For diversity and justice. Diversity, gender mainstreaming and anti-discrimination in the everyday practices of foundations.

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Henning von Bargen - Photo: Stephan Röhl - Some Rights Reserved

Henning von Bargen

Published in StiftungsWelt
2012, 2, pp. 30–31.

By Henning von Bargen

Although foundations
support democracy and foster and encourage political action, not all
foundations interpret democracy in
the same
manner. In the last StiftungsWelt, Maik
Bohne and Knut Bergman argued that in the future democracy will
to mean
pragmatic problem-solving. As an
example, they stressed that in the future foundations will compile
knowledge that is relevant for this process more systematically;
consequently knowledge will be used more innovatively. Moreover,
foundations are the predestined supporters of new forms of political
participation in democratic politi

As a result,
foundations that consider human rights, gender equity and
non-discrimination as important, need to
a number of questions regarding the planning and implementation of
their activities. What is the most important problem in each case?
What kinds of knowledge and skills are relevant to solving the
, and
which are not? Which parts of society are affected by and involved in
these new forms of political participation, and which ones are not?
Finally, are there any understandable reasons why certain problems
have been
why existing knowledge has been left untapped, or certain social
(target) groups have been included, excluded, disadvantaged or

Strategies such as
gender mainstreaming and diversity management aim to systematically
integrate such questions as issues that cut across (political) action
and decision-making processes within organisations. The main aim of
such strategies is to achieve social justice and a form of democracy
that enables people of all genders to participate. Furthermore they
aim to take diversity and difference in
as well as the potentials of
different people into account, while avoiding inequality in
opportunity and chance from the outset.

What does this mean
for the everyday practices of a foundation? What do foundations need
to take into account as part of their activities if they are to
remain fit for the future and continue to act as models of democracy?
An example is the issue of quotas for leadership positions and in
that is
currently being discussed by various foundations. The different
positions on this issue range from ‘qualifications not quotas’ to
‘without quotas nothing or not enough will change’. However, the
fact that higher management
decision-making bodies in Germany remain unashamedly ‘white’,
despite an immigrant population of around 20%, is rarely made an
issue; the same applies to age and
Comparisons with other countries and research into organisations
demonstrate that organisations tend to become more homogeneous unless
this trend is consciously tackled. People in charge of employing
staff tend to employ people from their own social group, despite the
fact that this leads to a loss of an often desperately needed
potential for innovation. In such cases, quotas can act as useful
tools that enrich diversity and increase the success of businesses.

application procedures are a further helpful tool. In many countries,
these procedures have long been part of everyday practices, yet in
Germany they are still treated with scepticism. Such procedures
provide a method of choosing staff based solely on their
qualifications. At least during the first round, irrelevant data such
applicant’s name, gender, age, hobbies
are not taken into account; this
prevents these details from distracting from the actual application.
The German Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency recently completed a
pilot project on anonymous application procedures and has produced a
helpful, easy-to-follow guide, which is available from
(in German).

The grounds on which
foundations decide whether or not to provide support are generally
based on formal criteria such as guidelines. Clearly, criteria that
are both transparent and accountable are important components of
application procedures if disadvantage and discrimination are to be
avoided, and equal opportunities and fairness
to be ensured during application procedures. Consequently, when
deciding on specific criteria
, it
is essential
to verify which applicants
will be
excluded or
afforded preferential treatment due to the criteria
there are objective reasons for
doing so.
Furthermore, it is extremely important that
criteria fulfil the aims of the foundation. This is crucial, as in
practice unrelated considerations are often taken into account, and
foundations may be unaware of the
this can have

However, tailoring
an approach to the needs of target groups is not only important for
the public image of a foundation. Alongside content, choice of
imagery and media, language is a decisive factor in public relations
work. Language produces image
that can be interpreted differently; it can appeal directly to people
or exclude them and intentionally or unintentionally discriminate
against them. Consequently, gender-equitable, non-discriminatory, and
inclusive language should be a basic component of a foundation’s


Foundations for
Gender Mainstreaming: the example of father-friendliness.

By Dr Ulrich Kuther
| Representative of the board of hessenstiftung – familie hat

According to a study
by hessenstiftung – familie hat zukunft
family-friendliness and father-friendliness need not necessarily go
hand-in-hand. Although 40% of participating fathers
they considered their
employers family-friendly, the same number
that their
were not father-friendly.
Family-friendliness is usually interpreted as a women’s issue, and
is viewed as an accommodating social benefit.
is only when
businesses (and foundations!)
learn that family-friendliness also needs to mean
that it will
be possible to turn a social benefit into a serious strategic choice
that could help ensure fathers remain with a provider in the long
term. However, in order for this to occur, fathers will have to
assert their rights to paternity leave and part-time employment;
while management will have to understand the
motivation levels
that satisfied parents bring to the

At the same time,
actors such as foundations are needed to promote and support this
process of development. The foundation hessenstiftung – familie hat
, for example, supports
a fathers
that covers a number of different companies based in Darmstadt. This
network solution for small businesses is based on an easy-to-follow
guidebook providing support to fathers. The Ursachenstiftung
project ‘Fathers in family businesses’ in Osnabrück is
structured in a similar manner. Both projects aim to provide easily
manageable solutions that answer the questions:
to my company? How can I find out more about my employees’ family
situations in order to better meet their needs? And finally, what
measures are most appealing to fathers?

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Henning von Bargen

Henning von Bargen, studied Sociology, Educational Science, Cultural Anthropology (M.A.) and
Dipl. Pädagogik. Training in TCI, personnel development and the
systematic designing of change processes. Gender trainer and gender
consultant since 1998. Many years of experience in political and trade
union educational work. Since 1997 spokesperson for the shared task
‘Gender Democracy’ at the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Since 2007 Director
of the Gunda Werner Institute together with Gitti Hentschel.
Henning von Bargen
Gunda Werner Institute in the Heinrich-Boell-Foundation
10117 Berlin
Phone: +49 - (0)30 - 285 34-180