We are a global science and technology company with employees who represent a varied cross-section of gender identities, nationalities, cultures, religions, and age groups, as well as different sexual orientations. They bring their professional backgrounds, life experience and point of view to the table, incorporating this richness into their work. We believe that a diverse workforce – paired with a respectful corporate culture – strengthens our ability to innovate and contributes significantly to our business success.
Our approach to diversity and equal opportunity
We are dedicated to creating an inclusive culture that reflects our values and enables every employee to unlock their potential. Our goal is to further drive diversity across our workforce and offer all our people equal opportunities for advancement.
In 2018, we reviewed our Diversity Strategy and revised parts of it. Going forward, we will continue to focus on promoting women in leadership roles. Because Asian markets are becoming increasingly important to us, we have set the new goal of offering better opportunities to talent from the Asia-Pacific region. We are also continuing to pursue the other goals of our strategy: cultivating an international work environment, taking action against all forms of discrimination, creating teams with a balanced age structure, and building a diverse base of educational backgrounds and experience.
The strategic competencies that guide our employees and leaders in their tasks are set out in our Competency Model, a fundamental element of HR processes such as recruitment, feedback and training for supervisors and leaders. Building on this model, we defined six leadership behaviors in 2018, and also started to educate our people Group-wide on unconscious bias. We endeavor to help leaders recognize and reconsider these thought patterns in their daily routines and interactions as well as their decision making, ultimately making a lasting change to their approach.
In 2018, we also expanded a variety of HR tools and software that help leaders manage diverse teams. This allows them to quickly and reliably analyze their personnel and team data in terms of diversity and inclusion, and foster an inclusive culture that helps all team members contribute. Selected data on topics such as diversity are also presented in this report.
Women in leadership roles: Requirements and targets
At the end of 2018, women occupied 32% of leadership roles Group-wide, which means that we exceeded our 2021 target of maintaining a 30% representation of women in these positions. Although these figures are increasing steadily across the company, this is not the case within certain business units, Group functions and hierarchical levels. We are therefore working to further increase the representation of women in leadership positions and in those business units where they are still underrepresented. To achieve this objective, in 2018 we formed special teams responsible for developing goals and measures at a departmental level to help us advance female candidates into roles in different areas and hierarchies. In the units where the 30% target has been achieved, we are working to further increase the percentage of leadership positions held by women. In cultivating talent, for instance, we focus on promoting top-performing women in an effort to place more women in leadership positions.
How we are making diversity a pillar of the company
Our Chief Diversity Officer is responsible for overseeing our Group’s diversity strategy and reports directly to Belén Garijo, the Executive Board member whose responsibilities include Group Human Resources. Consisting of executives from all our business sectors and select Group functions, our Diversity Council performs four key tasks:
- It is responsible for implementing our strategy for greater diversity and inclusion.
- It evaluates and develops proposals to increase diversity submitted by our business sectors, Group functions and employee-organized networks.
- Council members ensure implementation of the Diversity Strategy in their respective areas, monitoring the progress of the initiatives.
- Members act as direct points of contact for the employees in their respective areas.
Group Human Resources (HR) has also implemented a number of programs and processes in order to further enhance diversity within the company. In our business units, work teams assess special requirements and devise a corresponding course of action.
Our commitment: Industry-wide initiatives and regulations
In an effort to drive diversity across our organization and underscore our commitment to fairness, inclusion and tolerance in the workplace, we support industry-wide initiatives:
- In 2017, we adopted the new Inclusion Action Plan of the German Mining, Chemical and Energy Industrial Union (IG BCE), which sets out concrete measures and provides guidance for creating a more inclusive workforce for employees with disabilities. In endorsing this plan, we are meeting the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- In 2015, we signed the IG BCE Equal Opportunity Charter, thereby promising to do everything in our power to achieve gender equality within the company.
- In 2013, we endorsed the German industry-wide “Charta der Vielfalt” (Diversity Charter).
