For both Lisa Davis and Janina Kugel, the two female members of Siemens AG’s eight-person Managing Board, diversity is no longer a choice if you want to succeed in business. “It’s a business imperative as opposed to a nice-to-have,” says Davis. “To bring the best team means you leverage everything you can: diversity of background, nationality, thinking, leadership style, gender, everything that allows you to create a very strong team. It’s even more important than it was in the past, when the environment was not as challenging.”
Both women are used to standing out: As a woman of color growing up in Germany, Kugel always felt different. “The positive aspect is, people almost always remember you. But this has a negative side as well; if you screw up, people also remember you! This applies to being a woman as well.” Today, Kugel is Siemens’ Chief Human Resources Officer.
Davis, who now runs Siemens’ global energy business, was the third woman named to the board back in 2014. “My whole career has been in male-dominated environments, so I don’t really fuss about that too much. To me, the diversity is more the fact that I am not German and I am not [originally] from Siemens.”
In Germany, Kugel says, the relative lack of board diversity has a lot to do with cultural and social issues, with the pipeline reduced by many women leaving the management track or scaling back too quickly. “Women often say to me: ‘I’d like to, but not now.’ That’s the wrong approach,” Kugel says. “You have to say ‘I want to do it.’ And then when the opportunity comes, you have to say: ‘I’m going to seize it.’ And then follow through all the way.”
According to Davis and Kugel, pushing for diversity is also the responsibility of corporate management. “I’m not one for quotas, but I’m also one who thinks you have to have some means to measure progress, otherwise you are probably fooling yourself,” says Davis. “It’s crucial that decision makers don’t just promote people that are just like them — so-called Mini-Me’s.” Kugel concurs: “The more diverse teams are, the better results they deliver — and it’s not only about gender, skin color, age, but also about experience, skills, and mindset.”