Settling in and getting started: professional integration of refugees
In cooperation with Socialbee, Commerzbank supports the professional integration of refugees.
They had successfully settled into working life in Afghanistan after the turn of the millennium: Geeti Mariam Baharustani had been working at the central bank in the country’s capital Kabul for five years. And Razia Fazl had been campaigning for women's rights, for example as a project manager for the United Nations. Both had previously studied economics. They experienced a period of relief thanks to political liberalisation.
“Times seemed to be getting better, especially for women”, says Razia Fazl. In those years, more than 80 per cent of the members of parliament were men. “But the government soon set up a women's ministry. I coordinated budgets there and initiated training courses for women.” Fazl still benefits from these experiences today. She has been a project administrator divisional strategy at Commerzbank in Frankfurt since 2022. And Geeti Mariam Baharustani, Associate Specialist in software development, wouldn't want to go without her early professional years either.
But between the years of awakening and the two women joining Commerzbank lies a shadow of violence and flight. The Taliban reorganised themselves and had been launching more and more attacks in Afghanistan since 2006. Fazl and Baharustani decided to flee – just like countless other female residents. “My father had already been murdered by the Taliban in 1998. We were temporarily accommodated in Pakistan. Later, fear drove me out of the country for good”, reports Razia Fazl.
Fit for the labour market
No doubt, good fortune also accompanied the two women on their way to Germany. Initiative and skills then paved the way to Commerzbank. The Afghan women applied to Socialbee, a non-profit organisation. It integrates refugees into the labour market and helps them to start a new life in Germany. Baharustani and Fazl completed a demanding programme: they acquired MS Office and project management expertise and learned what social skills are important. After a few months, they felt ready for the labour market.
At the same time, two units of the Bank decided to work together with Socialbee. “It's a new way of enriching the Bank with diversity and new perspectives”, explains Miriam Schipper, Divisional Head divisional strategy.
There were a few organisational hurdles to overcome. “No time to hesitate – that's exactly how we proceeded”, says Sofia Strabis. She is responsible for diversity management in Human Resources alongside other roles. “Everyone quickly agreed that we wanted to make this happen jointly and pragmatically”, says the Head of Department.
Important tasks, friendly colleagues
Just a few months after starting, Razia Fazl and Geeti Mariam Baharustani felt completely at home at Commerzbank. At the beginning, familiarising themselves with tasks and processes was challenging. But their colleagues showed their full support from day one. “The bank at your side” – that's what they experience here every day. Integration works with a good knowledge of German and a willingness to keep learning, says Baharustani. She has a monthly development meeting with her boss. She also decided to take part in a Scrum Master training programme, which she has since completed, as has her colleague.
Geeti Mariam Baharustani
Geeti joined the Central Bank of Afghanistan in Kabul in 2009 after completing her economics degree. She initially worked there as an external auditor and later as a team leader and project coordinator. She fled to Germany in 2015. She joined Commerzbank in 2022 and is now an Associate Specialist in software development. She is fluent in Persian, German, English and Russian.
Razia studied economics and gained her first professional experience at the Ministry of Women's Affairs in Kabul. As a manager in international organisations, she has headed gender equality projects in ministries and universities. After fleeing to Germany, she joined Commerzbank in 2022 as a project administrator in divisional strategy.
Communicate work, promote diversity
Socialbee is a non-profit organisation founded in Munich in 2016. It helps refugees to integrate into the labour market and build a new life in Germany. Socialbee places candidates with companies either on a temporary basis or for direct employment. The aim is to promote diversity in the workplace and strengthen companies through diversity.