Marion Karden, Head of New Business Development, has been with Klüber Lubrication for 28 years, and has been a senior executive for 18 years now. She is firmly convinced: the subject of diversity offers opportunities for each individual and for the company.
What does diversity mean for you as a manager?
I find the topic in general very exciting. I’ve realised that staff from different regions contribute highly disparate strengths and skills. It’s important to encourage these and to see how colleagues complement each other within a team. Thus ultimately everyone benefits.
Is there a winning formula for diversity?
Ultimately, in my view, openness and intuition are the paramount preconditions. These are very useful to me as a manager as well: through mutual feedback with colleagues, I learn entirely new approaches, which I then pass on.
Can you give us an example of where this can be of use to us?
We Germans tend towards exaggerated perfectionism. More recent approaches in innovation management are moving in precisely the opposite direction. A much more pragmatic mindset, of the kind our American colleagues exhibit, for example, would help us a lot. It doesn't always have to be our own way.
What role has diversity played in putting together your team?
I have had the opportunity to hire many people for the company. I always looked for a diversity of skills and characters. Today, it makes me incredibly happy and proud to see that a Spanish colleague is working in the US and a French colleague had been to China, both of them originally from my own department.
So how is Klüber Lubrication performing in terms of diversity?
Mutual exchange between the companies is working very well. And the option of going abroad for the company strengthens cultural cross-fertilisation enormously. As far as gender diversity is concerned, we’re well on track. We mustn’t forget: the majority of positions at Klüber Lubrication are traditional male vocations. So understandably it takes a bit longer to achieve a balance.
And what sort of reception did you yourself get at Klüber Lubrication?
I was made very welcome. I never wondered whether my gender played a role for anyone in the company. My male colleagues have always treated me with fairness and respect. I have had every opportunity, held down various positions, and have become a senior executive.
So how can more women follow your example?
At Klüber Lubrication, I can confidently affirm, everything is possible. Above all, you have to contribute the requisite personality and a readiness to proactively shape things. This I had – regarding both the selection of my team and the definition of my remit.
What advice can you give to other women?
In my view, it’s important to be self-confident. That’s not always easy, of course. Which is why we are planning to put in place a women’s network and a mentoring programme here in Munich, designed to give women an opportunity for mutual feedback and finding role models.
Diversity is, of course, much more than the issue of “women in top management jobs”. What conclusions do you personally draw from the ongoing debate?
Ultimately, I comprehend the issue as a cultural paradigm shift. Everyone should ask themselves: do I want to be part of this transformation? After all, diversity is manifested whenever people contribute abilities that deviate from the norm. In order to ultimately embrace diversity, we have to be prepared to take new ideas on board. Which means we have to cultivate a receptive mindset and comprehend otherness as an opportunity – for ourselves and for the company.
As far as Marion Karden is concerned, there’s one important precondition that needs to be met if diversity is to be fully embraced. “We have to be prepared to take new ideas on board.”