Booth: "Tolerance means everyone is welcome"

Clement Booth: I grew up in South Africa – where racism was institutionalized but had the good fortune to be part of a liberal family. 

For me, diversity and tolerance are the opposite of prejudice and prejudice is never acceptable.

Diversity has a lot of advantages – for better quality when it comes to decisions and for better operating societies. Diversity has been a life-long journey for me but one I'm glad to be on as it is so obviously the right way to live, whether privately or corporately.

Clement Booth: "You need to have tolerance to come to the Group"
Clement Booth: "You need to have tolerance to come to the Group"

I was running a company in financial services (CEO 1993 to 1998) which was made up of 65 percent colleagues who were other than white. This was very unusual in South Africa at the time.  I was able to appreciate the benefits and the joy of living in a color blind world which is what South Africa is trying hard to become.

We are a global company but there is room for improvement when it comes to people working outside of their national boundaries. We need to give our employees the opportunity to broaden their horizons. This is not only beneficial for the individual but also for Allianz as a global player.

As for gender mix, we need to achieve a higher percentage of women "coming through the ranks" and reaching senior executive levels. This includes having more women in the pipeline for senior positions.

We see ourselves as a company of tolerance. So we want our employees to embrace tolerance. You need to have tolerance to come to the Group. Tolerance means everyone is welcome.

The initiative is fairly new but it is being constantly communicated. The US has achieved a good deal in appointing women to senior positions as is also the case in Eastern Europe. You see it everywhere – women in senior positions!

I’m a pragmatist. I’ll do it position by position. If there is no diversity candidate on the list – then you need to just look a bit harder. You have to work step by step. I believe very much in role models. When we appointed the first black engineer in South Africa, it was not about glossy headlines but about sending a signal that we took diversity seriously. Apart from that, we found some outstanding people who did very well in their future careers.

I also believe in mentoring circles. If you bring somebody into the company then maybe he or she is fully qualified, maybe they’re not. A mentor helps a colleague who doesn’t speak German. This is also diversity in a way. I try to help them reach their potential. I would like to see an institutionalized mentoring program.  And such a mentoring program should not be finished after a couple of weeks or months – it should be a two year companionship.

There’s a lot of best practice – workshops on gender issues, trainee development programs, programs for disabilities. The focal point is the awareness for diversity. Then you need to pick out items which will give you the best return. The Diversity council  is focused on gender issues. This should be fact based. You have to make a difference in your own circle – diversity candidates should be considered. This will create a multiplying effect.

Yes, we interact with governmental and private institutions, including important global companies. The fact is – a qualified workforce is not a given, skills are in short supply. Companies are expanding – you have to draw from a 100 percent of population, not only from a small percentage. You restrict yourself with certain limits if you’re not doing that.

I’d like to see a number of appointments of women on senior level. If we want to have women at top level including on the board, we have to start now and we have. Diversity is all about career development. If you want to achieve certain positions you also have to take some responsibility yourself. As a company we have already lots of wonderful stories – and for the future we should take it step by step. That's less daunting.

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