Intersectional Diversity Management Initiative

“Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects. It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LGBTQ+ problem there. Many times, that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all of these things.”

 – Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw

Presenting the Intersectional Diversity Management Initiative and its objectives

IDMI is a G400 (Global Policy, Governance, Cities; GloBe) employee-led initiative under the Four21 change process. To date, the initiative has grown both in number and scope.We aim to promote an intersectional understanding of diversity within GIZ by raising awareness on the importance of intersectionality within our work environment. Therefore, we are organizing regular events to exchange ideas on intersectionality, learn from each other and collaborate in applying an intersectional lens to programming and political advisory.

Why Intersectionality?

Intersectionality can help us to understand and visualize how social identities (such as gender, race, ethnicity, class, religion, sexual orientation, and ability) overlap with one another and maintain systems of power that oppress or favor people in the workplace and society. From a gender-transformative approach intersectionality provides for a specifically interesting analysis framework as it can illustrate how gender interacts with other social identities to shape bias in often surprising ways. People of multiple minority and/or non-normative groups face both distinct advantages and disadvantages. Biases based on gender and race do not always simply pile up to create double disadvantages, for instance.

Hence, intersectionality is not only relevant for the well-being and fair treatment of employees at GIZ but affects the target groups of all GIZ programs. Transformative changes in international cooperation in alignment with the 2030 Agenda are not achievable without an intersectional approach. Intersectionality can help us to work through internalized biases, identify individual acts of prejudice, visualize multi-level discrimination, and point out bias-motivated violence, which in its worst form culminates to genocide. It can provide a tool for GIZ project managers and advisors to strive for holistic justice in their respective project context.

It is indispensable to realize the significance of addressing issues through an intersectional point of view rather than working in silos. IDMI brings together colleagues at G400 from all levels – management and non-management staff – to work together under the following guidelines:

  • Diversity has several levels. Without an intersectional understanding, discrimination cannot be tackled, and diversity cannot be lived. The diversity dimensions include amongst others gender, sexual identity and orientation, age, ability, ethnicity, nationality, religion, socio-economic background.
  • Management staff needs to be aware and increase their knowledge on intersectional diversity to act as role models and to guarantee psychological safety of their team members while providing a framework for effective Cooperation and Leadership. In the end, they benefit from a diverse workforce.
  • All GIZ employees need to be aware on intersectional diversity and increase their knowledge, specifically on intersectional project management and political advisory, to strengthen a transformative portfolio and to do justice to the implementing principles of the 2030 Agenda such as Leave no one behind (LNOB).

To achieve our goals, we organize sensitivity trainings, provide inputs on intersectionality within our department G400 while cooperating with other GIZ units along our two task forces “Intersectional Recruitment & HR Strategy” and “Intersectional Portfolio Development”. This is a selection of events that we have organized or co-hosted in 2021:

Our intersectionality-sensitive contributions to GIZ’s corporate culture and our colleagues’ competences

Sensitization Series on Intersectionality for G400 (GloBe) Management Staff

IDMI organized a series of three sensitization workshops for each sectional Management Team of G400 on Intersectionality, which was followed by two in-depth collegial consultation sessions. All of these sessions were accompanied by the expertise of Dr. Emilia Roig, who has founded the Center for Intersectional Justice in Berlin. This series specifically targeted Management Staff of the G400, as a critical mass had already been identified among non-management employees. To enhance the trickle-up effect of generating more awareness around and integrating intersectionality as an analysis framework in GIZ’s work culture, the G400 management staff was specifically targeted to spark a trickle-down effect. The sensitization series has evidently led to strengthened managerial and methodological capacities among the G400 management, as it sparked various discussions on biased recruitment processes and qualitative shift towards intersectionality in one’s own project context. In conclusion of the series, Dr. Roig provided a Resource List on Intersectionality that can be accessed here in our IDA online library.

Four 21 Days: Anti-Bias Training

During the Four21 Days in the G400 department, IDMI organized three online anti-bias trainings (two in German and one in English, each 1.5h) for G400 colleagues. An open learning culture is needed, to help clear up unconscious prejudices (biases) within GIZ. After having provided an initial sensitization training for management staff on the topic of intersectionality and the concept’s implications for the manager’s work, we were aiming to offer an online anti-bias training for all staff members. The objective of this training included an awareness rising on hidden biases and its’ implication on the workspace through personal reflection and reflection of institutional and structural dimensions. The three trainings were attended by between 10 and 25 people (from all levels – management and non-management staff). Two external trainers introduced different forms and levels of discrimination and how they are intersecting while putting it in a historical context. In group work, the participants discussed hidden biases and its’ implication at the workspace. By the end of each session, more trainings within GIZ were requested – even as mandatory and/or as an all-day workshop. The trainings sparked various discussion on the individual reflection of one’s own privileges, concrete examples of biases within GIZ and how to address them. Through the staff’s reflection on biases, we aimed to strengthen an inclusive workplace culture.

