PROUT EMPLOYER FiNUM.Finanzhaus

“FiNUM.Finanzhaus stands for openness, respect and tolerance.”

After her studies of mathematics in Bonn, Sabine Schmitz, the Rhinelander by choice completed her training as an insurance saleswoman at Deutscher Herold Lebensversicherungs AG – now Zurich Group – and then moved to the sales subsidiary Bonnfinanz. Since 1998, she has built up her own company, Obligo Managementberatung, with a focus on IT and organisational consulting. In 2007, she was involved in the founding of FiNUM.Finanzhaus. In 2013, she additionally took on a board mandate in the group at Jung, DMS & Cie. AG. Under her responsibility, Jung, DMS & Cie. developed the strategy to successfully connect major customers. Since 2020, she has concentrated entirely on the development of FiNUM.Finanzhaus AG as Board Member for Sales, Human Resources and Academy.

Sabine Schmitz, WHAT MOVED YOU TO BECOME A PROUTEMPLOYER?

 

Sabine Schmitz: FiNUM.Finanzhaus stands for openness, respect and tolerance. We live this attitude on a professional and personal level. Both internally among our employees and externally dealing with our customers, there is an absolute culture of welcome. As a holistic consulting firm, we have a dual interest in an equal society. On the one hand, as an employer and cooperation partner, we naturally want to be a role model in the equal treatment of all people. Both internally and externally, we live a corporate culture that is guided by the values of objective, demanding, human, passionate, virtuous, pioneering and focused. These values already indicate how important the issue of equal treatment is to us. We are firmly convinced that only teams in which people with the most diverse life paths and experiences contribute can be truly successful. That’s why we are a very open, fair and demanding company here. This open-mindedness is also reflected in our consulting activities, which are always empathetic and authentic. All customers should be able to talk openly and honestly with our consultants about any situation in life.

What kind of support from PROUT AT WORK do you wish for?

 

Sabine Schmitz: Many companies have been involved with PROUT AT WORK for a long time and have a lot of experience. We would like to share in this, be inspired and collaborate to make our world more tolerant and colorful. All the efforts so far to make a difference are impressive. However, we will only achieve the big step if everyone is willing to take a stand for the topic of equality and against discrimination. With the help of the network, we want to become even more active in the future. We are looking forward to learning and making contacts.

FiNUM.Finanzhaus AG belongs to the younger PROUT EMPLOYER with the start of cooperation in 2021. What activities have there been so far in your company on LGBT*IQ in the workplace and are there already plans for the current year?

 

Sabine Schmitz: We are just getting started in the collaboration. Therefore we are trying to participate in many events and to take part in many activities. So far, it has been enough for us not to live any differences internally in FiNUM.Finanzhaus: we have employees of all gender identities, old and young, many nationalities, people of different faiths and sexual orientations. Now we want to contribute to promote our lived basic attitude and to carry it into our society, where still too big differences are lived. To this end, we have started to fly the flag for diversity on our social media channels and also to position ourselves in customer communications with subtle signs, such as the rainbow colors in the email signature. Unfortunately, we are convinced that it still takes a lot of courage for many people to openly and honestly acknowledge their own identity.

“Our challenge is to show that FiNUM.Finanzhaus provides an open work environment where everyone is welcome just as they are.”

Where do you see the challenges concerning LGBT*IQ diversity at FiNUM.Finanzhaus AG in the coming years?

 

Sabine Schmitz:Too many people in Germany still don’t dare to come out at the workplace. Our challenge is to show that FiNUM.Finanzhaus offers an open working environment where everyone is welcome just as they are. We have put a lot of thought into our set-up here and see ourselves on a good development path. We would be pleased if we could find more people who appreciate our way and see their professional future with us.

Dear Sabine Schmitz, thank you very much for the interview!
PROUT EMPLOYER Fujitsu

“LGBT*IQ friendly workplaces are part of what we do at Fujitsu.”

Juan Perea Rodríguez started with Fujitsu Siemens in 1999 and held several positions until 2021. In May 2021 he became Head of Sales Central Europe at Fujitsu Technology Solutions GmbH and Managing Director Germany. Juan was born in 1980 and is married with two sons.

Juan Perea Rodríguez, what was your motivation for becoming a PROUT EMPLOYER?

 

Juan Perea Rodríguez: We wanted to set an example. Allyship is important and, for me, this also includes to openly and visibly stand up for LGBT*IQ. The more companies position themselves here, the more “normality” the topic will hopefully achieve. We want to make a contribution here. In addition we wanted to promote internal networking, especially in Germany, because we already have a great global network with FUJITSU Pride and would like to see even more commitment from our German Workforce.

“The signing of the UN LGBTI Standards by our former President was a special moment and brought us a lot of positive feedback internally and externally.”

In 2016 Fujitsu was the first multinational corporation from Japan who promoted LGBT*IQ friendly workspaces throughout the global organisation. How did this come about and what were the reactions to this?

