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Celebrating diversity

By Knauf Insulation
March 08, 2023

International Women’s Day is celebrating why diversity and inclusion are essential to the creation of a working environment where everyone can thrive.

Knauf Insulation is today celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) with the news that its diversity and inclusion (D&I) leadership programme has reached a new landmark. 

Kristin Barthel, Knauf Insulation’s Group Chief Financial Officer, who sponsors the D&I programme at Knauf Insulation, says: “I am delighted that 50 leaders in more than 10 countries across Europe have now participated in our D&I programme. Plans are in place to roll it out to all our other senior leadership teams and volunteers by the end of 2023.”

Additionally, members of Knauf Insulation’s D&I Working Group have also received facilitator training which will enable the successful acceleration of the roll-out company-wide.

Helene Debard

Hélène Debard, Knauf Insulation’s new Group Chief Human Resources Officer, says: “International Women’s Day is the ideal opportunity to highlight the importance of ensuring we all enjoy a working environment where everyone is treated with respect.

“This means a workplace where gender equality can flourish, and diversity and inclusion (D&I) are nurtured. It is a privilege for me to join the company at such an exciting moment.”

“It is not enough to simply recognise the importance of D&I”, says Hélène, “active strategies must be put in place and these strategies need to be continuously supported and nourished.”

Starting our D&I journey

“At Knauf Insulation we recognise that we are in the early stages of our D&I journey but it is essential that we now step up our momentum and to ensure long-term culture change this journey must be nurtured at every step.

“For Knauf Insulation this means first generating awareness of D&I across the company and a top-down approach reinforced by leadership buy-in,” says Lisa Flaherty, HR Director for Northern Europe.

Lisa Flaherty

The company’s D&I Working Group developed a D&I leadership awareness course which has been piloted with a selection of senior leadership teams and constantly refined for maximum impact. A workshop was also held for the Knauf Insulation board, which was also attended by Alexander Knauf, General Partner of the Knauf Group.

“We started rolling out the course to our regions and technical teams in 2022 and we have now found ourselves further along than expected,” Lisa says.

“The programme has been received positively and helped open up hundreds of challenging conversations which will undoubtedly provide the foundations for a more dynamic work culture. When you leave a D&I meeting you shift your terminology, and a mirror is held up to your bias. The result is that you become instinctively more inclusive.”

In parallel with the leadership awareness courses, the company is also inviting under-represented groups within Knauf Insulation to contact D&I trainers to discuss ways to better support and nurture inclusion through advocacy groups.

Monitoring D&I progress

In terms of D&I, Knauf Insulation’s immediate priority is awareness, however the company is also focusing on measuring progress.

In 2022, for the first time, Knauf Insulation added questions on cultural inclusion in the company’s Gallup survey and the results were positive with the company scoring 4.02 out of five.

Katrien Wakana, Group HR Talent & Development Manager, says: “Of course data is essential to our D&I journey and we will be reporting on statistics such as the number of women being promoted compared to the number of men and the diversity of our leaders.

Katrien Wakana

“However, right now our priority is awareness and International Women’s Day is the ideal time to once again remind ourselves of the importance of why everyone should be treated equally and with respect.”

Kristin Barthel

"Diversity and inclusion is essential to creativity, new ideas and innovation which are all vital to the future success of our company", adds Kristin Barthel, Knauf Insulation’s Group Chief Financial Officer.

"Embracing D&I is undoubtedly the right thing to do, and it makes total sense from a business perspective”, adds Kristin. 

Putting People First

Knauf Insulation’s diversity and inclusion work is in line with the company’s For A Better World sustainability strategy.

We are committed to Putting People First and by 2025, the company will have ensured that all new employees, leaders and managers in the company will have undergone diversity training.

However, in the words of Lisa, “D&I needs to be engrained in our business, we can change as many policies and procedures as we like but if when people walk through the door and they don’t feel included then they will leave. We want people to feel a real sense of belonging, but it should not be something we ever have to actively think about.”

What our D&I Working Group members say

Silke Weiss, Knauf Insulation’s Director of Technical Solutions Sales Central Europe, says: “I have seen the positive impact of D&I in my team. The construction industry is very male dominated, very results driven. But from the beginning I have been working in a very diverse environment. What I have seen is that when there is diversity of ages, nationalities, cultures, a balance of genders, there are more perspectives, more effort to understand one another and more respect. This positivity is reflected in our approach to our customers as well as to each other."

“Diversity is good for the bottom line, but of course ethically we all deserve to be treated with respect."

Diversity also encourages you to evolve, experience a variety of perspectives, be accepting of difference, be more tolerant and more empathetic
Silke Weiss, Knauf Insulation’s Director of Technical Solutions Sales Central Europe.

"The challenge is sometimes to dare to nurture diversity, to be open to the situation. It takes effort, but my learning is that it is worth doing even if there is not always acceptance, because the ultimate value and benefits are huge”, adds Silke. 

Awareness of D&I breaks down barriers

Jane Curran, Head of Commercial Development for Northern Europe says: “Since joining the D&I Working Group, I’ve helped develop course content and become an advocate for D&I, shaping developments through feedback. In the future, I hope to support the delivery of course content.

It’s great to see D&I gaining momentum. From my perspective, a key milestone was to see changes implemented at the very top of the organisation, with D&I being integrated into the company’s ‘Put People First’ strategy.
Jane Curran, Knauf Insulation’s Head of Commercial Development for Northern Europe

"This will lead people towards being better equipped with skills, knowledge and behaviours, supporting D&I throughout the whole organisation."

“Having an awareness of D&I helps to break down barriers, it strengthens our cultural competence and supports positive communication and relationships. Not to mention adding value, increasing productivity and employee engagement. Together, growing our awareness means we all benefit from an environment where people are truly enabled to give their best every day,” adds Jane.

Pascale Bruwier, Knauf Insulation’s Group Category Manager, says: “Look, for our company D&I is more important than ever. Of course, there is a moral imperative, but Knauf Insulation is rapidly expanding, our customer base is growing and we are building new facilities worldwide so we need to reflect and embrace all the diversity this brings."

Knauf Insulation is still at the start of its D&I journey, but the training programmes have created great value and this helps highlight our bias.
Pascale Bruwier, Knauf Insulation’s Group Category Manager

"Once you have an understanding of where your bias lies, you can do something about it. This good for business, good for the company and ultimately good for everyone.”


For further information about Knauf Insulation’s approach to D&I read our annual report here.

For more information about International Women’s Day visit the IWD site here.