Diversity and inclusion in the international Audi family

“Diversity and inclusion? They just set up quotas and wave rainbow flags.” Biases like these are widespread. But managing diversity in a company is complicated – and it requires sensitivity.

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Austen Lowe, Diversity Consultant at Audi Brussels

Austen Lowe, Diversity Consultant at Audi Brussels

Those who have taken a look at the Trans Rights Map may think Belgium is comparatively far along when it comes to diversity and inclusion (D&I). After all, the tiny country has 21 of 30 possible points in this regard. The map uses 30 indicators to illustrate the legal situation. Everything’s fine then, right? Not entirely.

 

“We still have some work to do,” said Austen Lowe, Diversity Consultant at Audi Brussels. There’s not only a lot to catch up on in the company when it comes to the topic of inclusion, but in society as well. He’s advocating for more specificity and answers to questions like these: Are employees over 45 “old”? Can trans* people have their names changed in the IT system before they’re changed in their legal identity documents? “It’s not about treating everyone in a group of people exactly the same, but about being open.”

Katalin Bális, Audi Hungaria

Katalin Bális, Audi Hungaria

D&I in Hungary: Only those who feel safe can be creative

Lowe’s colleague Katalin Bális, from Audi Hungaria, also thinks, that openness is the key for a better and more diverse world. She knows the feeling of bottling up what matters most deep down but what can’t be seen on the outside. Bális battles anxiety and depression.

 

Step by step, she’s managed to open up at work. And this safety aspect is especially important to Audi. Because only those who feel safe and appreciated in their environment can completely apply themselves.

Anne Hoerner, Bentley

Anne Hoerner, Bentley

Opening up and building trust

Anne Hoerner wants to create a “safe space” for all employees at Bentley as well. For “D&I – 1Hour“ last year, everyone had the opportunity to talk about diversity and inclusion in their teams for one hour. In this safe space, one senior manager spoke up about his disability among his circle of colleagues for the first time after having previously kept it secret in his male-dominated production environment. It's moments like these that encourage others.

Matteo la Rovere, Italdesign

Matteo la Rovere, Italdesign

Matteo la Rovere has also noticed how colleagues are opening up at Italdesign. After the first workshops and campaigns for diversity and inclusion were started, a colleague wrote an e-mail to la Rovere. He wanted to openly speak about his sexual orientation and help Italdesign become more diverse.

 

“He was courageous enough to take this step and share this specific aspect of his private life with me,” la Rovere said. It was a touching moment that became a lasting memory for the diversity officer.

Laura Pérez Balderas, Audi México

Laura Pérez Balderas, Audi México

D&I in Mexico and Italy: Revealing unconscious bias and raising awareness

“The gender gap remains a problem for D&I in Mexico,” said Laura Pérez Balderas, from Audi México. Her goal, among other things, is to increase the proportion of women at all levels in the company. “It is of the utmost importance to dismantle unconscious biases to foster diversity,” Pérez Balderas said.

 

That’s why she wants to give employees the tools to work on their stereotypes, in order to create a more inclusive corporate culture. 

Ilaria Sette, Ducati

Ilaria Sette, Ducati

Ilaria Sette has already taken this step at Ducati in Italy. Unconscious bias trainings are offered at the top management level there. These are meant to show what kinds of impacts deeply rooted biases like these can have in the workplace.

 

“Becoming aware of these is the first step to dismantling them,” Sette said. These trainings were recently made available to all employees.

Lucia Ghirardini, Lamborghini

Lucia Ghirardini, Lamborghini

Parenthood program

Equality is and remains a priority at all locations and all brands, including Lamborghini. Lucia Ghirardini noticed that there are still a lot of challenges in Italy when it comes to reconciling work and family. “With regard to child care, we’re a long way off from equality,” Ghirardini said.

 

After the birth of their child, men can take ten days of paid parental leave, but research shows that only around half of them take the entire time. For this reason, there’s a broad parenthood program at Lamborghini – with a focus also on paternity – including events, a podcast, economic integration and dedicated paths such as “mom and dad coaching”.

Carina Behrends, diversity officer at AUDI AG

Carina Behrends, diversity officer at AUDI AG

Raising customer awareness

There are a lot of facets to D&I worldwide, according to Carina Behrends, the diversity officer at AUDI AG in Ingolstadt. In Germany, for instance, diversity is still far too often associated with female quotas.

 

“But it affects us all,” Behrends said. Diversity has to become a part of corporate culture. It’s not only the next generation of potential employees yearning for an environment in which everyone can freely open up; customers are increasingly aware of this as well.

Patrick Shelton, diversity agent at Audi of America

Patrick Shelton, diversity agent at Audi of America

Patrick Shelton is noticing this trend in the USA, too. “Customers today have more selection than ever before and can easily choose another product,” Shelton said. Diversity has a long history in America, and the level of research – for instance, on gender – is different than in Europe.

 

“Because of the many different cultures that live here, we have to vigorously advance D&I,” said the diversity agent at Audi of America. “But we’re not there yet. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

The goal of D&I employees: Making themselves redundant

As hard as diversity management is, the best gift is when colleagues rethink things, whether they’re in Györ or Bologna. But what would be best is if their jobs were no longer necessary. “For me, the ideal scenario would be if we no longer needed diversity agents in 20 years,” Laura Pérez Balderas said.

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