Ellen Hensel is a lioness. As well as serving on the Works Council of MAN in Munich, 39-year-old Hensel dedicates a lot of her free time to issues that are close to her heart: equality and diversity. In fact, she is one of the founders of the Löwinnen (“Lionesses”) and Proud networks at MAN.
As MAN’s Standardization Manager, Ellen Hensel’s job originally was to ensure the implementation of standards and regulations. The 39-year-old was elected to the Works Council in 2018 and has thrown herself into the role ever since. Hensel was reelected in March 2022 and now oversees the sales area of the Works Council and is Head of the Diversity committee. She is also a member of other committees — including for IT & digitalization — and part of the communications team. Hensel is particularly passionate about the idea of equality. “I founded the MAN women’s network, the Löwinnen, together with my female colleagues in 2015,” she recalls. Today, the network brings together more than 700 people across the entire TRATON GROUP, all of whom want to create equal opportunities within the Company. This also includes creating visibility for women and the issues they face in the first place.
The network’s activities include facilitating employee dialogue, devising specific suggestions for improvement, network events, and mentoring opportunities. The Löwinnen network is led by a team of six women — Hensel is one of them. “We connect women, we bring them together, we devise concepts in working groups and show where there is work to be done,” Hensel explains. Her motto: don’t just sit around complaining — get out there and make a difference. The opportunities provided by the Löwinnen network are not just aimed at women at MAN, but also and explicitly at women working for other brands of the TRATON GROUP. “They go down really well, too,” Hensel notes with delight. Incidentally, men are also more than welcome to join events dedicated to work and family life. “After all, these issues are not just limited to women,” Hensel says.
Driver of change
The next step came in 2019: Hensel cofounded the proud@MAN network, which represents the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer employees. “We want to drive forward diversity and everything that it entails. We see our network as a port of call for colleagues who do not want to come out to their employer directly, for those who are not sure whether and how they would make their sexuality known in their work environment.” The aim is to create a culture in which everyone can be themselves and an environment where everyone feels welcome. To do this, Hensel and her colleagues talk to a lot of different people, act as intermediaries, and initiate campaigns, for example taking part in the Christopher Street Day in Munich. The two networks are also in close contact with the HR department, working together to come up with concepts for training courses designed to make managers more aware of the issue of diversity.
As an expert in change and process management, Hensel has traveled a lot across Europe — often staying for several weeks at a time. “I think it’s so exciting when you come across people from different cultures — and something I actually learned a lot about.” For example, she found people in Eastern Europe to be more outspoken. Sometimes, she and her female colleagues also struggled to be taken seriously by the men in these countries: “We had be assertive to be accepted. That really makes you see things in a different light.” She believes that the key to dealing with international colleagues, like any human relationship, is keeping an open mind: “Sometimes, you have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand why they’re acting a certain way.” This approach also informs Hensel’s involvement in the network, to which she dedicates a lot of time and energy once the working day is over. “It’s my passion, so there is no nine-to-five,” she laughs. To take her mind off work, Hensel, who was once a professional handball player and loves motorbikes, loves to escape to the great outdoors. On vacation, she likes to be out and about. “I’m really active and explore the world around me. Lying around on a beach all day is not really my cup of tea.”