Driven by diversity
Company 17.05.2024 7 Min.
Come as you are.

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on 17 May and the subsequent Pride Month in June shine a spotlight on the needs and concerns of the queer community. Because a lot of people in the queer or LGBTIQ+ community* often feel they are not adequately accepted and respected by society. The BMW Group would like to demonstrate its support for them – and for all its queer employees.

It’s the perfect opportunity to talk about the diversity dimension of sexual orientation and gender identity. Claudia Hander, responsible for quality management for autonomous driving with the BMW Group, and Christian Högn, a specialist in bodyshop and paintshop plant development, talk about the Pride network’s objectives, why queer diversity concerns us all, and what an event like Christopher Street Day means to them.

*Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer + all other sexual identities. All queer people, in other words.

What is the BMW Group Pride network – and more especially you, as spokespeople – hoping to achieve?

Claudia: Our network within the BMW Group supports the LGBTIQ+ community. We want to create a working environment in which queer employees have the same rights and acceptance as others. We also support managers with their questions around the issue. We have both set up networks abroad in the past – Christian in Mexico and me in the UK, at Rolls-Royce – and so we wanted to continue our work in Munich.

Christian: We want to be a point of contact and someone for people to talk to within the company. And we want to encourage colleagues to come out as well. There are far too many of us at the company still hiding, which prevents us from working to our strengths properly. And that means there’s a lot of creativity and innovativeness going to waste that would actually be really valuable for our company. I’ve often spoken to colleagues who were totally against coming out at first but who, after lots of talking, did come out in the end, and now they’re glad they did because they feel much better. When everyone can just be as they are, that’s the day when we will have achieved our goal. 

How big is the BMW Group’s global Pride network?

Claudia: Besides Munich, there are Pride networks in Leipzig, Berlin and Regensburg, and at the sites in the UK, Mexico, the US and South Africa. We have about 600 members worldwide, and the trend is upwards. For our network to keep growing, we need the company and team to keep an open mind, and we need strong role models up and down the hierarchy who lead by example and practise tolerance and diversity. We also need people to understand that our network is a necessity. Because together, diversity makes us stronger.

The Christopher Street Day parade seems to some like a crazy, flamboyant party.
What’s the deeper meaning of the parade and Pride Month?

Claudia: The parade has its roots in history. In the late 1960s it was the first visible rebellion of the gay, lesbian and trans community against oppression, discrimination and criminalisation. Christopher Street Day is still a political parade today, even though it’s full of colourful people having fun: it’s a reminder that we still don’t have full equality. What we need in society is not just tolerance but acceptance and inclusion as well. This year, Christopher Street Day in Munich on 22 June will include cars by all the BMW Group’s brands. As the Pride network, we want to show that the BMW Group is cosmopolitan and welcomes and values diversity. That’s our message to the LGBTIQ+ community, the BMW Group and the world.

Why does sexual orientation and identity – and therefore Pride Month – concern us all, even at work?

Christian: Because until there’s equality for people everywhere, sexual orientation and identity will continue to matter in the workplace, just like all the other aspects of diversity. A lot of people misunderstand it and think it’s about sexuality, but it’s actually about having completely normal conversations with colleagues about stuff like whether or not you have a relationship or kids, what you did at the weekend, what your holiday was like and so on. Often, when people find out I live with my same-sex partner, they suddenly stop asking and an invisible barrier comes up. It’s probably just because they feel insecure, but it’s hurtful nonetheless and makes you feel you are not being accepted.

How do you see the situation at the BMW Group in terms of openness and acceptance in the workplace? What would you like from your colleagues?

Christian: We’ve already come a long way, and the atmosphere in the company is much more open, so people feel more encouraged to come out. And there’s support for the establishment of Pride networks at the various sites as well. But how open people are to LGBTIQ+ issues often depend on the location or division you work in. In Mexico and the UK, for example, it’s completely normal for a gay man to take their boyfriend or husband to a colleague’s party in the evening. But all in all, we’re still looking for more openness and acceptance. People really need to remember that an off-hand comment can actually be quite hurtful.

Claudia: It would be really helpful if even more colleagues – including higher-up ones – set an example. Because if, for example, a manager is easy about a team member coming out, the entire team and workforce will be too. When we say LGBTIQ+ concerns us all, it means the only way we can create a more open-minded, liberal working environment is together.

Did you know…?

… Munich is home to the BMW Group’s oldest Pride network. They have been advocating for a tolerant and open-minded working environment since 1999, so that members of the queer community can really thrive. They also advise employees and the company on LGBTIQ+ issues and welcome everyone at the BMW Group – queer or not.

The BMW Group is also a member of the PrOut at Work Foundation, which advocates for queer diversity at work.

Driven by Diversity: The foundation of our success.

Sexual orientation and identity is one of the five dimensions of diversity, along with gender, age and experience, cultural background, and physical and mental ability.

The BMW Group sees diversity as a strength because it helps us attract and retain top talents and fulfil our stakeholders’ expectations worldwide. We promote a culture that is free from prejudice, values difference and is founded on equity and inclusion. 

Driven by diversity

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