- In 2011, we joined other DAX® 30 companies in signing a declaration committing to advance women in leadership roles and have been regularly reporting on our progress.
Meeting statutory requirements
The German Law for the Equal Participation of Women and Men in Leadership Positions in the Public and Private Sector has been in effect in Germany since 2015. Owing to our legal form as a KGaA (corporation with general partners), this law also applies in part to us. Detailed information can be found on our website.
Consisting of 37.5% women (six out of 16 members), our Supervisory Board already meets the stipulations of German legislation on the gender quota. Owing to our legal form as a KGaA (corporation with general partners), we are not required to set targets for our Executive Board. For the two management levels below the Executive Board of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, however, the Executive Board set the following targets in 2016:
- 21% women on the first management level below the Executive Board
- 26% women on the second management level below the Executive Board
We have set a deadline of December 31, 2021 for reaching these targets.
Revealing unconscious bias
We seek to raise awareness for diversity and inclusion among our employees. In a bid to educate people on unconscious bias, in 2018 we conducted pilot projects Group-wide involving a variety of training seminars and plan to roll out this training curriculum Group-wide in 2019. Approximately 380 employees took part in 2018. Through these workshops, we helped participants recognize unconscious thought patterns and stereotypes, thereby preventing any unfair treatment. To support these efforts, in 2018 we developed a new training concept and accompanying programs to drive awareness of unconscious bias across our organization.
In 2018, for instance, we rolled out the Job Analyzer, an online tool that helps us maintain gender neutrality when communicating with applicants. The algorithms assist our recruiters and leaders in reducing potential unconscious bias during the hiring process. The online tool is currently available in English, with a German and French version currently in the works.
Promoting women leaders and talent
We support our business units in their efforts to advance more female candidates into leadership roles. Since the end of 2017, we’ve been utilizing the Healthy Women, Healthy Economies toolkit, whose guidelines help us identify methods of promoting the health of our female employees.
In 2018, we furthermore hosted a variety of events on the topic:
- Under our Women in Leadership pharmaceutical initiative, we hosted an internal conference for our Healthcare leaders based in Darmstadt, Switzerland and the United States. This workshop aimed to educate people on gender equality in leadership roles.
- Partnering with external organizations, we hosted an event series on “Women in Science and Technology Companies”.
- In 2018, our Life Science business sector also organized 14 Diversity Days.
In the United States, we sponsored the Big Sisters initiative to commemorate International Women’s Day, a program that offers mentoring for young women from underprivileged communities. Among the mentors are employees from our company. In mid-2018, we furthermore launched an internship program in Italy for women with MS. On average, women develop multiple sclerosis (MS) twice as often as men. Unique to this program, it not only provides MS patients a stepping stone into the working world, but also helps us understand their needs and expectations concerning working life.
Networks to bolster diversity
Creating an inclusive work environment that promotes mutual respect is a particular focus of our Diversity Strategy. We support specific employee networks in order to foster exchange among like-minded individuals. Apart from our internal women’s network in various countries, we also promote networks that further the interests of the LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Questioning) community, Afro-American employees and international staff. Owing to the acquisitions we have made in recent years, there has been a steady increase in the number of our employee networks. Going forward, we intend to better leverage the potential of these networks to benefit our business activities. Networks with similar objectives are to be merged and expanded internationally. Moreover, we want to help establish leadership structures within these networks and define their goals. In 2018, the networks made great strides in sharing lessons learned and synergizing efforts.
- Our women’s networks offer women within our company a forum to discuss professional possibilities and best practices, providing each other mutual support in building their own competencies and advancing their careers. These networks also seek to identify, consolidate and maximize synergies between the global groups, transcending business sectors and hierarchies.
- Through our Rainbow Network for homosexual, bisexual and transsexual employees, we supported the 2018 Christopher Street Day in Frankfurt and Darmstadt (Germany). As well as taking part, we were the official corporate sponsor of the event in Darmstadt. Since 2016, the Rainbow Network has also been active in the United States and Canada, engaged in activities such as internal and external forums.
