Diversity & Inclusion Boehringer Ingelheim
20 February 2018
Jacqueline Berlin

“We have to bring Diversity & Inclusion to life!”

Boehringer Ingelheim’s success is driven by its employees. We appreciate and respect their differences, because we are convinced that we benefit from such diversity. Our focus is on cultivating an inclusive environment where diversity can thrive, since this is the only way to achieve innovation. Birgit Giokalas is Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Boehringer Ingelheim since the beginning of the year.

You have been Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Boehringer Ingelheim since early this year. How did that come about?


I have felt very strongly about the subject of diversity for some time now. I trained as an economist with a special focus on marketing and organizational development. When I was in marketing, I was primarily involved in women’s health, so gender issues were very prevalent. In my previous position in Customer Innovation, I saw firsthand how important it was for teams made up of totally different disciplines, such as Marketing, Front-End Development and Service Design, to collaborate successfully and achieve a common goal. So I was very pleased when Boehringer Ingelheim offered me the position as Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion.


What are your goals in your new role?


I’m concentrating foremost on Diversity of Thinking. For innovation to take place, we need a culture that encourages ideas to be expressed openly and to be heard, and that values diverse skills. A culture of this kind depends among other things on three major areas, which we have combined under the name “3G” for “Gender”, “Geography” (cultural diversity) and “Generation”. We want to establish a better balance in these areas. Nevertheless, in talking about inclusion, we don’t want to divide groups or view them separately because underlying the desire for greater gender, generational, and ethnic diversity is the objective of laying the groundwork for numerous different perspectives and thus promoting innovation. In an organization, this requires a specific mindset, a specific culture, and specific skills – these are areas where there is still room for improvement. But there’s a difficult path to tread to reach this ideal goal of Diversity of Thinking, which is so clear in our minds, and reality has shown that we still have a long way to go. My job is to devise the steps required to get us there and to promote discussion.


What kind of steps do you mean?


We must ensure that teams of people with diverse backgrounds and skills work well together. Seminars and training sessions are one way, but we all know that what sounds so simple in a workshop is often difficult to implement in reality. So, the challenge we need to overcome is how to really bring Diversity & Inclusion to life. In a very practical sense, we integrate Diversity & Inclusion in our Human Resources processes, for example in recruiting, performance reviews, and the supervisor dialog program.


How would you describe your management style?


I would basically describe myself as a friendly, open and even-tempered person. My management style is situational, anticipatory and empathetic, though I too had to learn at first what it means to be a supervisor.


What do you mean exactly?


As a supervisor, you rediscover yourself, experience new strengths, but also new weaknesses, and it is a tremendous challenge to accept and manage these weaknesses. It requires a certain degree of introspection, although continuously questioning yourself isn’t good either. And one thing is certain: You must keep your private life separate and use the wonderful opportunity to balance out work through your private life, family, partner and friends. Maintaining this work-life balance life is very, very important to me.


Boehringer Ingelheim is hosting this year’s STEM Summit for the German Association of Women Entrepreneurs. Why is it so important to create platforms like this?


As a company, we want to adopt a clear stance on the issue of diversity, and the exchanges that take place at such events naturally open our eyes to new things and new developments. STEM to me is much more than just Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; many of the occupations of the future that will emerge from these fields are not even on our radar yet. What about man-machine communication, for instance, which will be of growing importance in years to come? This will require empathy and strong communication skills, in other words traits typically ascribed to women. How, for example, do you transfer research results in the sciences to the non-science world in such a way that all our customers get insight into the subject? To my mind, STEM is all these things, just viewed from a different angle. The question that comes up more for me is: When do boys and girls internalize these gendered stereotypes? Where do we need to begin if we want to get young women interested in STEM occupations? And how do we succeed in dispelling society’s stereotypes and eliminating unconscious prejudices? I am very much looking forward to these discussions!

"For innovation to take place, we need a culture that encourages ideas to be expressed openly and to be heard, and that values diverse skills!, says Birgit Giokalas. "
Jacqueline Berlin
Birgit Giokalas_Boehringer Ingelheim
Birgit Giokalas is Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Boehringer Ingelheim since the beginning of the year.

3 Kommentar(e) für '“We have to bring Diversity & Inclusion to life!”'


Welcome and what a great vision!. We can make a difference for our colleagues and patients

I m def encouraged to apply to BI after reading this article.

Being an Automation Engineer woman sometimes it's difficult, but since I am in BI life is easy . I am part of a Global Team (China, USA, Mexico, Germany, Spain,...) and so proud to be in. I wish you all the best

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