 

Juan Perea Rodríguez: There is a lot happening around women’s equality in Japan and as this happens, perceptions of other diversity dimensions are also changing. This cultural shift has made diversity increasingly important and LGBT+ friendly workplaces are part of what we do at Fujitsu, true to our motto “be completely you”. The signing of the UN LGBTI Standards by our former President was a special moment and brought us a lot of positive feedback internally and externally.

How did D&I and the corporate culture change since that time?

 

Juan Perea Rodríguez: With the revision of the Fujitsu Way, our current President Tokita-san has now also “literally” anchored Diversity and Inclusion in our Code of Values. This has given them the status they deserve internally and in society in general. As topics such as mutual respect, tolerance and cooperation were already clearly anchored in Fujitsu Way before, this was only cosmetics. The culture was already there.

Based on your experiences: What is your advice for global corporations who plan to engage within LGBT*IQ diversity?

 

Juan Perea Rodríguez:Speak to all employees and listen to all of them. Encourage the LGBT*IQ community within the company to openly share their experiences, needs, etc. Offer help and, if necessary, support in countries where discrimination is on a completely different scale than in Western Europe.

Where do you identify future challenges concerning your engagement for LGBT*IQ diversity within Fujitsu?

 

Juan Perea Rodríguez:To sensitize everyone in the company and to make the explicit preoccupation with the topic of D&I obsolete at some point. Because it is firmly anchored in all we do and we naturally all treat each other with respect and appreciation.

Lieber Juan Perea Rodríguez, thank you for the interview!
PROUT EMPLOYER Campana & Schott

“Openness and tolerance are here to stay.”

Dr. Christophe Campana is the founder and managing director of Campana & Schott. He has over 25 years of experience in (top) management consulting and is a member of various expert and advisory boards. His main areas of focus include “strategic project and portfolio management” as well as “new forms of collaboration” with a special focus on social collaboration. Dr. Christophe Campana is the author of over 50 publications on the subject of project and portfolio management.

Juan Perea Rodríguez, what was your motivation for becoming a PROUT EMPLOYER?

 

Juan Perea Rodríguez: We wanted to set an example. Allyship is important and, for me, this also includes to openly and visibly stand up for LGBT*IQ. The more companies position themselves here, the more “normality” the topic will hopefully achieve. We want to make a contribution here. In addition we wanted to promote internal networking, especially in Germany, because we already have a great global network with FUJITSU Pride and would like to see even more commitment from our German Workforce.

Campana & Schott received three awards as a “Great Place to Work”. The list of your commitments towards the diversity of your employees is long and you are building on long-term cooperation instead of “hire and fire”. Has the PROUT EMPLOYER cooperation been the last piece of the puzzle for an open and inclusive work environment?

 

Dr. Christophe Campana: There will probably never be that one last piece of the puzzle. For us, the cooperation with PROUT EMPLOYER is an important part of our commitment, which we are constantly developing further. I keep learning new things, e.g. only recently the Federal President Steinmeier made a very clear point in the context of the anti-racism riots where he said: “It is not enough to not be a racist. We have to be anti-racists.” This view also applies to me with regard to diversity and our corporate culture. I am convinced that in the future there will always be topics that managers should deal with in the interests of their company: openness and tolerance are here to stay.

“I understood that as an entrepreneur you have to take a visible and public position on this in order to reach out to the community and signal: Live your sexuality as you want: openly or not – both are fine.”

What advice would you give to companies that are just starting their commitment to LGBT*IQ diversity?

 

Dr. Christophe Campana: At Campana & Schott there have always been employees who have lived out their homosexuality openly. Therefore, homophobia had no place in our company. For a long time, I believed that this was enough. Only later, I understood that as an entrepreneur you have to take a visible and public position on this in order to reach out to the community and signal: Live your sexuality as you want: openly or not – both are fine. But if you want to live it openly, you will not suffer any disadvantage in our company. It’s just a small step, but it does a lot – and only good.

From our experience we know that LGBT*IQ diversity has the greatest impact in a company when executives, diversity management and the company’s corporate networks regularly come together. Is that also your recipe for success?

 

Dr. Christophe Campana: Yes, I myself regularly meet with our LGBTQ+ network and have learned a lot from these meetings, e.g. the so-called “Monday lie”, when colleagues chat with each other during the coffee break about the last weekend and some prefer to describe their life partner as “a friend”.

I could immediately emphasize the stress associated with this white lie when my employees told me that they had felt like this for very long periods of time, sometimes even years. That is why the close exchange is so crucial: You start to better understand the problems of the community and can actually start changing things more targeted.

The last question: There are turbulent times coming for employees. Considering your commitment to diversity, how would you react to the statement that starting from now, there are more important topics than LGBT*IQ diversity?

