Portrait of Janina Fischer, Diversity Commissioner at GIZ.


‘Diversity is not just a nice-to-have‘

Janina Fischer is the Diversity Commissioner at GIZ. She talked to us about why diversity pays off and how it applies at GIZ.

Janina Fischer has been promoting diversity at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH since 2021. She is Diversity Commissioner at GIZ. The company is committed to the German Diversity Charter and as such promotes and recognises all forms of diversity among its staff: age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability and ethnic background. In the interview, she talks about the progress achieved – and what remains to be done. 

Why has GIZ positioned itself as a diverse company? 

Diversity within the company makes us demonstrably more successful and more innovative. It’s not just a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. Studies show, for example, that half of the current shortfall of skilled workers could be resolved by improved diversity management of human relations in companies. Three-quarters of young professionals would rather work for a company that is openly diverse and inclusive. So if we’re not diverse, we miss out on talent, innovation and opportunities. And diversity enriches the lives of every single member of staff. Diverse teams offer different perspectives and world views. They’re also almost always more successful – and who doesn’t want to be part of a successful team? 

GIZ signed the German Diversity Charter in 2019. What has the company achieved since then? 

Creating the position of Diversity Commissioner was the start of coordinated diversity management. The company was already committed in various ways on gender and inclusion. We now pursue an intersectional approach, which considers equality, inclusion and diversity together and involves as many people as possible across the company. For example, we organise and host regular events and create space for dialogue.  We have also adopted a human resources policy that mainstreams GIZ’s basic understanding of diversity and anti-discrimination. Our aim is to create a corporate culture in which diversity is recognised and valued. We achieve this using a range of measures.

What measures exactly? 

All managers are now required to undergo a mandatory course in diversity and anti-discrimination training. This requires them to reflect on their own position and privileges in society. They learn to recognise and reduce unconscious biases. They also focus on the consequences of colonialism. In this way, we empower our managers to create a diverse environment and show them how they can shape diversity. We’ve also incorporated diversity and gender aspects into the annual feedback from teams to their managers. This helps us to see how managers are actually promoting diversity – and helping us all to move forward together. 

Are you already noticing a change in working relationships? 

Yes, in many areas, especially when it comes to conversation culture. Just a few years ago, there was virtually no dialogue within the company on certain topics. In 2022, we invited the activist Tupoka Ogette to a reading from one of her books on anti-racism. The event was opened by our Labour Relations Director, Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel. This sent out an important signal. Today, we regularly host events on topics such as racial discrimination and post-colonialism. More and more staff are now listening to each other and joining in the discussion. These and other important issues can now be discussed. 

What role do staff initiatives play in a shift in attitudes such as this? 

The part they play cannot be overstated. Through initiatives such as the Cultural Diversity Initiative, GIZ Postcolonial and the Rainbow Network, many staff volunteer their time to ensure that the company continues to develop from the inside out. These initiatives provide information, engender debate and offer peer-to-peer support for individual groups. They make an enormous contribution to improving the working environment for the 25,000 or so GIZ staff members.  

But there are still issues that need ironing out? 

For sure. We’re continuing to work hard to ensure that our structures and processes are even more inclusive and non-discriminatory. But that will take time.  Then there’s the task of transposing GIZ’s understanding of diversity into the field structure. As well as the need to find solutions to situations where people feel they have been mistreated but have no case under the Anti-Discrimination Act. We’ve already put in place our ‘stop-it’ grievance system, but perhaps we also need arbitrators or mediators. One thing is clear: diversity means lifelong learning. And we’re behind that all the way.

Additional information


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Cooperate in diversity | GIZ Integrated Company Report


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GIZ - an award-winning employer


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