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Acting as a proud voice for LGBT*IQ colleagues

Acting as a proud voice for LGBT*IQ colleagues

Reading time: 10 minutes

Carlos Sanchez Albir (Projekt Lead in Customer Service at BSH) and Claudia Strauch (Global L&D Application Manager at BSH), recently received their nomination as PROUTVoices at the PROUT AT WORK-Foundation. In an interview, we asked them, what this honor means to them and why they decided to fight for diversity, equity and inclusion at the workplace.

First of all: What does the expression PROUTVoices actually mean?

PROUTVoices are out LGBT*IQ people, who show an active commitment in their environment for LGBT*IQ equal opportunities at work and are nominated by the PROUT AT WORK-Foundation. To be considered for the nomination you must fulfill the following or similar characteristics:

  • Work in the private sector in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland
  • Are a driving force for LGBT*IQ topics in their company or initiators of projects
  • Act as a voice and/or representative for LGBT*IQ colleagues
  • Work with decision-makers (HR, D&I, etc.) to promote the topic in their organization

The internal and external commitment to LGBTI*IQ equal opportunities at the workplace is considered as well.

And now let’s move on to the interview with our two nominees Carlos and Claudia:

1. What does this nomination mean to you – personally and professionally? 

Carlos:
For me, it is a matter of recognition and validation in all different aspects. For many years, I had a clear distinction between my personal and professional life until I came out. Since then, I just felt the positive impact of my decision. This nomination is clear proof that I´m on the right track. 

Claudia:
I just join Carlos’ words – it is completely the same for me.

2. What are your goals and ambitions as PROUTVoices, and do you think the nomination will have an impact on your daily work?

Carlos:
My main goal in joining the PROUT at WORK platform was to give voice or represent people that don´t have the chance to be visible. Unfortunately, in the world there are still many places, where coming out is not an option, due to political or cultural reasons. I really hope that these little steps contribute to a major goal of visibility and normalize the LGBTQI+ people at work and in life.  

Claudia:
For me, it is one further step within my activities as a team member of the Colors of BSH network. By being nominated and by publishing this nomination, I try to have an impact as a role model – inside BSH and outside the company – and to show why it is important to have an inclusive workplace. I am convinced that LGBTQI+ employees who are out and who bring their authentic selves to the workplace are empowered to release their full potential – instead of wasting energy by playing hide-and-seek. 

3. Studies show that, compared to other countries, young employees in Germany are less likely to take the risk of coming out. They are afraid it will disadvantage them in their careers. What are your personal experiences with being out at the workplace? Which challenges did you face yourself? And where did you get support from to take this step?

Claudia:
I, as a lesbian woman, was afraid of occupational disadvantages for a very long time and I hid my authentic self all the time (during school time, studies and the first three jobs). That cost me a lot of energy, which I realized much later. The membership inside the LGBTQI+ network Colors of BSH encouraged me, to finally tell my boss. And in the end: All my fears were without any reason. The happy end is, that I feel more self-confident, balanced and in harmony with myself – and I decided that I never ever will self-deny again. This is a great feeling. 

Carlos:
In my case, I had only positive experiences. I didn´t feel treated differently or pushed aside when my colleagues knew about my real me. However, I understand that it can be a very difficult situation. Imagine that most of LGBTQI+ people suffered in the past, mostly during childhood, in situations where they were verbally or physically attacked. Through experiences like that, people build up a shield to protect themselves. And to come out, one must remove this protection and become vulnerable. From my perspective this is the most difficult step.

4. From your perspective, what advice would you give to employees who are afraid of coming out?

Carlos:
As mentioned before, it is not an easy topic and each one of us must find her/his courage and the right moment to feel comfortable. It is always a big step, and this is exactly why networks like Colors of BSH are so important: to make role models visible and encourage people.  

Claudia:
What Carlos just said is right. Everybody has his/her own pace, and it depends on so many factors until a LGBTQI+ person is ready for the coming out – in private life and at the workplace. Therefore, my advice would be to get in contact with the network. We offer a protected and confidential space where employees can speak openly about their fears, experiences and get advice for the next steps, if needed and wanted.  

5. What can other employees do for LGBTQI+ colleagues to create a safe and fostering work environment?

Carlos:
Good question, because half the part of the story is the people who surround you. It is very important for colleagues to show their support in a direct or indirect way, no matter if they have LGBTQI+ people in their team or not. More precisely, to create a safe environment where people can find the right moment to come out if needed. 

