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Maria Wünn: On the Intersection of Sports, Business & Diversity

Maria Wünn: On the Intersection of Sports, Business & Diversity

Reading time for this article: 5 minutes

Among the line-up of fantastic speakers of the Diversity Week at BSH is Maria Wünn who works in Site Communications in Traunreut, Germany and is a passionate stadium moderator and referee in biathlon. We savored the chance to talk with Maria about diversity in sports in comparison to diversity in the corporate world and what the people from these two worlds can learn from each other.

Maria, can you please introduce yourself briefly? In which area and how long have you been working at BSH?

I've been at BSH for about 6 years. It all started in Corporate Communications. A few years ago, I moved to HR, where I was responsible for Employer Branding issues as well as HR Communications in Germany. I'm now at the Traunreut site and here I focus on Site Communications.

This week is Diversity Week at BSH. What do Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) mean to you?

Diversity is truly critical to all aspects of life, whether it's home appliances, car safety, or government decisions. In practice, over 50% of humanity are often not heard or are being ignored in the process. There are whole books on what that leads to! A condition which we must change together! As humankind, global or local, we are still far away from equity. This is a daily struggle, which is quite exhausting, but worth it. On a small scale, as well as on a large scale.

Beyond that, these terms mean success to me. DEI enables different, realistic views and perspectives that make a team more successful, and products, services or communication better. That may sound trite by now, but it's simply the way it is and you can't remind yourself of it often enough.

You have an unusual hobby. Can you please tell the readers what it is exactly? 

My great passion is biathlon. I was a stadium moderator at competitions in Ruhpolding for several years and have been volunteering there as a referee for many years. The task of referees is to make sure that the competition can be held according to the rules and under the best conditions for the athletes. I work as a competition secretary in the competition office with my team. My work there is more in the background, as we are the central interface between the coaches and athletes, our referees and their departments.

What about diversity in biathlon or sports in general? What experiences have you had?

There has been a lot of change in biathlon and in sports in general in the last few years! In my sport, for example, men's and women's competitions are in the same week, at the same place, and there are even mixed competitions. The prize money is the same regardless of gender. However, something still needs to be done in the federations, where, for example, leadership positions are still predominantly occupied by men. That's why the international biathlon federation, the International Biathlon Union, launched a mentorship program for women in leadership positions last year, which I was accepted into. However, even before that, I received a lot of support, especially from my male colleagues; they also pushed me out of my comfort zone at times and allowed me to grow and take on responsibility early on. We work with over 30 different nations during a competition week, which is also exciting in terms of different cultures!

In sports in general, the picture is very different. I'm sure many have read about the discrimination against Allyson Felix (track and field) or that the women in Nordic Combined will not be allowed to participate in the 2026 Olympics. I think the issue DEI is still far from being as present in sports as it is in companies, but it is slowly seeping into awareness - not just as lip service, but also demonstrated by actions.

What can sports learn from companies in terms of diversity and culture?

I think, a lot! For example, the topic of unconscious bias or how important the culture in which you work is. Diversity is not yet very firmly anchored as a topic in sports; I think companies are already much further ahead in terms of awareness, training, and visibility.

In your opinion, what are the challenges a company has to overcome in terms of diversity? How can your experience in the sports sector support you in this? 

Training leads to success - in sports as well as in business. You have to deal with goals and methods regularly, again and again, improve, reflect, and show stamina. You can't ease up, otherwise, it's too easy to slip into the habitual patterns we want to break. And this can only be achieved together and with an appropriate corporate culture that promotes and supports DEI. It needs a safe framework.

Why did you decide to share this topic with your BSH colleagues as part of your session at Diversity Week? What is your message to them?

What I have learned in sports has always helped me in my work so far – to show perseverance, overcome lows, to motivate myself even in difficult situations, be flexible, respond to situations, and, if necessary, adapt the strategy to the situation, and celebrate successes.

I wanted to give colleagues an insight into my sport and great passion, share my experience, and learn how they think about it. This exchange and learning from each other motivated me to offer this session.

 

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BSH Hausgeräte GmbH, with a total turnover of some EUR 15.6 billion and 62,000 employees in 2022, is a global leader in the home appliance industry. The company’s brand portfolio includes eleven well-known appliance brands like Bosch, Siemens, Gaggenau and Neff as well as the ecosystem brand Home Connect and service brands like Kitchen Stories. BSH produces at 40 factories and is represented in some 50 countries. BSH is a Bosch Group company.