 

Dr. Christophe Campana: There is a difference between the urgency and the importance. The unexpected severity with which the corona pandemic has affected all areas of life resulted in existential challenges for many companies which we will have to deal with. Just because you douse a fire in an apartment doesn’t mean that your general life in the apartment becomes unimportant. This crisis overshadows many issues, which, however, do not become irrelevant – on the contrary: I am convinced that companies with an open and appreciative culture will get through the crisis better. Diversity is an essential part of corporate identity and contributes to the performance and resilience of an organization.

Dear Dr. Campana, thank you for talking to us!
PROUT EMPLOYER Google Germany

“We support you! Now and always! That’s what PROUT EMPLOYER says, and that’s why it’s important to us at Google.”

As Director of Client Solutions, Dr. Jannika Bock is responsible for the sale of Google’s advertising products to major customers in Central Europe. She is the Exec Sponsor of GayglerDE, the LGBTQ+ Community at Google Germany GmbH. Before Jannika switched to Google in 2008, she worked, amongst others, for Axel Springer AG. She did her PhD in American literary and cultural studies, i.a. at Harvard University, and is a member of the digital advisory board of TAKKT AG.

“We want to be a company that promotes diversity and lives integrity and inclusion.”

As Vice President of Central Europe, Philipp Justus heads Google’s business in 36 countries, including Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the CEE countries. Before joining Google in 2013, Philipp was CEO of Zanox, the Berlin performance marketing network, and held various management positions at eBay and PayPal, including VP of Europe, SVP of Auctions and SVP of Global Markets. Philipp studied business administration at WHU in Koblenz and received an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

As a sponsor and member of the foundation’s advisory board, Google has been associated with PROUT AT WORK since the beginning. Why did you decide to become a PROUT EMPLOYER?

 

Jannika Bock: Currently, it is important to demonstrate to the public that we at Google advocate equality for people in the LGTBQ+ community. This year, the CSD parades were canceled in Germany. As a result, a lot of visibility got lost. We would like to work against this: We support you! Now and always! That’s what PROUT EMPLOYER says, and that’s why it’s important to us at Google.

In order to keep setting new goals as well as keep up with diversity & inclusion, Google also relies on the possibility of self-identification, e.g. as trans *, non-binary or LGBT*IQ. Can data really depict the people behind your employees?

 

Philipp Justus: We want to be a company that promotes diversity and lives integrity and inclusion. We want our employees to picture the diversity of our users – this is the only way we can develop products that are actually accessible and usable for everyone. We want to create an environment for our employees in which they affiliate themselves with. This includes demonstrating the diversity of our workforce which is, for example, possible through the process of voluntary self-identification.

“In Germany there are still many, many people who cannot be themselves at work.”

Covid-19 somehow surprised all of us and we now have to deal with it. In your opinion, why does diversity and especially LGBT*IQ diversity has to remain in the focus?

 

Philipp Justus: In this PRIDE season, digital media have been more important than ever – for the first time, on YouTube with PRIDE LIVE there was a German-wide, completely virtual PRIDE event on June 27th 2020, attended by politicians, companies(such as Google), and many activists from the scene. There has been a space created to come together – a space that, unfortunately, couldn’t be on the streets this year.

Where do you see the major challenges for LGBT*IQ in the workplace in the coming years?

 

Jannika Bock: In Germany we often encounter the fast assumption that everything has been achieved and that there would be no discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community anymore – especially not in companies that actively campaign for greater diversity. However, this does not correspond to reality. In Germany there are still many, many people who cannot be themselves at work. There are people who hide their (sexual) identity from colleagues and superiors – for fear of discrimination and who are exposed to “micro aggressions” in form of taunts and hidden jokes. That has to stop!

Dear Jannika Bock, dear Philipp Justus, thank you very much for the interview!
PROUT EMPLOYER Kantar

“It’s great to see that our employee groups on gender and LGBT* topics have sparked a new dialogue beyond specialist teams.”

Dr Stefan Stumpp became CEO of the Insights Division Germany at Kantar in 2016 and has been with the company (formerly TNS Infratest) in various roles for a total of almost 20 years. A major focus of his work has been product and price research in the automotive sector – a subject he is personally passionate about. Other topics that are close to his heart are the sensitive structuring and management of change processes required in a constantly evolving company and the resulting cultural change. After studying business, Stefan Stumpp was an employee of the chair of marketing at the University of Augsburg and gained a doctorate there.

Mr. Stumpp, as CEO, you are a bridge between your company’s goals and your employees. What experiences regarding equal opportunities for LGBT*IQ people have you had to date in your role?

 

Stefan Stumpp: We are a market/social research company as well as a marketing consultancy and our mission is “Understand People – Inspire Growth”. This goal is a very fitting aspiration for our customers: we help them understand how their own customers, employees and stakeholders “tick”. To be able to achieve this effectively, however, we must understand people’s diversity and life plans and integrate them adequately into our studies and recommendations for companies. Therefore, our motto fits perfectly with the goals we have set for our staff development. Over and above our commitment to LGBT* topics, this gives us a greater understanding of how to integrate all types of diversity. This has made us better advisors for our customers.

