Before we get started, a quick explanation may be useful. So what does LGBTIQ* mean?
INGO BERTRAM: LGBTIQ* stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer – in other words for everybody who identifies as lesbian, gay or transsexual. “Queer” is also a generic term meaning a divergence from the norm and calling the norm into question.
What does the asterisk mean?
NICOLE SIEVERDING: The asterisk has become a symbol of diversity and self-identification. The asterisk therefore covers all the gender identities that are not listed here. This particularly applies to people who do not identify as belonging to any gender or gender identity and refer to themselves as non-binary.
It doesnt sound like there would be many in the Otto Group to whom this would apply...
NICOLE: We don’t know that. The fact is, up to ten percent of people identify as gay, lesbian, trans* or, put simply, queer. That equates to around 8.4 million people in Germany alone, which is more people than live in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne combined. I don’t think that counts as a few.
Even so, there is still a question as to whether the Otto Group really needs this kind of network.
INGO: Yes, it definitely does. It has been proven that queer networks in companies make a significant contribution to increasing the satisfaction of the colleagues in question and reducing anxiety, such as that felt before “coming out”, simply because they know that they are not alone and there is somewhere they can turn to in the event of discrimination. This factor should not be underestimated, especially for new colleagues.
Do you believe that homosexual people are discriminated against in the Otto Group?
INGO: There’s no straightforward answer to that question. I personally find the corporate culture here to be respectful and open, and that applies where homosexuality is concerned too. But that’s just my own personal view of things. It depends entirely on the environment, the team and the management. I would not want to rule out the possibility that there are people here who still feel discriminated against because of their sexuality or in fact are discriminated against. That’s something we want to change. We are therefore all the more pleased to have convinced our divisional director, Katy Roewer, to be the new patron of MORE*.
What are some of your other goals as a network?
NICOLE: With MORE* we want to campaign for the visibility of queer people and to reduce prejudice with regard to sexual identity. We want to say “Hey, we’re here, we’re part of the Otto Group too and yes, we’re completely normal people!” – this alone, as mundane as it may sound, helps a lot as far as the acceptance of LGBTIQ* is concerned. It is time to tear down the last internal barriers.
INGO: For us it is also about taking a stand. We think it is important to give queer people a voice and to connect them with each other no matter which part of the group they work in. If nothing else, we want to be a point of contact – for our queer colleagues as well as for people who have previously had little to do with the issue.
It is time to tear down the last internal barriers
How did the network come to be founded?
INGO: We met for the first time as a small group a few weeks ago following a recommendation by the Diversity Management department. In that first meeting we decided that we wanted to create a queer network, and then we did just that.
NICOLE: It was also at the back of our minds that the Otto Group has been standing up for the rights of LGBTIQ* people for a long time already. The Charter of Diversity has to be mentioned in this regard, as does the opportunity I have been fortunate enough to have had since 2017 to organise a truck each year for Christopher Street Day (CSD) in Hamburg. The Otto Group will once again have its own truck at Hamburg Pride this coming Saturday, 3rd August. I still find it fantastic that we as a company take such a strong public stance on diversity and set an example in this regard. This is not something to be taken for granted.
Who can be a member of MORE* and how do you become one?
NICOLE: Anybody can be a supporter – and we welcome all expressions of interest! As an interest network, MORE* is deliberately open to everybody who works in the Otto Group and wants to stand up for diversity. This explicitly includes our heterosexual colleagues too. We rely on broad-based support when it comes to promoting diversity and tolerance.