workplace ranks fourth at 84.7%. The top three are: Public Life & Leisure (93.1%), Media & Internet (85.5%), and Shops & Services (85.1%).

Diversity Management in Your Workplace

Considering the history and statistics naturally arises the following question: How diverse is your own work environment? We want to provide suggestions for more diversity in your ranks based on the following points.

  1. Analyze your employee structure and gather facts about the distribution of gender, age, marital status, origin, ethnic background, etc., in relation to the respective positions. What is the distribution like, and who makes decisions in your company? Are different perspectives considered in decision-making processes? This is where the basic structures of Diversity Management begin.
  2. Gain an understanding of the existing corporate culture. How open are your employees to promoting diversity in the company? And how does the company leadership position itself in this regard? Based on the status quo analysis from the first point, evaluate the support from the management level. Because only with support from the top can new values be incorporated and realized in the corporate culture.
  3. Establish a range of leadership and awareness training to actively counter prevailing stereotypes. A specific example of the latter can be the so-called "Unconscious Bias." The term refers to unconscious thought patterns developed through the social environment in which one grew up and are therefore deeply rooted. Using such mental shortcuts makes sense because it helps our brains process millions of pieces of information per second. However, it is important to be aware of one's own biases and enrich them with knowledge, especially when unintentionally treating certain groups unfairly. 4.Examine how your company is perceived from the outside. Take a clear position as a company in your industry and actively communicate this outwardly. Think about Employer Branding.
  4. Review your current application processes. Which target group are you addressing with your job postings, and based on what criteria are talents invited for interviews? Reiterating at this point, that heterogeneous personnel structures have proven to lead to a more creative and innovative work environment.
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