Claudia:
Each employee can act as a LGBTQI+ supporter or ally. Of course, it mainly begins with awareness and knowledge about the topic and – in the end – with the willingness to raise the voice against discrimination. I would say that all active LGBTQI+ supporters are persons who are convinced that everybody should experience equalization at work, irrespective of sexual orientation and identity. Thus, they support LGBTQI+ colleagues and proactively challenge behavior that is homophobic, biphobic or transphobic by providing a powerful voice in tackling discrimination. Therefore, LGBTQI+ supporters educate others in terms of the importance of equality, fairness and acceptance and create a safe and respectful environment for their LGBTQI+ colleagues. 

6. You are part of BSH’s LGBTQI+ network “Colors of BSH”, which we already introduced. In your opinion, how important are such employee networks to establish open-minded and inclusive teams in the overall corporate culture? 

Claudia:
On the one hand, a company should have a clear D&I strategy that includes all dimensions of diversity, also sexual orientation, and identity. On the other hand, it is so important that all employees, especially supervisors who act as role models, “live” the D&I strategy authentically every day. The experience, we from Colors of BSH made, is that employee-driven networks can play a real catalytic role here to push specific topics – like LGBTQI+ – not only from the top but also from the bottom. That is why the network Colors of BSH is convinced to contribute positively to an open-minded and inclusive corporate culture. 

Carlos:
Inclusion is key for the future. We live in a more connected and global world. We have customers from all over the planet with differences in sex, religion, cultural background, habits… If we learn that and assimilate, we are nearly there. With Colors of BSH, we try to play our part. 

7. What advantages does a culture of openness bring to BSH and what is BSH already doing very well in their engagement for LGBTQI+ Diversity?

Carlos:
Everyone has possibly heard about the direct advantages like new markets and customers, making BSH a more attractive place to work, gaining new business approaches etc. Nevertheless, also from a social and ethical point of view, companies must return to society what they got from them. This is how I see a culture of openness; it is no longer a “one-directional relationship”. Companies must support initiatives, play active roles, support people etc. In these aspects, I think BSH is doing well, but of course, there is much more to do. 

Claudia:
To answer your second question: What is BSH already doing very well in their engagement for LGBTQI +Diversity? The network Colors of BSH has been founded in 2016. Currently, Sexual Orientation and Identity were not part of the company’s D&I strategy at all. However, the network could convince HR and the board members of the advantages and relevance of the topic. Today we are closely collaborating with the HR Diversity team and experience full support provided by the board members, especially by Carla Kriwet, who let’s say “activated” the network after a pandemic break again. We highly appreciate that she reached out to us so proactively and signalized to us that we have her full support.

8. Which past initiatives/projects are you personally particularly proud of? 

Claudia:
Of course, I am very proud of being one of the co-founders of the network Colors of BSH and that I stepped forward in the right direction together with the network’s core team members and its supporters at BSH. We as a network contributed with own initiatives to the annual BSH Diversity Week, for example in 2018 we represented BSH on the Christopher Street Day in Munich for the first time. For the employees we organize regular Meet & Greets, we present the network inside the Intranet and offer our support to everybody. These are all initiatives I am of course very proud of. 

Carlos:
I'm happy that I have joined the Colors of BSH network. It might not be seen as a huge step, but for me it is. In the end, every step that makes you feel supported and leads you towards accepting who you are is very important.  

9. Where do you see the major challenges concerning LGBTQI+ Diversity at BSH in the coming years?

Carlos:
Unfortunately, we are seeing how in some countries LGBTQI+ people are having a backward movement from their base that took them many years and much effort to gain. I think one of the major challenges for BSH is to react to this movement, increasing visibility and supporting diversity.  

Claudia:
I agree with Carlos. One of the challenges is to gain many other BSH locations for our Vision & Mission – also in countries where LGBTQI+ persons are still discriminated against (even by their government) or punished because of their sexual orientation and identity. BSH locations worldwide should be places that offer an open, inclusive, and trustful working environment in which everybody feels safe and welcome.

10. What are the next steps, and what are your wishes and goals within BSH and the “Colors of BSH” network?

Carlos:
Boosting the network during the pandemic and within the new organization has not been easy. My desires for the coming years are to grow as a network worldwide, make us more visible and reach as many people as possible.

Claudia:
Nothing to add – that is the main vision and mission for the moment. 

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BSH Hausgeräte GmbH, with a total turnover of some EUR 15.6 billion and 62,000 employees in 2022, is a global leader in the home appliance industry. The company’s brand portfolio includes eleven well-known appliance brands like Bosch, Siemens, Gaggenau and Neff as well as the ecosystem brand Home Connect and service brands like Kitchen Stories. BSH produces at 40 factories and is represented in some 50 countries. BSH is a Bosch Group company.