Maintaining a Black identity in a diverse company
Diverse companies with an inclusive culture are more successful, as studies show. But how can a culture like this grow? It is not created by management decisions or isolated training sessions. A corporate culture that allows space and respect for everyone is shaped by people in their daily interactions. Dr Agnes Mirra’s activism ensures that such a culture of respect and community is an integral part of Deutsche Bank.
Originally from Kenya, Agnes came to Munich 18 years ago for her doctoral studies at the Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property. Today, she lives with her family in Berlin and feels that her Kenyan origin is a central element in her identity.
“My identity as a Black woman is very important to me,” says Agnes. “My roots give me the strength to pursue my goals. My children, on the other hand, identify as Afro-German.” For Agnes, these different family perceptions are a great example of how different people have different perceptions of the world. The best way to overcome these differences? “Talking to each other!”
Conversations are the basis for creating solidarity with people of colour and countering racism. “When people learn more about me and my family, they will understand that we simply want to live a life in peace and with the best possible opportunities.” Nonetheless, not all people are the same, Agnes points out. "In an ideal world, we would all be equal. But to actually bring about change, we need to acknowledge that people from underrepresented groups don't have the same opportunities and experiences."
Activism for greater representation
In 2020, to further advance equal opportunities at her employer, Deutsche Bank, Agnes co-founded a German chapter of the employee network dbENRICH, which had previously been established in the UK. "Until then, there was no employee network for people from underrepresented groups. So, I wanted to take the opportunity to help shape a positive society and work for a more inclusive and diverse world, especially for my children."
dbENRICH focuses on the concerns and interests of underrepresented groups at Deutsche Bank in Germany, but the network is open to all colleagues. "We promote openness and diverse conversations. Our platform offers space for all voices, especially those that are often not heard, including employees of different origins, nationalities, skin colour and culture. Our goal is to create a working environment where all employees can develop their full potential," explains Agnes.
The dbENRICH network has set very clear goals that Agnes and her colleagues actively pursue: "We are building an inclusive network that is open to everyone in the bank, creating shared experiences that maximise the impact of our initiatives." This establishes room for conversations about challenges such as representation, role models, equal opportunities and career progression. Another purpose of these exchanges is to raise awareness how important sustainable allyship is to further dbENRICH’s cause.
With their activities, dbENRICH members aim to encourage the Bank to take long-term action to close the gaps they have identified and thus create an ethnically and culturally diverse work environment. To achieve this, it is particularly important that colleagues who are not directly affected by underrepresentation and inequity develop a better understanding of the dbENRICH topics. But not to forget one of the most important goals: "We celebrate and promote our cultural diversity!” Agnes concludes.
Learn more about employee resource groups at Deutsche Bank at careers.db.com