DIVERSITY for the digital era
My offer - Integration instead of alienation
As companies are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of supporting LGBT* staff as well as to sending positive signals internally and externally, they need to make sure they implement sustainable and effective LGBT Diversity & Inclusion programmes.
This does not just mean attending a Gay Pride event and forming an LGBT network - in fact, these activities alone can even cause more damage than good. It is key for you to increase acceptance and combat discrimation through integration - not alienation. This can be done by focusing on awareness and education, as well as raising the visibility of positive role-models.
I support you and your company in the implementation of your LGBT Diversity & Inclusion programme based on the following scheme that I have developed:
Find out more about why this should interest you below, or get in touch to talk about how I can help:
*LGBT = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender
why this should interest you
The problem: discrimination
The digital era is characterised by technology which increases the speed and efficiency of processes at the work place and at home. This gives a more diverse range of people access to information and results in increased diversity within teams. However, we also face increased pressure to make quick judgements and decisions. This increases the liklihood of us jumping to conclusions and putting people into categories, resulting in unconscious biases going unnoticed. We automatically put people into categories for all sorts of things - for example their social background, their height, the university they studied at, the type of music they listen to, their hairstyle, their clothes, the shape of the body, the colour of their skin, their ethnicity, their tattoos, their gender, their sexual orientation, etc., etc.. We then tend to - consciously or unconsciously - assume particular things about this category of people and, in the worse case, treat them unequally because of it. This is discrimination - and it doesn't feel good. People suffering from discrimination at the workplace cannot possibily be expected to perform to their full potential. It is therefore important for companies to take the topic of diversity seriously.
The solution: acceptance
The ultimate solution is for each and every one of us to work at accepting every person exactly as they are - regardless of any particular aspect of their background, personality, looks, sexual orientation, etc. etc. that may seem "not normal" (what is "normal", anyway?). And we all could do with working on this - even the most open and self-reflected people fall into the trap at some point!
But how do we do this? Well, I think the first step is to develop an openness for differences. The best way to do this is to actively get to know a diverse range of people - if you are mainly surrounded by successful, white, heterosexual men in your working environment, for example, you could volunteer at a refugee organisation, travel and spend time with people in a developing country, hang out in a gay-friendly bar, volunteer for Amnesty International, go to gender equality events, etc., etc. By doing this, you will be more likely to be able to identify with different types of people and to understand that we are essentially all the same - and should have equal rights and opportunities.
However, interacting with particular groups fighting for justice can be intimidating, especially on the topic of gender or sexual orientation. These groups end up alienating people who don't belong to them. Two examples of this are gender rights (many men - and even women - distance themselves from feminists because it has begun to represent a hatred of men, although it actually refers to equal rights and opportunites for women) and gay rights (events such as Gay Pride give the general public the impression, for example, that all gay men are feminine, half-naked, sex-obssessed party queens - and this is far from the truth).
This alienation just makes the problem worse - we feel as though we cannot identify with these people and immediately put them into our pre-defined category, losing contact with them. For example, most heterosexual people I talk to are not aware that it is currently illegal for same-sex couples in Switzerland to adopt children or undertake artificial insemination, or that many people with same-sex partners suffer immensely in their efforts to hide the gender, or the existence, of the partner at the workplace. See more about this in my blog article here.
Although I do believe that improving the visibility of under-represented groups by taking part in events such as Gay Pride and LGBT networks is important, I think that this must be done with a focus on positive role-models and in combination with integration activities.
I have years of experience working voluntarily in the area of awareness and education on the topics of homosexuality, gender equality and engineering careers. Currently I am involved in the following activities:
- Active volunteer in the school awareness project for homosexuality "Gleichgeschlechtliche Liebe Leben"
- Committee member of a new LGBT network for companies "Pride at Work"
- Mentor on the programme "Swiss TecLadies" for girls intersted in technical careers
- Mentor on the programme "GetConnected" for young LGBT professionals
I combine this experience with my ISO certified coaching qualification and my professional experience as an engineer and manager in various countries and cultures.