Posted on 07/31/2018 via BSH Home Appliances Group

Brown Bag Sessions – Eat. Meet. Connect.

How we built a space for BSH women to exchange views on important topics

BSH Diversity Week set the tone for the company in May 2018. It helped raise awareness and get employees talking about how this topic relates to them and the people they are surrounded by. But we realized we needed to keep this conversation going and make sure women in BSH had a seat at the table. That’s how the BSH Brown Bag concept came into the picture.

What are Brown Bag Sessions?

Brown Bag Sessions are the brainchild of our cultural transformation team together with Ulrike Kümmerle and Susanne Trojer in BSH Senior Management. These women saw the need to have a safe space where female employees could discuss ideas with women managers and network at the same time. They were convinced that for the concept to work the set-up needed to be relaxed and informal. And that’s where the idea of lunchtime meetings came in. What better way to swap ideas with colleagues and feel comfortable sharing stories than over lunch? The sessions run from noon till 2 pm, and each participant is welcomed with a brown bag – filled with sandwiches, fruit, and a drink.

These sessions are open to women of all career levels. But this vital platform isn’t all talk and no action. It empowers female employees in BSH with informal mentoring and the opportunity to share experiences of diversity in their day-to-day work.

History of Brown Bag Sessions

We kicked off our first Brown Bag Session in Munich as part of May’s Diversity Week. Susanne Trojer was one of the many women who took the mic to tell us about her experience with diversity being a woman in a technical job. The session was met with glowing feedback, with participants saying they were blown away by all the valuable takeaways.

June then saw the second round of this new platform for women, where we focused on the question “Is a career compatible with a family?” This time we invited three BSH women, including mom-of-two Ulrike Kümmerle, to tell us about their career paths.

Valuable insights for the participants

By the end of the session the unanimous verdict was that women don’t have to be perfect. They can’t always have everything, and that’s OK. Being a super mom and a high-flying career woman at the same time is almost impossible and calls for compromises. It is all about choices and trade-offs. But equally, that’s not to say women can’t set their sights high.

A full-time working mom who joined us said it was good to find out how other women juggled their career and family. And crucially, she appreciated seeing that it is possible to have both at BSH.
Something the group flagged was that meetings scheduled in the late afternoon unintentionally exclude women who work part-time. Businesses need to be aware of this and make sure they avoid unconscious bias and instead focus on being inclusive of part-time employees.

The value of this lighthouse project

Each Brown Bag Session can only accommodate 25 people. But so far, each event has been at capacity and received great feedback.
Participants pinpointed various benefits of attending, including getting tips and tricks for balancing career and family life and being simply more courageous in building their careers. A lot of women appreciated getting to know fellow employees with the same kind of questions and concerns. And for others, it was just good to have the chance to get to know colleagues and see diversity through their eyes.

Going forward – the future of Brown Bag Sessions

We have four more sessions in the works for 2018 at our Headquarters in Munich. For one of the events, we’ll be giving a voice to female foreign managers in Munich to talk about their experiences as expatriates working abroad.

Given how well these events have been received in Munich and before that in Bretten, it’s no surprise there are other BSH locations starting up their own Brown Bag Sessions. We also have plans to extend the platform beyond Europe and give women across the BSH group the opportunity to explore diversity. That’s why a similar format is in the pipeline for BSH in other countries.