Siemens Tries To Diversify Its Ranks

Posted by: Nanette Byrnes on July 31, 2009

Though it operates in 190 countries and 68% of its workforce is outside its home country of Germany, industrial giant Siemens has a top management dominated by white German-born men. That’s a problem to CEO Peter Loescher, who has complained that the company’s leadership is too one-dimensional.

So he hired a woman born in Singapore of Chinese descent, Jill Lee, a veteran of Siemens’ Asian businesses, to solve the problem.

Lee puts the problem succinctly: Siemens management does not reflect the diversity of its 2 million customers in the US, China, Latin America and around the world, nor its own work force of 420,000. The fastest growth for Siemens moving forward will come from Brazil, Russia, India and China. “With globalization you see Brazilian customers in China and Chinese customers in Brazil,” says Lee. “All companies need to be more systematic in sharpening their capacity in this area.”

Plus in short order there aren’t going to be enough European — or certainly German — men to fill the jobs they’ve got in the homeland. With the population aging, if Europe doesn’t get more women and foreigners into its own work force, it’s going to face a talent shortfall in the millions by 2040. Among the company’s most important posts are those in engineering. It employs 100,000 engineers worldwide, half of those in Germany. But that country is expected to have 200,000 unfilled engineering spots by 2017.

Lee’s focused early on increasing the visibility of her 3,000 high potential people worldwide, so they can be considered for jobs on a global basis. She’s also broadened the group doing the interview for key spots to include more women and international staff.

By systematic Lee does not mean quotas. She’s against them. “What we want is for everyone who joins Siemens to know they have every opportunity to get to the very top.”

But Lee herself is often the only woman, or Asian in many of the meetings she attends. The company staff is 25% female, but only 7% of the management ranks are women.

Do you think a rapid diversification of a workforce can be attained without them?

To see Lee’s style in action take a look at this appearance on Fox.

Reader Comments

rob in madrid

July 31, 2009 3:44 PM

As urgent as it is, he is unlikely to suceed for two reasons. One is to get beyond middle management you HAVE TO speak German, and how many Indians or Chinese speak German, not many. Secondly when things go wrong as they often do the first instint is to pull everything back home. I can't see either changing.

Rob in Madrid

July 31, 2009 3:48 PM

thought I posted a comment but I don't think it took.

As urgent as it is I think he will be unsuccessful for two reasons. One, unless you Speak German you don't stand a chance of getting anywhere period. Secondly when things go bad as they often do Siemens (and many other German companies) there first instinct is to pull everything back to Germany, simply put the Germans don't trust anyone to run the company, and I don't see that changing.

ajay mitra

July 31, 2009 4:20 PM

Siemens have bigger problems. They settled the bribery/corruption charges at a high cost. Without backhanders, they obviously found it difficult to win contracts. In addition when competition gets tough, they buy out the competition rather than innovate better product and their dead hand then destroys the company after having extracted their technology.
They are, too big and too bureaucratc to succeed in a rapidly-changing tech
world. They should be broken up.

dickwood

July 31, 2009 4:43 PM

Blame the white guys again. More quotas won't make a difference. Too bad Germany is 99+% white, which is why they are not discriminating. They are white, hard working and successful. Why no lawsuits or complaints about all black companies in Africa? Because they are unsuccessful.

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