At the second international Kultursymposium Weimar on June 20, Member of the Volkswagen Group Board of Management, Hiltrud D. Werner and Futurologist, Wolfgang Müller-Pietralla will discuss diversity and fear of the future.
“Recalculating the Route” – under this forward-looking guiding theme, more than 300 representatives from the worlds of culture, science and business will meet in Weimar from June 19 - 21 2019, at the invitation of the organizing Goethe-Institut for the second international cultural symposium. In lectures and panel discussions alternating with participative and artistic formats, participants from all over the world will address the global social issues of our time: How do we not lose track in an increasingly complex world? And how do we remain authors of our lives in the face of rapid technological change?
Volkswagen Group at Kultursymposium Weimar
As an internationally active company, Volkswagen Group is aware of its political, economic, social and societal responsibility in shaping the future and follows two principles: Continuity and participation. The best example is the Kultursymposium Weimar. Volkswagen Group, already having been a partner in the first series of events in 2016 – as an official sponsor and mobility partner – will continue to support the public discourse on issues relating to the future of society in the second installment, June 2019. With Group Executive Hiltrud D. Werner and Wolfgang Müller-Pietralla, Head of the Volkswagen Group Research Department Future Affairs, Volkswagen is also participating in two important discussion rounds itself. The topics of the two panels: “Gender & Tech. New Ideas for a More Diverse Future” and “Tech Euphoria vs. Anxiety About the Future. Why some People see Opportunities rather than Risks –and Vice Versa.”
Volkswagen and the Goethe-Institut
The Goethe-Institut is a non-profit association headquartered in Munich. Its mission is to promote knowledge of the German language abroad, to foster international cultural cooperation and to convey a comprehensive, up-to-date picture of Germany. The Volkswagen Group maintains a close partnership with the Goethe-Institut. Volkswagen has been a founding member of the Goethe-Institut Economic Advisory Board since its inception in 2008. Member of the Board of Management, Hiltrud D Werner, has been a member of the high-ranking committee that accompanies and supports the activities of the Goethe-Institut internationally since 2019. The tasks of the Economic Advisory Board are diverse: advising the Goethe-Institut on social and cultural policy issues, providing insights into the structure and working methods of internationally active companies and identifying issues and fields of action that affect both culture and business. The organisation of events, such as the second International Kultursymposium Weimar, are also part of this spectrum of tasks.
“It’s about an outstanding corporate culture”
Hiltrud D. Werner underlines the important role that diversity and gender issues play in companies. “Thirty years ago, Volkswagen Group adopted principles for the advancement of women and thus formulated the goal of increasing the proportion of women at all levels. For the Member of the Board of Management in the Integrity and Legal Affairs division, however, their daily work is about more than just equal opportunities for women and men. It is about an outstanding corporate culture and a mix of people from all age groups with different nationalities, biographies and educational qualifications.” Only then can fresh ideas emerge for Hiltrud D Werner, be discussed more openly and customers benefit as well. As one of seven corporate principles that describe what the Group stands for in all its brands, companies and countries, the term diversity is therefore an exemplary reflection of the company’s open foundation of values. Events such as the Diversity Conference, which took place for the second time last year and brought together diversity managers from all brands and countries to formulate a common understanding of diversity, also support this process. The aim is to anchor diversity in the company and make it fit for the future. The goal: think globally, act locally.
Law and Integrity at Volkswagen/Together4Integrity
The continued trust of our customers and the perception of Volkswagen as an excellent employer are of great importance for the success of the Volkswagen Group. The strategic goal of the Legal and Integrity functional area is therefore to anchor these factors in the Group as the basis for its day-to-day activities. To this end, the Group-wide integrity and compliance program “Together4Integrity” (T4I for short) was created as part of the Group strategy TOGETHER2025+. It bundles all activities for integrity, culture, compliance, risk management and human resources. It conveys a corporate culture that enables every manager and every employee to act with integrity and in accordance with the rules at all times and everywhere. The Volkswagen Group has set out its promise of integrity, transparency and diversity in seven Group Principles:
- We take on responsibility for the environment and society
- We are honest and speak up when something is wrong
- We break new ground
- We live diversity
- We are proud of the work we do
- WE not me
- We keep our word
“We want to increase the proportion of women in all areas of the Group”
An important task for Volkswagen is to support women in their professional advancement and to continuously increase the proportion of women in management. In addition to improving the compatibility of career and family, internal mentoring programs, training and process changes as well as cross-hierarchical activities also help. “We want to increase the proportion of women in the Group in all areas and are setting the course for this at an early stage. Only through a diversity that allows new ideas, new solutions and makes them heard can we shape the future creatively and constructively in a time of disruptive transformation processes in our society,” says Hiltrud D. Werner. For them it is above all important to build networks between different companies and industries and sometimes also to promote the last bit of self-confidence that a candidate needs in order to take up an adequate position. The management-mentoring program offers examples. Each year, up to 55 female talents from various brands and companies in the Group are assigned a mentor from the upper management level who specifically support the women – and help them, for example, with the organization of their own events.