Diversity has long been a topic in large companies. How are your staff responding to the fact that the focus is now being placed on LGBT*IQ?

 

Stefan Stumpp: We, too, have been aiming to increase the diversity of our team for many years. We take a holistic approach to the topic because equal opportunities are not just a question of gender, sexual orientation or background. As a knowledge-based company, it’s important to us that our employees can put their whole personalities into their work – this helps us leverage their full creative potential. Our colleagues at all our offices are responding very positively and with interest to the activities of our employee resource group “Pride@Kantar”. The group is open to all colleagues – whether they define themselves as LGBT* or not – and is active at our offices in Germany and worldwide. It is supported by our Inclusion & Diversity Committee and our staff development team. The group explains why it’s relevant to talk about LGBT* topics in the world of work, calls for debate – also about our policies and corporate stances – and, conversely, makes Kantar visible in the LGBT* world. It’s great to see that our employee groups on gender and LGBT* topics have sparked a new dialogue beyond specialist teams.

“Precisely in such crises, diversity gives us an advantage because looking at these situations from more angles will allow us to deal with them much more creatively.”

Kantar has been a PROUT EMPLOYER since 2019. What prompted you to focus on LGBT*IQ diversity yourselves?

 

Stefan Stumpp: To begin with, our diversity initiatives focused on balancing work and family life and therefore on equal opportunities between the sexes. We began a dialogue with all our employees on this subject and attempted to identify unconscious patterns of thinking. However, we quickly realised that diversity encompasses many more aspects. This prompted us to also start addressing quite specifically sexual orientation and gender identity as another key topic.

What do you think are the challenges and the opportunities with regard to LGBT*IQ diversity in your company in the coming years?

 

Stefan Stumpp: Within the company, we have created tremendous enthusiasm and optimism around the topic of diversity – and not just in Germany: after all, we are a global group with 30,000 employees. We have only just started to interconnect our employee resource groups and we had big plans for 2020 – especially for our work with the CSDs in Germany. The Covid crisis and its economic effects led not only to the cancellation of the CSDs. Many companies are first of all having to deal with the direct economic consequences of Covid-19. The challenge is definitely to prevent people’s attention from being diverted from staff development topics. A lot of commitment comes directly from our teams and we must ensure that we can maintain this motivation even in these unusual times. Precisely in such crises, diversity gives us an advantage because looking at these situations from more angles will allow us to deal with them much more creatively. Kantar understands people – how they think, feel, assess, consume or choose – like almost no other company.

How would you use your knowledge to make other companies understand the added value and your commitment to LGBT*IQ diversity?

 

Stefan Stumpp: Many of our customers – a large number of which are powerful brands – are faced with the question of how they can incorporate diversity into their advertising and communication and how they can become more inclusive. Some companies stick rainbow flags to the front doors of their branches/stores; others use CSDs for sponsoring or recruiting purposes: for many brands, the question of their stance – how they position themselves on issues of equality in society – has become an important subject. This includes how they deal with LGBT* topics. That’s why the inclusion of LGBT* topics in media, communication and customer touchpoints is also an area that we research and advise on, and in which we are learning not only ourselves how to improve, but can also help our customers do the same.

Mr. Stumpp, we at PROUT AT WORK are delighted to have Kantar on board. Thank you very much for talking to us!
PROUT EMPLOYER REWE Group

“We are best able to solve a task when we view it from multiple perspectives.”

Dr. Petra Meyer-Ochel (62), born on the Lower Rhine, graduated with a PhD in business administration from Cologne University. She then worked in personnel and management development for various retail companies, followed by 11 years as a freelance consultant. Since 2015 at REWE Group, responsible for the CoE Personnel Development in Retail Germany as well as many topics of the sustainability pillar Employees.

“It’s important to us to accommodate the interests, wishes and ideas of all our employees […].”

Kaja Gut (27), born in Frankfurt am Main. Studied in Darmstadt, graduating in 2019 with a master’s degree in psychology with specialisations in business und personnel psychology as well as occupational and engineering psychology. Has been working for the Employer Branding team at REWE Group Headquarters in Cologne since 2019, where she is responsible for REWE Group certifications, among other things.

“Without all those supporters all the way up to the executive level, a network like di.to.”

Frank Bartels (46), born in Lower Saxony, trained as a hotel manager in Hamburg before moving to Cologne in 1998 where he has been working for REWE Group for over 21 years. Responsible for event & travel management. In 2013, he initiated the LGBT network di.to. (different together) within REWE Group and is one of its two spokespeople. The network comprises about 300 employees nationally and exists in both Germany and Austria.

Top Employer in Germany with an extraordinary focus on employees for six years in a row, certified as a top training provider with the BEST PLACE TO LEARN label and recognised as an employer with a focus on balancing work and family. Was the REWE Group’s step to become a PROUT EMPLOYER a logical consequence? What motivated REWE to do so?