- Our U.S.-based Black Leadership Network is dedicated to advancing and developing African American employees, offering its members advanced training and continuing education programs, tailored career planning and networking opportunities.
- In our Carer Network, we bring together employees from across the globe who are caring for family members. The network helps people share lessons learned and best practices, as well as helping them process the personal and professional experiences that arise every day while caring for their loved ones. To raise awareness for the often overlooked needs of carers, the network also supports the general mission “Embracing Carers”.
Tapping into external networks
We are a corporate partner of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA), a non-profit organization committed to furthering the advancement and impact of women in the healthcare industry. We encourage our female employees to get involved in this network because it gives them access to mentoring programs as well as the opportunity to attend various seminars and conferences at our global headquarters in Darmstadt (Germany), as well as in Lyon (France), Lausanne (Switzerland) and Boston (Massachusetts, USA). Two of our female employees are board members of HBA Europe. In autumn 2018, 35 of our employees participated in the HBA’s European conference in Berlin (Germany) as well as five female employees in its annual conference in Washington D.C. (USA). Moreover, we were the main sponsor of the HBA’s European Leadership Summit, which was held in Berlin in 2018.
In 2018, we also sponsored the Women’s International Networking (WIN) Conference in Rome (Italy); 16 of our employees attended, with several of them giving talks. The network connects women in leadership roles with the aim of helping them gain more influence. In 2018, one of our female employees participated in the Task Force Summit held by the Center for Talent Innovation in New York City (USA).
Taking action against discrimination
As stipulated in our Code of Conduct, we do not tolerate any form of discrimination within our company. If an employee feels they have been discriminated against, they can report the issue via various channels. Their first point of contact is either their supervisor or one of three Group functions, namely Human Resources, Legal or Compliance. Alternatively, employees can call our SpeakUp Line anonymously from anywhere Group-wide. Group Compliance is responsible for investigating alleged cases, a process coordinated by the Group Compliance Case Committee. In confirmed cases of discrimination, a subcommittee provides a recommendation for disciplinary action that is implemented by our management team. In this way, we ensure that similar cases are dealt with consistently across the company. Details on alleged cases can be found under Compliance.
Successfully integrating international employees
Our company is becoming increasingly international. We currently employ people from a total of 136 nations, 24% of whom are German citizens. Our leadership (Role 4+) includes representatives of 70 nationalities. In 2018, 64% of leadership positions were held by non-German employees. As of the end of 2018, 74% of our workforce was working outside their home countries.
To best facilitate this international collaboration, we offer intercultural training for all employees along with suitable online tools. For instance, our Cultural Navigator helps prepare our staff for international projects and business trips abroad. We also provide the majority of our company-related documents in English, and support employees posted to other countries through language courses and international networks to help them adjust more quickly to their new country. For instance, more than 700 expatriate employees are members of the International Community that meets regularly in Darmstadt.
Addressing demographic change
Another issue we are tackling is demographic change. We expect the average age of our workforce to continue to rise in the coming years. In Germany, we are responding to this trend with various initiatives including our corporate health management program. A case in point is BELS, the tool for strain evaluation we use to design ergonomic work spaces that boost performance. BELS accounts for demographic change by assessing a range of stressors through the lens of age. This approach allows us to adapt our workplaces to suit the needs of older individuals. In addition to modifying physical working environments, we also offer innovative shift models and a prevention program for shift workers.
In 2018, our company health insurance fund partnered with our Health Management organization to conduct a year-long campaign entitled “I got a check-up”. This initiative sought to educate people about metabolic syndrome, a combination of multiple risk factors that can lead to serious conditions such as diabetes, heart attacks or strokes. To raise awareness for the issue, we employed a variety of media such as flyers on mobility, nutrition, stimulants, and relaxation, along with an online self-test. In Darmstadt and Gernsheim (Germany), our Site Medical Center offered check-ups for heart attack and diabetes risk factors, along with blood lipid, blood sugar, body weight, and body composition screening. A total of 900 employees received a check-up.