Interview with Elisabeth Ewen

Elisabeth Ewen


Executive Vice President for Human Resources, Corporate Culture and Legal Affairs


“I want to be a board member who represents all our employees.”

Elisabeth Ewen is a fully qualified lawyer with an additional qualification in administrative and labor law. After graduating, she worked as a lawyer in the HR department of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) before she became director of human resources at GMD – Forschungszentrum Informationstechnik GmbH. She came to the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft with the integration of the company GMD – Forschungszentrum Informationstechnik GmbH. She has held several management positions in human resources at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, most recently as director of human resources.


Elisabeth Ewen has been on the executive board of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft since August 2022.


Ms. Ewen, you’ve held management positions at Fraunhofer for some time. Now you’ve moved to the executive board, what has changed for you?

On the one hand, it means working on new, and a greater number of topics. My work now includes the legal field as well as the area of compliance. My background is in law, and I’m delighted to be able to work on a diverse array of legal subjects again. On the other hand, I have more freedom to make my own decisions. I have so many more responsibilities and opportunities now. And another significant change is that I can make an impact in the political sphere, as Fraunhofer has considerable influence in that respect. I also act as a consultant on current issues — for example, I was recently asked to consult on questions regarding legislation on working conditions — and can bring aspects of my management work at Fraunhofer to the table in these situations. 


You mentioned the legal field. What issues are involved there?

The world is becoming more and more regulated, and I think that’s a major challenge. There are standards to cover everything. For example, if you develop a product, you have to deal with the European CE marking system. If you carry out a project outside Germany, you need to know about foreign trade law. Those are just two areas where departments at the headquarters work very closely with employees at the institutes.  When it comes to foreign trade law in particular, our close collaboration with the employees at the institutes and their compliance with the legal requirements is crucial.

We must make sure we act as partners for our scientists and support them from the outset, rather than being called in and intervening when something goes wrong. We need to work together to respond to new challenges, such as the German Supply Chain Act. This means we need to be constantly working on our development, and we must collaborate with the employees of the institutes to do so.  That way, we can ensure we stay compliant.


What other key activities do you anticipate in your executive unit?

Our work will mainly concern the issues we’re seeing already, such as how the world of work is changing. We’ve rolled out our New Work@Fraunhofer project to tackle this, but that is by no means the end of the story. There are still a huge number of challenges we need to face. What I’d like to do is strengthen our support of the institute management teams as they deal with challenging management tasks, such as when they’re going through processes of change or particularly difficult periods.

We’ve also set up a culture development process. We will analyze where we need to make further developments and which of our values are stable. Once we have clarity on that, we want to really bring our corporate culture to life — with tools and practical guidance.  A visible corporate culture gives employees direction, stability and motivation.


For the first time, there are two women on the executive board. Do you expect this to have an effect on equal opportunities and women holding management positions?

These board positions weren’t handed to us on a silver platter. We got here by making it through a very intensive selection process. This means we are in a great position to act as role models, because we can say: “We wanted this, and we did it.” We now also have more and more female institute directors at Fraunhofer. Overall, this development will change Fraunhofer for the better. It shows that Fraunhofer is an exciting place for women to work.


Fraunhofer was recently voted the best employer for career entrants. How can Fraunhofer maintain this level of attractiveness, especially considering the shortage of skilled workers? 

Fraunhofer promotes knowledge transfer via individuals and promises to help young people develop, supporting them in the next step of their career. But we have to follow through on our promises. It takes a long time to build trust, but you can lose that trust quickly. We need to work continuously on maintaining our credibility. That’s how we’ll win the trust of young people.


Are there any groups among our employees to whom you particularly want to offer support?

I want to support all groups of employees equally with their respective challenges.  I want to be a board member who represents all our employees