 

Katja Gut: It’s important to us to accommodate the interests, wishes and ideas of all our employees, regardless of gender, nationality, ethnic or social background, religion/beliefs, disability, age or sexual orientation. For us, focusing on our employees is essential, so we’re always looking to add further programs to our portfolio that could be helpful to our employees as well as potential applicants. As a PROUT EMPLOYER, we now have taken another important step, including with regards to supporting and positioning our LGBT network di.to (di.fferent to.gether).

What are your goals for the PROUT EMPLOYER cooperation?

 

Katja Gut: Through our network di.to, we are already actively promoting more tolerance and acceptance in the workplace, regardless of sexual orientation. We expect the PROUT EMPLOYER cooperation to add new input in this area, help extend our network and allow us to work on innovative ideas together. We are looking forward to learning new things, exchanging views with employees from other industries and sharing experiences. It’s great to meet like-minded people who support LGBT projects with the same passion we do.

“It’s important to us to be able to work as transparently as possible and keep drawing attention to our campaigns and events wherever we can: for example, involving all our colleagues at REWE Group in our participation at the 2019 Cologne CSD.”

Petra, you believe that the teams of the future will be mixed and diverse and you align your strategies accordingly. How is this idea being lived at REWE Group? And how can LGBT*IQ talents benefit from this philosophy?

 

Dr. Petra Meyer-Ochel: At REWE Group, we have mixed teams in our supermarkets as well as in our central locations – professionally, individually and with regards to the above-mentioned diversity dimensions. We are best able to solve a task when we view it from multiple perspectives. And you get these multiple perspectives when you make sure your teams are diversified. To start with, this often means more effort because all the different opinions need to be heard and exchanged. Communication is more complex as well, for example when a colleague from Retail sees things differently from someone who works in administration. But it always pays off in the end. Mixed teams frequently debate and discuss ideas that wouldn’t even have come up in a more homogeneous team. I am firmly convinced that diverse teams are more creative and make better decisions in the long term.
LGBT*IQ talents can benefit just like anyone else: openness for other people’s ideas, mutual respect and results that have been achieved together strengthen both the individual and the entire team.

Frank, in REWE’s advocacy for equal opportunities for LGBT*IQ, network and executive level work closely together, with numerous supporters in between. Is that the secret recipe for LGBT*IQ diversity within the company?

 

Frank Bartels: Yes, absolutely. Without all those supporters all the way up to the executive level, a network like di.to. wouldn’t have any clout whatsoever. Shortly after the network was founded in 2013, our current CEO and then-director Lionel Souque became our patron. That gave our network tremendous momentum and opened every door within the REWE Group. However, it should also be noted that acceptance within our company was – and still is – huge from the beginning and we we’ve always been able to approach various contact persons within REWE Group with our concerns at any time. It’s important to us to be able to work as transparently as possible and keep drawing attention to our campaigns and events wherever we can: for example, involving all our colleagues at REWE Group in our participation at the 2019 Cologne CSD. We don’t want to be on the sidelines, but we don’t want to be perceived as an elitist group either. So the 2019 CSD motto “Many.Together.Strong.” unwittingly became a maxim for working together at REWE Group.

From your perspectives, what advice would you give companies who are at the very beginning of their work for LGBT*IQ diversity?

 

Frank Bartels: As discussed, backing from an executive or from other straight allies is essential as far as LGBT networks are concerned. It gives you support, strength and self-confidence, in particular while the network is still in its infancy. Outwardly, LGBT/diversity should be an issue close to your heart, i.e. an issue that you’re comfortable promoting throughout the entire year rather than pinkwashing during Pride season. The fact that we display rainbow stickers at the entrances to our REWE and PENNY supermarkets, our toom hardware stores and our DER travel agencies positions us very credibly in this regard.

Thank you very much for the Interview!
PROUT EMPLOYER METRO

“My goal is that in ten years we no longer have to talk about diversity and inclusion because both of these things have simply become part of life – in all areas of society.”

Laura Halfas worked for various trading and consulting companies in the areas of purchasing, distribution and IT before she joined METRO in 2008. She started in the Supply Chain Management IT area and then moved to Customer Marketing IT. Seven years later, Laura Halfas, who has a bachelor’s degree in trade and commerce, became the team leader of eCommerce, Marketing Operations & Traceability. At the end of 2017, she ultimately took over the position of Head of Corporate Responsibility. She focuses on diversity and inclusion as well as corporate citizenship.

Ms Halfas, METRO AG is clearly a very active PROUT EMPLOYER. In what specific ways does METRO champion more equal opportunities for LGBT*IQ people?

 

Laura Halfas: METRO was one of the first wholesalers to sign the UN Free and Equal Standards of Conduct for Business, which ensure that all employees are “free and equal”. We also have METRO Pride, a very strong internal network. This year, the Diversity & Inclusion Days took place for the first time at our campus in Dusseldorf to spark our employees’ interest in the topic of diversity. And METRO was again represented at Sticks & Stones in 2019, the largest LGBT+ careers fair in Europe.

Which initiatives are you personally particularly proud of?

