Two women, one mission: living diversity at HZB

© HZB/Florentine Krawatzek

At the end of October 2022, the management appointed Ana Sofia Anselmo and Silvia Zerbe as new diversity officers. Together they will address diversity at HZB and drive it forward with employees. Ana works in the Director’s Office and is responsible for International Affairs. Silvia is deputy press spokesperson at HZB and is dedicated to internal communication at the centre.

What are your first thoughts on the topic of diversity at HZB?

Silvia: For me, diversity has a very positive meaning. It's an invitation to discover commonalities, but also to recognize differences. At HZB, the topic of diversity didn't just start with the audit (information about the diversity-audit at HZB), because working in a research institute brings diversity with it. I think it's great that with the audit we made a conscious decision to anchor diversity firmly in our structures. Equality, networking, and exchange are particularly important to me. I want to have an open ear for each and every one of us and get to know many different perspectives.

Ana Sofia: I agree with Silvia. As a research facility, we are diverse by nature. Science lives from collaboration and creativity, which are enriched by our various personal experiences and backgrounds. We all carry within a unique assembly of characteristics our circumstance, upbringing, education, heritage, life experience. It informs and adds to our interactions and to the science we do. I believe we need to bring this forward, the fact that diversity is an advantage. We need to promote it, to foster it and to embrace it fully, which will lead us to better science.

What are now your first steps?

Ana Sofia: In the last couple of years some topics have already been actively addressed, in large part thanks to Jennifer Schevardo and the diversity audit. This is a very good starting point for us. It is important to add to the steps already taken and bring diversity further into our everyday life. Following somewhat the strategy used during the audit: jointly discussing ideas with our colleagues and going from there. I find giving everyone a voice and room to be heard can be very fruitful.

It is important to me that the cooperation with the existing confidential counsellors at HZB is strengthened. We have equal opportunities officers, a representative for the severely disabled, an anti-discrimination officer, an Office for Work and Life and many other contact persons. We are really well positioned at HZB when it comes to these issues. Therefore, we should support each other even more where possible.
We would like to revive the exchange with staff on diversity issues soon. These discussions are so fruitful, and I am happy that this dialogue is now picking up speed again. We invite everyone to join in and support us with their ideas.

What do you expect from us as members of staff?

Ana Sofia: We are hoping for engagement from colleagues and active participation; not only through the well-established persons of trust but also through individual participation. We invite everyone to reach out to us, with feedback, suggestions and also to share their personal experience, how they live diversity.
However, we have just been appointed. We are still thinking about how to design specific moments of exchange. Perhaps in the form of informal roundtables alongside organized panel discussions with specialists and other activities. We will start planning very soon, so stay tuned! 

Silvia: Exactly, we are still learning the ropes and are looking forward to starting the visible work soon. In the meantime, many staff members have become more involved in the diversity labs: the topic of Mental Health, for example, is about to become permanent, we have established a good networking platform with HZB-CONNECT, and we are making progress on the topic of international affairs. But we should not forget that diversity does not only take place in these structures but every day, in every department. For me, it means being open, asking questions, showing empathy and interest, that's what brings us forward in our working culture and that's what diversity is all about.

The interview was conducted by Florentine Krawatzek

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