Through this series myGwork will be speaking to people across borders and professions, to put the spotlight on a myriad of different people, giving a small insight into their world. With this, we hope to help grow an understanding of different career paths, and also to share different lived experiences and stories.
This week we spoke to Lara Laila Gärber, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at AB InBev about what makes a workplace inclusive, her experience growing up around diverse and often opposing world views, as well as how we can work together and evoke change.
Hi Lara Laila – thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Can you tell us more about yourself?
My name is Lara Laila Gärber (she/her), and I am currently working as Diversity & Inclusion Manager Europe for Anheuser- Busch InBev (AB InBev). After studying Integrated Social Sciences at Jacobs University Bremen, I started working as a Global Management Trainee at AB InBev. In the last 5 years, I had the opportunity to move cross-functionally from the commercial team to our people team, where I had previously worked as a Talent & Development Manager and am now responsible for Diversity and Inclusion on a European level.
And what exactly does a Diversity & Inclusion Manager do?
Working as a D&I manager is an exciting role, due to the broad nature of D&I. The end goal of building an equitable and inclusive workplace touches on versatile topics along the way. It requires strong cooperation with a wide variety of teams ranging from supply to commercial. My current role addresses several key questions:
- How can we create an inclusive workplace with equal opportunity?
- How can we ensure that our company is reflective of our communities?
- How can we effectively integrate diversity and inclusion in our business strategy?
Building an equitable, diverse, and inclusive culture is essential to deliver on our unwavering commitment to meritocracy. D&I has been an issue of growing significance at AB InBev and we now have great momentum to evoke change together.
In the COVID-19 crisis, D&I has become an essential enabler of business performance. According to the McKinsey study “Diversity Wins - How Inclusion Matters": “There is ample evidence that diverse and inclusive companies are likely to make better, bolder decisions – a critical capability in the crisis.”
To truly embed D&I in our day-to-day, we have integrated D&I into our business strategy. This means that D&I is not just addressed and accelerated by our HR team or ERGs, but also by our business leaders.
So, what motivated you to pursue this career?
I come from a multicultural background having an Egyptian/ Palestinian mother and a German/Austrian father. This background allowed me to grow up surrounded by diverse and often opposing views and opinions. In hindsight, this helped me question my own beliefs and open my mind to new ways of thinking. And that is exactly why I care deeply for diversity in the workforce: a multitude of opinions not only allows us to share our own, unique views but perhaps more importantly learn from others while doing so.
What are some of your proudest career achievements?
There would be three achievements that come to mind that I am proud of; implementing a Cognisess Profiler to reduce biases, enhancing our Parental Leave Policy and integrating D&I in our business strategy.
Cognisses Profiler: In my previous role as Talent & Development Manager, we closely collaborated with an organization called Cognisess, who are experts in predictive people analytics. Their approach is driven by a unique combination of data science, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence. We created a profiler for candidates applying to sales roles to reduce biases in the recruitment process. We were therefore able to evaluate candidates more objectively based on their results rather than previous experience. We applied the same approach for our graduate programs and without ever setting a gender quota, we were able to reach gender parity amongst our trainees. To me, this is a great example of how reducing our biases can be more effective than any quota.
Enhancing our Parental Leave Policy: A strong parental leave policy is an essential component of a total compensation and benefit offering. Therefore, we revisited our existing policy to question whether it offers sufficient support for new parents. We conducted market research and listening sessions and drafted a new parental policy that offers enhanced support for families. We increased the parental leave for primary caregivers from 16 weeks to 26 weeks and included a return-to-work policy that offers flexible working at 100% pay for two months upon return. We also doubled the leave for secondary caregivers from two to four weeks at 100% pay. You can read more about the new parental policy here. I am proud that during these life-changing moments, we can offer more support and flexibility for 13,500 colleagues across 20 countries in Europe.
Integrating D&I in our Business Strategy: We have created a Diversity & Inclusion Council for our European business. The Council focuses on four key pillars, each run by a senior leader who is passionate about the topic:
- People & Workplace: This pillar strives to ensure that our company reflects the diversity of our consumers and that our workplace allows our employees to thrive. The pillar also focuses on broader initiatives and partnerships that benefit our various employee groups and foster inclusion. This workstream is being led by our VP Finance, Alexandre Pouille.
- Value Chain: The Value Chain pillar works to ensure that our Diversity & Inclusion efforts are reflected throughout our supplier and partner network. This includes the implementation of a supplier diversity program, which works with our existing suppliers to implement stronger diversity, equity and inclusion measures and look to source from more diverse suppliers, both existing and new. This workstream is being led by our VP Procurement & Sustainability, Erik Novaes.
- Marketplace: The Marketplace pillar aims to make our brands—some of Europe’s most-loved beers such as Stella Artois, Budweiser, Corona, Beck’s and Leffe,—agents of change in driving Diversity & Inclusion through advertising standards and powerful, consumer-facing campaigns. This workstream is being led by our VP Commercial, Brian Perkins.
- Communities: The Communities pillar of our D&I Council looks to engage our communities on Diversity & Inclusion topics and foster strategic external partnerships in these areas. This workstream is led by our BU President for UK, Ireland & Spain, Paula Lindenberg.
What does an inclusive work environment look like to you?
An inclusive environment to me means that everyone has a seat at the table. An inclusive work environment is fueled by psychological safety which fosters agility, as people are not afraid of making mistakes, engagement, as people can be themselves, and innovation, as people feel comfortable proposing new ideas.
An inclusive work environment can sometimes be tricky to define and track. We, therefore, employ a measure of inclusion based on a model from Deloitte, which assesses the following components of inclusion:
- D&I Commitment and Progress: Belief that the organization is committed to D&I and making progress.
- Fairness & Respect: Equality of treatment and opportunities, nondiscrimination and basic courtesy.
- Valued & Belonging: People believe that their unique and authentic self is valued by others, while at the same time having a sense of connectedness or belonging to a group.
- Safe & Open: Feeling “safe” to speak up without fear of embarrassment or retaliation.
- Empowered & Growing: People feel “empowered” to grow and do one’s best work.
We have ongoing initiatives in each of the pillars so that we can build a more inclusive and engaging organization.
By embedding initiatives that drive inclusion in our existing structures, we can ensure that we sustainably build a
more inclusive environment in the full organization.
What advice would you give someone wanting to follow in your career footsteps?
Be yourself. At the risk of sounding cliche, it is not worth pretending to be someone you are not. Be honest about who you are and what you can bring to the table.
Be curious. Ask a lot of questions and learn from the people around you.
Be humble. Humility is a key asset for self-improvement. It will help you build trust and facilitate your learning.