 

Laura Halfas: We at METRO initiated a position paper on the issue of blood donation because the guidelines are discriminatory. For example, homosexual men are generally assumed to engage in risky behaviour irrespective of their actual sexual behaviour and their life situation. It would be great if, together with PROUT AT WORK, we could achieve a position paper that was adopted by German businesses. That’s why I would again like to take the opportunity to invite businesses to participate in this initiative.

“Working for equal rights is what drives me. At first, I only focused on gender equality, but then I realised that there are many areas in which there is no equality.”

As Head of Corporate Responsibility, it is your duty to ensure that METRO AG fulfils its corporate responsibility for the environment and society. In your view, what responsibility do businesses have when it comes to equal opportunities for LGBTIQ people?

 

Laura Halfas: We are a people business and we work with people throughout our entire value chain. As a global company with more than 150,000 employees in 36 countries, it’s our duty to ensure that all people are treated equally and not discriminated against – be they METRO employees, service partners, suppliers or customers.

In what specific areas are you hoping for support from PROUT AT WORK?

 

Laura Halfas: I and a lot of my colleagues appreciate the networking and dialogue with PROUT AT WORK. The foundation has considerable experience and know-how. For example, it constantly provides us with new impetus to drive forward cultural change within METRO and make our jobs even more open and less susceptible to discrimination. What’s more, our activities are becoming visible outside the company. And as I said, our motto when it comes to the position paper on blood donation is: together we can do it!

You immediately agreed to an interview with us – thank you again! To what extent are equal opportunities for LGBTIQ people an issue that is close to your heart?

 

Laura Halfas: Working for equal rights is what drives me. At first, I only focused on gender equality, but then I realised that there are many areas in which there is no equality. My goal is that in ten years we no longer have to talk about diversity and inclusion because both of these things have simply become part of life – in all areas of society. However, there are still many areas in which LGBT+ issues need to be addressed. People are still being discriminated against. I want to change this. Everyone should have the opportunity to be who they are.

Ms Halfas, many thanks for talking to us!
PROUT EMPLOYER OTTO

“That’s why for me, MORE* is a very clear signal to the outside world – a signal that shows that in the Otto Group we will […] continue to be a liberal-minded, tolerant corporate group of many colours.”

Ingo Bertram is OTTO’s press spokesman and co-founder of MORE*, the Otto Group’s LGBTIQ network. Previously, Mr Bertram, who was born in Bremen, was head of Corporate PR & Content in the corporate communication department of the logistics service provider Hermes and worked as a PR consultant for international brands and groups.

You’re a very young network – only founded in 2019. Tell us how your initial idea led to the network being formed and how the first activities came about.

 

Ingo Bertram: The Otto Group has long been a supporter of diversity – explicitly including LGBTIQ. A good example of this is our cooperation with Hamburg Pride, which started in 2017. Nevertheless, the Group had no official structure that specifically allowed LGBTIQ people to join together and that promoted queer topics and coordinated activities. Nor was there a central voice representing the interests of our queer colleagues. This is precisely why in May 2019 we established MORE*, a queer network in the Otto Group. At the end of July, to coincide with Hamburg Pride Week, we officially launched the network – and the first thing we did was turn the OTTO campus into a sea of rainbows, including a rainbow zebra crossing and a huge rainbow cake, through a range of activities. Incidentally, the zebra crossing is now a permanent feature on our campus, as is the rainbow flag in front of our main entrance. The cake, however, was gone within two hours!

“Whether MORE* will be a lasting success in the Otto Group depends primarily on how deeply we can anchor our vision in the group and in the mindset of our staff.”

Which challenges did you face? Where did you get support from?

 

Ingo Bertram: Right from the time we established the network, we received a delightful amount of encouragement and support, not only from direct colleagues, but explicitly also from the highest management levels. I sometimes had the impression that many people were merely waiting for a queer network to finally be launched. Ultimately, our biggest challenge was therefore not only to officially establish the network within a few weeks, but also to organise a launch that met our own high standards – and to do all this without neglecting our main jobs. I was blown away by the fact that we had already got more than 150 MORE* supporters within 48 hours of the official launch on 29 July.

With Gesa Heinrichs as Executive Sponsor, you have an enormously committed person on board. To what extent does this help you in your work?

 

Ingo Bertram: Whether MORE* will be a lasting success in the Otto Group depends primarily on how deeply we can anchor our vision in the group and in the mindset of our staff. A prerequisite for this is that we can motivate as many colleagues as possible to help shape the work of our network proactively and drive forward ideas. Of course, it’s helpful for MORE* to also have committed members and supporters at higher management levels, such as Gesa Heinrichs or our patron Katy Roewer, the member of OTTO’s management board with responsibility for Service & HR. This gives us better access to top management and can make coordination easier. What is ultimately decisive, though, is that our ideas, visions and wishes take hold within the company, irrespective of any hierarchies. And for this goal we need every single person.

Why is supporting LGBT*IQ people a matter that is close to your heart?

