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Valuing diversity


An important aspect of diversity is disability. German law prescribes a minimum employment quota for people with severe disabilities. Companies with more than 20 employees must ensure that five per cent of posts are held by severely disabled persons or otherwise must pay a government levy.

In 2019, we drew up an inclusion agreement with a view to further improving the inclusion of people with disabilities at GIZ. The goal of the agreement is to make GIZ a more attractive employer for people in this group. The agreement was signed in 2020 and sets out the following objectives:

  • Create an inclusive environment: We at GIZ want to become a more inclusive company.
  • Offer employment: We will improve the working environment so that we can offer more jobs to people with severe disabilities.
  • Raise awareness: We will strive to raise awareness of inclusion on an ongoing basis.
  • Establish contacts: We will create an inclusion network.
  • Make use of external support: We will consistently harness the external support available.

To create a barrier-free working environment, we provide equipment to meet individual needs. The company’s Inclusion Officer and disabled persons’ elected representatives oversee implementation of GIZ’s inclusion policy.

Together, inclusive and without barriers – a shared journey and a shared experience
GIZ’s Central Disabled Persons’ Representation and the local representatives in Berlin, Bonn and Eschborn  

As elected representatives, our role is to support severely disabled GIZ employees worldwide. It is our duty to ensure that people with disabilities are treated equally and given the same career development opportunities within the company as employees without disabilities, both in Germany and in our partner countries. We are also working to ensure that more young people with disabilities are able to join the company, for example through a traineeship.

Matters concerning the company as a whole are referred to the Central Disabled Persons’ Representation. Issues affecting individual sites are dealt with by the local representative in Berlin, Bonn or Eschborn. GIZ requests advice from its disabled persons’ representatives on a range of matters, for example when reviewing the barrier-free status of new and existing properties. To safeguard the interests of employees with disabilities, we also consult their representatives on HR matters. The company’s disabled persons’ representatives are also members of the staff representation. We wish to emphasise that people with disabilities are welcome at GIZ.

Looking ahead, one of the issues that we are addressing at GIZ is how to extend this support into our field structure so that we can make our international operations equally inclusive and barrier-free for national staff too. Employees with disabilities must be included and valued as an integral part of the workforce. New legislation was introduced in 2019 obliging companies to make appropriate inclusion arrangements. The details of these arrangements are reinforced by corresponding action plans with a series of practical targets that promote barrier-free, inclusive and collaborative working environments at every level.

‘You have to get out of your comfort zone. When things start feeling a little uncomfortable – that’s when we can say GIZ has reached the right level of ambition.’

Carmen Niethammer, Global Gender and Diversity & Inclusion Leader based in Washington, DC and Berlin
(© Brookings Institution)

Photo: GIZ: Carmen Niethammer, Global Gender and Diversity & Inclusion Leader based in Washington, DC and Berlin

Diversity enriches GIZ

As a global company, GIZ sees the diversity of its workforce as a particular strength. For us, that means taking a responsible approach to differences within the company, because we value diversity.

In October 2019, GIZ signed the Diversity Charter, an employer initiative designed to promote diversity in companies and institutions. Signing up to the Charter is an expression of our conviction that different talents, abilities and life experience can be combined to advance and enrich a shared task. We believe that diversity means actively providing the same opportunities and openings for each individual, thereby creating a working environment that is free of prejudice and characterised by a climate of acceptance and mutual trust.

Various initiatives have also been set up by GIZ staff to raise awareness of diversity issues within the company, for instance the Rainbow Network for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) employees. Another example is the Cultural Diversity Initiative – an informal group that brings together employees and managers with diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, black people and people of colour. In 2019, a dedicated event was organised for the first time to celebrate Diversity Day at GIZ.

Photo: GIZ: international communication workshop
Promoting diversity: an international communications workshop for GIZ staff
(© GIZ / Dirk Ostermeier)

Protecting staff against discrimination

In 2019, GIZ adopted a new Code of Ethics. The Code sets out GIZ’s values and convictions and applies to all staff worldwide. It is designed to serve as a guide to ethical conduct for every single member of the workforce. With regard to diversity issues, it specifies what is expected of employees and what is not permissible, explaining the company’s main values and convictions. As well as providing information about how to access help and advice, the Code sets out the action GIZ may take against employees who fail to observe the guidelines.

The Code of Ethics explicitly prohibits and protects against discrimination and clearly states that discrimination in any form will not be tolerated. All members of GIZ’s workforce are expected to cooperate in such a way as to not discriminate against others ‘on the grounds of race or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation’. In accordance with Germany’s General Act on Equal Treatment (AGG), GIZ has a duty to take necessary measures, including preventive ones, to ensure protection against discrimination on these grounds.

Any employees affected by discrimination within the company can refer the matter to the integrity advisors, the staff representatives or the discrimination complaints committee set up in accordance with the AGG. Some groups have dedicated contacts. For example, all cases of gender-based discrimination are dealt with by the equal opportunity commissioners. All cases of sexual harassment at work should be reported to the Corporate Equal Opportunity Commissioner.

Our employees’ different needs are also taken into account in the company’s internal communication. Information addressing different needs can be found on the intranet. With regards to inclusion, for example, the intranet page of the Central Disabled Persons’ Representation deserves particular mention. The HR Department has put together information on other issues such as caring for family members and FAQs dealing with matters raised by LGBTI staff working on field assignments. Specific information and support mechanisms are also available to national staff based at country offices.

Graphic: GIZ: SDG 5 Gender equality
Graphic: GIZ: SDG 10 Reduced inequalities

GRI standard 405, 406; UNGC 6; The Code 15