Female locksmith checking the door mechanism on a Deutsche Bahn ICE train

Hiring with diversity and inclusion (D&I) in mind is at the forefront of many HR teams’ strategies and is one of the most discussed topics within the HR industry. Companies and organizations around the world are increasingly investing in internal training and employer branding to become more inclusive and attract skilled, diverse talent.

German transportation company, Deutsche Bahn (DB), has become the first company in the world to break not one, but two record titles that shine a spotlight on D&I.

Woman in front of monitors in the signal box in the Maschen marshalling yard

DB has 335,000 employees worldwide, and with more than 20,000 new hires annually, there are 4,000 young professionals joining the company every year. DB employs people from four generations, and from 100 nationalities.

In their own D&I agenda, DB are addressing many issues, including generational and cultural diversity, but a major pillar in their strategy is working towards gender equality. By the end of 2024, DB aims to increase the proportion of women in management positions from 20 to 30 percent.


In fact, March 2021 marked the first DB World Women's Month in which they celebrated their female employees. The company set two brand new records: most viewers for an online diversity and inclusion live stream on a bespoke platform and most users to take an online diversity and inclusion webinar in 24 hours.

We spoke to Steve Goodwin, Marketing Director, HR & Employer Branding, about the incentive behind DB’s record-breaking livestreams. 

Why did Deutsche Bahn decide to break a world record?

“It was important for us to first take our employees with us on the journey and to show that diversity is an important success factor. With the incentive idea “Be part of a world record” and the associated feeling of unity, the format of a world record webinar was the perfect solution. After we got our employees on board, we wanted the second record attempt, which would give the general public the opportunity to be involved. Thus, DB could set an example for equal opportunities and stimulate an open discussion on the topic.

The message for both world record attempts was clear: diversity doesn't just break records. Diversity makes us all more successful!”

We also spoke to Christian Riekel, Chief Diversity Officer at insurance firm AXA, and Janina Mütze, Co-Founder of opinion data company Civey, who took part in Deutsche Bahn’s record-breaking live stream. 

We asked them to provide their insight on the importance of D&I, and what it means to them.


How do you try to understand the perspectives of people with diverse backgrounds?

(CR) For me, one of the keys is to listen to people appreciatively without judging them immediately. If I can do that, I can learn a lot and often be amazed!

(JM) Listening is the key here. I think that in our fast-paced society it is particularly important to listen carefully to our counterparts and to treat them with respect. We all deserve to be heard and should therefore give each other the appropriate space. In this way, we can better empathize with their situation and classify positions.


What is the most common mistake in an organization’s thinking about diversity?

(JM) A common mistake is to assume that diversity is reached at a certain point and the topic can then be ticked off. It can't work that way. From my point of view, diversity is a process and not a fixed goal. Diversity encompasses a myriad of different areas that we learn more about every day and that move us forward.

(CR) Many organizations see diversity as a measure to transform the company. But diversity has to be an attitude, not a measure.


Do you have a personal story about diversity and/or inclusion that you would like to share with the world?

(JM) People from many different nations work in our technology company Civey. In my opinion, this is a very important reason for our success. Many different ideas lead to particularly creative work.

(CR) The intensive occupation with people, their characteristics, and their effects in working life opened up completely new insights for me - it is worth it!


For Deutsche Bahn, a major focus in their D&I strategy is to become a more attractive employer for women. To promote their push for equal opportunities, they set two new world records. Find out more about their successful attempts in this case study.