 

Ingo Bertram: I’d like to answer this question both from a personal view and from the perspective of society as a whole. Speaking personally, the answer is obvious because – just like many other initiators and supporters of MORE* – I am queer myself and naturally I want to work in a company that treats its employees equally without reservation, regardless of gender, religion, skin colour or sexual identity. However, this always works best when there are people in a company who are committed to diversity and set a good example. This is precisely what we want to do with MORE*.

On the other hand, what’s at least as important to me is the appeal such a commitment can have beyond one’s own job. In Germany and in many other countries, we are experiencing a partial rollback of society. Right-wing populist ideas are gaining influence, mostly at the expense of minorities, and these include not only refugees, Muslims or Jews, but also queer people. I can’t and won’t stand by and watch this happen, either in my personal life or at work, and this is how many others here feel, too. I am convinced that in this discourse, companies have a growing social responsibility and must actively take a stand in favour of diversity. That’s why for me, MORE* is a very clear signal to the outside world – a signal that shows that in the Otto Group we will not surrender to this rollback and will continue to be a liberal-minded, tolerant corporate group of many colours.

What are the next steps, and what are your wishes and goals for the network?

 

Ingo Bertram: Globally, more than 50,000 people work for the Otto Group. The biggest challenge and thus the most important goal for us will be to reach as many of these people as possible. This sounds trivial at first, but it isn’t. In the coming months, we will therefore begin by redoubling our efforts to build up an internal network between our more than 120 group companies, both digitally and using regular dialogue formats. At the same time, we want to promote awareness of queer topics internally in various areas, whether it’s in marketing and purchasing, in our online shop teams or in the recruiting process. I think we’re already on the right track.

Many thanks for talking to us, Ingo!
PROUT EMPLOYER Commerzbank

“It has to become normal for heterosexual and homosexual people to be able to interact in a relaxed way with one another – in both directions.”

Jenny Friese, the board member with responsibility for private and corporate clients in the East region, was born in Berlin and completed an apprenticeship in banking at Deutsche Bank. Since 1999, she has held various management roles. In 2007, she moved to Commerzbank and became head of the Berlin City-West region. Later, she headed up wealth management in Berlin and eastern Germany. Since 1 February 2015, Jenny Friese has been the board member with responsibility for supporting private, corporate and wealth management clients in the market region East.

Ms Friese, Commerzbank marked the 7th German Diversity Day in late May with numerous activities nationwide. The market region East has been particularly active in 2019 – why is that?

Jenny Friese: Because diversity is just unbelievably important to me! For four years, I have been a member of the Global Diversity Council for the Private and Corporate Clients segment (see info box) and in this capacity I would like to be a role model and offer guidance, especially on the topic of “women in management”. In particular during challenging times, it is important to understand, accept and support people, with all their differences and strengths. On Diversity Day, we invited colleagues and clients to an evening event with a very interesting panel for a stimulating discussion on the topic of “Why is a commitment to LGBT issues a success factor for companies?” The feedback showed that this first step of our “Journey to Berlin” attracted people’s attention.

“For me, „living diversity“ is a personal conviction. It enables us to perform better and makes us more creative and at the same time more human.”

You mention the “Journey to Berlin”. What is that?

Jenny Friese: Over the course of my career, it has become clear that heterogeneous teams are usually the more successful ones. It was therefore important to me to further develop this approach. However, having diversity “decreed” as part of the human resources strategy is not enough – I make the case for managers at Commerzbank taking an interest in the issue, being tolerant and open and showing this in their everyday work. This is the only way that everyone at our bank can feel comfortable and develop themselves fully. In addition, employee networks help to support such a corporate culture and to offer new perspectives through people sharing their own experiences. When the spokesman for our employee network Arco (see info box), Holger Reuschling, asked me late last year whether I would be willing to take on the role of patron championing the issue of LGBT even more strongly within senior management, my interest was quickly sparked. From the initial discussions, joint ideas were developed, which were implemented conceptually this year in the “Journey to Berlin”. The term “journey” has a symbolic meaning. We are setting off with different events in order to make the issue visible and ensure an environment that is free of discrimination.

At the events held to date, you emphasised several times that living diversity is “close to your heart”. How do you show your commitment personally?

Jenny Friese: For me, “living diversity” is a personal conviction. It enables us to perform better and makes us more creative and at the same time more human. All of this is good for our personal and professional development. As managers, we can set an example here, too, and make a difference. For that reason, I personally attend many events, raise awareness of the issue and seek dialogue with others. In my current role, I have the opportunity to lend even more weight to my messages and ensure even greater attention is paid to the topic of diversity. Prejudices are not entirely unfamiliar to me either. Therefore, I feel obliged to make the case for openness and tolerance. It has to become normal for heterosexual and homosexual people to be able to interact in a relaxed way with one another – in both directions.

What advantages does such a culture of openness bring to Commerzbank and its clients?

