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In the week running up to Christopher Street Day, many German sites are flying the Rainbow Flag – a signal to all co-workers that they are accepted and welcomed, whatever their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
We bring a lot of our personal life into the workplace: We share what we experience on weekends or on holidays, organize baby-showers for colleagues, pool money for wedding gifts or going-away presents for parental leave. Being able to share personal experiences with co-workers at the office is key for a motivating work environment, where all feel fully accepted, appreciated and free to be themselves.
“Siemens nails its colors to the mast: Against homophobia and for mutually respectful interaction. At Siemens, you don’t have to leave your identity at the door. That’s why many of our German sites fly the rainbow flag during Pride Week,” says Human Resources Board Member Janina Kugel. “It signals how much we value diversity.”
At Siemens, you don’t have to leave your identity at the door.
Companies need to understand the business impact of discrimination: Many young and open-minded professionals and workers will not even consider working for an employer reputed to be non-inclusive or accepting of discrimination. Being forced to hide their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression also adversely affects employees’ productivity – estimates suggest by as much as one third. Only 12% of employees who identify as gay or lesbian are fully open about their identity at work; a further 40% are out to just a few. The reason is fear of harassment or discrimination in their professional careers. In fact, more than 40% of workers who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual and 90% of transgender workers have experienced discrimination, harassment or abuse in the workplace.
Studies show that 5–10% of all people are LGBTI, i.e. lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or intersexual. In Germany, studies point to about 5 million people as LGBTI – a percentage that applies to the company as well: About 5–10% of all co-workers at Siemens and Siemens Healthineers in Germany are LGBTI.
Siemens networks actively work toward improving both visibility and the situation of LGBTI co-workers. “Connecting and networking is very helpful in day-to-day life. It’s immensely important to be able to freely exchange ideas and opinions on different topics,” says Andrea Scheerbaum, a member of the Siemens PRIDE Network in the Nuremberg-Erlangen region. “As networks, we want to increase the visibility of this barely acknowledged dimension: sexual orientation and gender identity. For one thing, we aim to create awareness of this plight at Siemens Diversity Management. On the other hand, we make ourselves available to all who have questions – for example about coming out – whether it’s their own or that of a co-worker.
Nicole Herrfurth, head of the Diversity Office, adds, “Diversity stands for appreciating and valuing the rich differences that make us individuals. It’s not about how we live our lives, what matters is sharing mutual respect and working well together. Tolerance alone is not enough to realize the positive potential of diversity for our working world. We need more openness and more support. With its many positive attributes, the LGBTI Network can make a strong contribution to cultural change.”
It’s not about how we live our lives, what matters is sharing mutual respect and working well together.
Siemens does not just fly a flag, but joins the Christopher Street Day (CSD) parade with a float of its own. CSD is the celebration, memorial and demonstration day of people of non-traditional sexual orientation, gender identity and expression – people who identify as lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersexual. Siemens’ participation sends a strong message: Companies need to create a working environment that is open, inclusive and welcoming.