In order to increase the proportion of women in the Volkswagen Group to 30 percent in all areas and especially in Germany, in the commercial-technical area, the company is specifically recruiting female talent. For example, with special career experience and orientation days for young women, at recruiting fairs such as Top Women Tech or through cooperations with universities. According to Hiltrud D Werner, Volkswagen, as a technology-oriented group of companies, needs above all objectives that depend on one’s professional background. That’s why the Group looks at the quotas of female graduates on the important technical courses every year. These figures are then used to determine the targets for the respective positions. Thanks to this systematic approach, around ten percent of graduates in mechanical engineering at the Volkswagen Group today are women, 25 percent in engineering and 50 percent in business-roles. For the Volkswagen Group Board Member, this is a major step forward: “Personally, I am also proud of the fact that around half of the employees in my Board of Management department for Integrity and Legal Affairs, are already women and that the proportion of women in management is steadily rising. It now stands at over 30 percent.”
“There's no future if we don't believe in it”
Volkswagen futurologist, Wolfgang Müller-Pietralla, Head of Volkswagen Group Research Department Future Affairs, can confirm that diversity and gender play an important role in society. When researching future trends, the topic of gender equality is one of the top topics in the regular analyses of social values in futurology since 2014 – from the USA to Germany, Great Britain, Spain and China. This is also evident in vehicle construction: “Today, there are no longer any typical characteristics that we offer specifically for men or women in vehicles. The acceleration and speed of the car, for example, are not typical “men’s wishes.” The times of the traditional assignment of typical gender roles – woman at home, man at work – are definitely coming to an end! Our task as an automotive group is to offer both men and women highly attractive vehicles for the future.”
The future – that has always interested Wolfgang Müller-Pietralla. “There is no future if we don’t believe in it. Scientific findings on climate change provide us with valuable orientation. Only their consistent implementation makes the future possible.” For him, futurology is therefore about two areas of work. One area is responsible for analyses, data and facts from the past and the present. Our roots and our individual character are decisive for the willingness to tackle future challenges in a positive way.
“Autonomous driving is a question of social acceptance”
The other area deals with the recognition of “patterns” that have the potential to become real in technological developments in connection with social and political trends. “Autonomous driving, for example, is not just a question of sensors or the technological performance of vehicles. It is a question of the acceptance of society. A question, for example, of the robustness of algorithms. The question is whether technology can also be mapped in such a way that it functions safely,” says Wolfgang Müller-Pietralla.
Although the studies show that the fascination with technology is quite pronounced worldwide, it differs significantly in parts of the world. In China, the population is enthusiastic about “digital life,” living with technology. Technology means progress. In Europe, people are more likely to ask about the meaning of technology. Technology must benefit people: “Human First,” is the keyword. This is why Volkswagen Group, as a company, must also respond to regional needs, but above all be responsible. Wolfgang Müller-Pietralla therefore recommends two courses of action for the future in order to take away the sometimes existing skepticism about new technologies from people in the domestic hemisphere and to show them instead the opportunities and challenges that technological change brings with it in all areas of our lives:
The tasks of the Corporate Foresight department using the Automatic Service Robots as an example
One of the innovative mobility concepts that the Corporate Foresight department is investigating in the trend laboratory at Volkswagen Group in Wolfsburg is the “Automotive Service Robots” project. These are robots that will automatically charge cars, for example, in the future. This is how it works: In a public car park, the car signals to the robot that it needs electricity. The robot then automatically inserts a plug into the car, charging the vehicle. Such robots would be useful wherever a mobile charging infrastructure is needed, for example at public events or large concerts. The “Automatic Service Robots” can also transport goods from A-to-B: for example, the user orders some food via an iPad, a mobility service provider loads an autonomous service vehicle with the desired products and sends it on its route. The user can then pick the order conveniently up from the front door.
“For more enthusiasm for technology, it is important that we not only explain technology to people from an engineering perspective, but also bring technology closer to them in the form of memorable images and everyday experiences. We should show pragmatically how cutting-edge technology can help us to make mobility work like clockwork in everyday life.”
Wolfgang Müller-Pietralla believes that both the media and entertainment could make a greater contribution to the visualization and explanation of visions of the future. “But it is also up to us as companies and technology experts to take on the function of a navigation system in the diversity of assessments, especially in technical and social issues. It is important to note that social change does not take place abruptly. We need more attention, adaptability and perhaps also resilience in order to be able to react at an early stage to weak signals of social change.”
“The crucial thing for the automotive industry is that together we pursue a clear course”
However, the automotive industry does not have to be afraid of future developments according to Wolfgang Müller-Pietralla. “The crucial thing for the automotive industry is that together we pursue a clear course to agree on effective environmentally friendly technologies and processes: That is CO2-neutral mobility, the consistent conversion of the energy system, the creation of the necessary infrastructure and the development of an intelligent mobility system in urban and rural areas. These are enormous challenges that we will only be able to meet if there is a global social consensus. It is therefore our task to proactively offer coherent concepts for social discourse, to ask the right questions and to implement viable solutions.”