“Intersectionality 101” Input for the GIZ country office in South Africa and Lesotho

In cooperation with the Gender Focal Point at GIZ’s country office South Africa and Lesotho a two-part input on intersectionality was organized. At first, IDMI provided an input on the basics of intersectionality as an analysis framework as part of the HIV, Gender and Wellbeing Working Group’s session during the Gender Week 2021, which also included an input by GIZ Gender Commissioner Dr. Angela Langenkamp. The session sparked a lively debate among mostly non-management staff of the respective GIZ country office. In a follow-up session later in Summer 2021, IDMI gave an adapted input on intersectionality to the Senior Management Team (including the country director) of the Country Office. The session was accompanied by the G400 departmental leader Joachim Göske to bridge the gaps between GloBe and the Regional Division on an intersectional portfolio development.

Series of Exchange Events within GIZ on Diversity, Inclusion and Intersectionality

In cooperation with DiversityHR within the HR department of GIZ IDMI is organizing a series of events within GIZ to mainstream the importance of diversity and intersectional thinking. The events are organized in a small circle of invited employees from the departments of HR and GloBe to create a trustful atmosphere and to openly talk about past experiences, express doubts and enhance the knowledge of the importance of diversity and intersectionality within GIZ.

On August 30th, 2021 the first event of our series was held online. In small groups the participants discussed if the concepts of diversity, inclusion and intersectionality are well-known in each represented team and how to enhance the dialogue about these matters within the teams. By exchanging experiences and ideas on how to include diversity into our every-day work and into the recruitment process, these events aim at enhancing the intersectionality competencies of our colleagues in their every-day work.

Online Event on “Age diversity and demographic change”

Within the scope of GIZ’s Diversity Week 2021 IDMI – in cooperation with DiversityHR – organized an online event on „Age diversity and demographic change”. Given the demographic change in Western Europe and Germany, as well as the very different age structures within the different units and ranks of GIZ, age diversity and how it interacts with other social dimensions (such as gender) needs to get a prominent spot within the company’s culture. At the same time, GIZ holds a unique role as the demographics in GIZ partner countries and therefore the age structure of national employees differs very much from the demography in Germany.

As a specialist on age diversity and generation management, our external speaker Dr. Anina Hille from the University of Luzern gave a focused input to more than 450 listeners. Moreover, the management ranks of GIZ were prominently present – with Lutz Zimmermann (Director-General of HR department) and Joachim Goeske (Director of Division G400 Global Policy, Governance and Cities) – to engage into a discussion on how to include generation management into GIZ. The objective of this event was to enhance the knowledge of fellow employees on the diversity dimension of age, while including the different age structures within the work environment of employees around the globe. The focus was on integrative generation management, innovative ideas for knowledge transfer across generations and on diverging and unifying values. Thereby, the other dimensions of diversity were also included.

How do we co-create a shared understanding of intersectional diversity?

IDMI has already built a solid network of cooperation with other departments within GloBe, but also across divisions including Human Resources and FMB. On GloBe-level, we regularly organize inputs on intersectionality for colleagues from various departments such as during the G300 “Identity Hour”, G400 “Four21 Days” or G500 Gender Focal Points and individual sector and global programs. On division-level, we have not only cooperated with HR, but are also planning a joint discussion session with FMB colleagues on intersectionality and its inclusion in GIZ’s project management cycle and program design. This session is planned for January 2022 and will utilize the Knowledge Café format, which is a regular discussion forum within FMB.

Beyond our co-creation of meaning with regards to an intersectional understanding of diversity, we are also in close coordination with other employee interest groups and relevant actors such as the Cultural Diversity Initiative (and Allies), Representative of Employees with Handicaps, Gender Focal Points and Rainbow Network amongst others. Our concepts and planned activities are always discussed jointly with relevant initiatives and actors before implementation to strengthen the company’s knowledge management, prevent duplication of work and align strategic goals. While such coordination can be challenging at times, it is inevitable for successful internal intersectionality mainstreaming.

Our top three success factors for fruitful cooperation with diverse stakeholders within GIZ are

  1. Identifying and working together with allies in different organizational units that are passionate about intersectionality and trailblazers in their respective work context.
  2. Close coordination with other employee interest groups and relevant stakeholders on our activities and goals.
  3. Call on GIZ’s hierarchy and specifically target them in various IDMI activities.