Verl/Gütersloh, 12/17/2018

‘be.queer’ Network Now Represented By Spokespersons

Gathering ideas at the “Prout at Work” conference (from left): Michael Lauk (Arvato Financial Solutions), Lars Fröhlich (Verlagsgruppe Random House), Nora Müller (Bertelsmann), Ingrid Höver (Arvato Systems), Michael Wagner (Arvato Financial Solutions)
be.queer” network meeting in Verl

Subject: Employees
Country: Germany
Category: Project

Given its growing visibility, the employee network is professionalizing its structures and has elected three spokespersons. This new, more professional structure is the members’ response to the network’s higher visibility within Bertelsmann. After a busy year full of activities, the team is planning some highlights for 2019 as well, including and especially the establishment of an international presence.

A year and a half after its founding, the “be.queer” employee network is further professionalizing its structures. At a meeting in Verl, the colleagues involved in “be.queer” elected spokespersons for the first time. Kathinka Best (Bertelsmann Corporate), Lars Fröhlich (Verlagsgruppe Random House), and Michael Lauk (Arvato Financial Solutions) will serve as contacts for Group-wide issues. “The speakers represent the network with one voice,” the newly elected trio stated. “This step became necessary because HR managers in the divisions increasingly perceive us as a sounding board.” “be.queer” is Bertelsmann's first cross-divisional network that promotes an open and creative working environment for all employees regardless of their sexual identity or orientation.

At the meeting held at Arvato Financial Solutions in Verl under the heading “Diversity and Respect at Work for All,” members also reviewed past activities and looked ahead to 2019. The team has raised awareness of the network both within and outside the Group at numerous public events and with many communication initiatives this year (see BENET report) in its quest to attract more kindred spirits and present Bertelsmann as an open-minded and desirable employer. They have received support from Bertelsmann CHRO Immanuel Hermreck and Gruner + Jahr CEO Julia Jäkel among others.

Tolerance promotes creativity 

At the network meeting, Kai Burr, Head of Human Resources at Arvato Financial Solutions, and the participants spent nearly an hour discussing the place of “be.queer” in the AFS HR strategy. Burr placed the topic in the context of creativity in the company and openly dealing with difference. “Only if we are tolerant and open to others can we continue to guarantee real knowledge integration, creativity, and international growth,” he stressed. He also reaffirmed his support for the network. “It helps and motivates us to have supporters like Immanuel Hermreck, Julia Jäkel, and Kai Burr,” summarized Michael Wagner, a “be.queer” member and Director of Operations at AFS.

Next year the network hopes to further increase its external visibility. For example, it plans to take part in Christopher Street Day with an information booth. With a view to internal relevance, the team is working to include a presentation of “be.queer” in the onboarding materials that are given out to new employees Further communications measures are to help raise awareness of how to deal with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersexual, and queer employees at Bertelsmann. The international presence of “be.queer” is also to be expanded. At this point, the network is primarily established in Germany, but it keeps receiving requests from countries all over the world. “be.queer” members got some ideas for the right internationalization strategy at the “Prout at Work” foundation’s annual conference in Bonn. 

Third gender in job listings 

The network sees the introduction of the “third option” for job advertisements, which the Federal Constitutional Court recognized in April 2018, as another important milestone. It expresses that a person cannot be genetically, anatomically and/or hormonally categorized as clearly female or male. Arvato Systems, Arvato Financial Solutions, and Verlagsgruppe Random House now use an “t” (d in German) in their job advertisements in addition to the familiar “m/f,” while Arvato SCM Solutions uses an “x.” “These provisions are a visible sign that Bertelsmann's divisions respect and promote diversity,” says Michael Lauk. “Both formulations are correct and make sense.”

The conversion of a registered civil partnership of same-sex couples into what the German lawmaker calls “marriage for all” is also taken into account in the Group. Bertelsmann grants employees living in a partnership a special day of leave for the conversion into a marriage in accordance with the relevant company agreements, even if they had already taken a special day of leave to conclude the partnership. “This regulation underlines the Group’s positive attitude towards LGBTIQ employees, reinforces their acceptance, and also boosts their motivation and loyalty,” explains Nora Müller, Diversity Manager at Bertelsmann.