Jenny Friese: As a company we in fact benefit very much from this. Studies show that employees’ performance is significantly higher if they are in a working environment that is free of prejudices. When searching for the best talent, we present ourselves as an open, modern and tolerant company. It has been proven that young LGBT job seekers pay very close attention to these values when choosing an employer. In addition, teams that maintain a culture of openness tend to be willing to tread new paths and to advance innovations. Our clients are making similar observations. Purchasing decisions are often influenced by how a company is perceived. When it comes to having a welcoming culture, we know from experience that LGBT people as well as their family and friends are particularly sensitive. At the same time, the group is considered particularly lucrative in terms of its purchasing power.

“LGBT is not a private attitude, but rather a sexual orientation that a person does not choose. This mistake very often leads people in the wrong direction. It is precisely for this reason that I can only recommend that everyone comes to grips with this issue.”

Sounds encouraging. On the other hand, studies also show that, compared to other countries, young employees in Germany in particular are less likely to take the risk of coming out. They are afraid it will disadvantage them in their careers. This is the case despite all the efforts made to promote diversity. What are we still doing wrong here?

Jenny Friese: Traditional corporate structures often cannot be changed overnight. And it is important in this process to include all levels of management, to raise their awareness, educate them and break down inhibitions. The colouring of our logo during the Christopher Street Day season in 2018 and the lively discussion of this that took place on Comnet showed that, despite our culture of openness, there are still a lot of reservations and unease. The activities are often aimed solely at the LGBT target group. However, shared events and measures such as the “Journey to Berlin” help to overcome these difficulties. To do this, we also need people who have the courage to go public and thus act as role models for other colleagues.

Is one of the reasons for this perhaps that sexual orientation is seen as a private matter?

Jenny Friese: LGBT is not a private attitude, but rather a sexual orientation that a person does not choose. This mistake very often leads people in the wrong direction. It is precisely for this reason that I can only recommend that everyone comes to grips with this issue. A homosexual person who won’t come out for fear that it will damage their career will never introduce the person they love to their colleagues and will always have to lie during conversations about the weekend or holidays. It’s not about discussing sexual preferences. But while male heterosexual colleagues can have a picture of their wife on their desk and can bring her to evening events or shared team activities, this normality is denied to a homosexual colleague who is not out. However, being able to openly talk about one’s private life is part and parcel of a human and positive environment. Arco’s experiences have made it clear to me once again that, in our company, too, there are still people who are not living openly and who do not disclose their sexual orientation to colleagues and, above all, to their supervisors. Despite the culture of openness, there are still no high-level managers who, through their visibility, can resolve the supposed contradiction between being out and having a successful career.

And how do you see the future? Where will we be on the 10th Diversity Day in three years’ time?

Jenny Friese: My wish is that by then we can successfully make the case for diversity. In addition, it would be fantastic if more and more people – regardless of their sexual orientation – take an interest in one another and interact with each other in an open, tolerant manner at every level and in every direction.

PROUT EMPLOYER BASF

“That’s why I champion open and respectful interaction in our company – which means that everyone is seen and accepted as a unique individual here.”

Michael Heinz is a member of the management board of BASF SE. He is responsible for the areas of Engineering & Technical Expertise, Environmental Protection, Health & Safety, European Site & Network Management and Human Resources. He is industrial relations director at BASF SE and the location manager for the plant in Ludwigshafen. He has been a member of the management board since as far back as 2011 and, in this time, has been responsible for the areas of Dispersions & Pigments, Care Chemicals, Nutrition & Health, Performance Chemicals, Advanced Materials & Systems Research as well as for the South America region and “Perspectives”, an initiative which supports marketing and sales within the BASF Group.

What objectives is BASF pursuing with the PROUT EMPLOYER cooperation?

 

Michael Heinz: With this cooperation, we are signalling that BASF maintains and promotes an open, tolerant and inclusive working environment – both internally and externally. We are a founding member of the PROUT AT WORK-Foundation and continue to champion the interests of LGBT*IQ people, because we want all our employees to feel comfortable here and not to have to hide their true selves, let alone be disadvantaged because of their sexual orientation or identity.

“To name one example, since 2012, we have supported the employee network LGBT+Friends at our Ludwigshafen location.”

What activities are there at BASF in terms of LGBT*IQ diversity?

 

Michael Heinz: To name one example, since 2012, we have supported the employee network LGBT+Friends at our Ludwigshafen location. This network deals with topics and concerns of homosexual, bisexual and transgender employees and sees itself as a forum for networking and sharing experiences. It is open to all interested staff. We also show our support for IDAHOT and other LGBT*IQ relevant occasions by carrying out internal and external communication activities.

Why is it important for you personally to support LGBT*IQ people?

 

Michael Heinz: I have seen in my social environment what it means for LGBTIQ people to not be accepted in society and therefore to not be able to be open about their sexual orientation. That’s why I champion open and respectful interaction in our company – which means that everyone is seen and accepted as a unique individual here.

Mr Heinz, many thanks for talking to us!