During the 2020 European Football Championship, emotions ran high – and not only when fans were cheering on the national teams, but especially when discussions arose whether the rainbow flag should be visible in connection with the sport to show a clear sign of support for the LGBT*IQ community. Every year in June, which is international Pride Month, many companies raise the rainbow flag and show their colour to not only take a stand against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, but also to support their employees in being able to live as their true selves. However, support for diverse colleagues doesn’t end after this month; it needs to be part of the corporate culture, lived and breathed throughout the whole year. That’s why respect for individuality is key – all around the world. We talked to METRO and MAKRO employees from different countries who speak up for the LGBT*IQ community in their regions.
Maria Antoniewska, Human Resources Manager, METRO SERVICES Poland:
‘Can you imagine that you would not be accepted or would be discriminated against by others because of the colour of your eyes? Or because you are a fan of hard rock music? Sounds ridiculous? Exactly! Labels are unfair and harmful. We should all see the person behind the label. I’m deeply convinced that, as human beings, we all have the same rights – to be who we feel we are, love whoever we want and live the way we choose. We all deserve the same respect regardless of our ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or any other factor that could lead to discrimination. Each organisation consists of people, and each and every one can contribute to an open and respectful work environment. It’s up to us! I’m proud that METRO supports the LGBT*IQ community, is broad-minded and values diversity and inclusion.’
Lou Lelandais, Deputy Store Leader Paris-Bercy, METRO France:
‘Being able to experience the New York City Pride March in 2018, I was impressed by the strong commitment shown by American companies. I believe we still have a way to go, even here in Europe. Diversity and inclusion should not be optional for companies. It is still a challenge for everyone to find their place based on respect and that no hierarchy is established in diversities. The fear of homophobic experiences in workplaces is real and can manifest directly or indirectly, such as the fear of being denied career opportunities in the company because of living one’s homosexuality.
For me, creating awareness is the best way to promote the LGBT*IQ community. This can be done through communication and training initiatives, discussion spaces and having D&I officers in each store. I think it’s important to take action to show that LGBT*IQ people exist and that we reflect diversity. METRO as a company can go even further and engage with associations. Nevertheless, this dynamic must remain authentic and sincere with concrete commitments to promote this diversity. For me, promoting diversity and equal rights at METRO also means working to create a peaceful, respectful environment and show that I have a place in the company. And what a matter of pride it is that I can be myself on a daily basis.’
Diversity and inclusion at METRO
METRO addresses different aspects of diversity with various initiatives and activities, ranging from workshops on targeted topics to employee networks, participation in international networks such as LEAD, and local awareness campaigns. The internal employee network METRO Pride, established in 2014, is a contact point for all LGBT*IQ colleagues as well as for interested parties and supporters. The underlying idea: sexual orientation or identity should not impose a limitation – neither in one’s private life nor in their career. At work, every individual deserves the freedom to be who they are, without fear. METRO Pride organises regular events to raise awareness and advocate the topic within METRO and develops targeted training programmes for managers.
Andre Rinnensland, CEO METRO Serbia:
‘Fighting against injustices and providing equal opportunities to everyone will eventually contribute to a society without prejudices. I think it is the duty of every good citizen to make sure we all grow as human beings who treat each other with respect. When it comes to METRO, there is no greater power than walking the talk and demonstrating that METRO embraces all people and gives them equal chances for success. This happens around the world, including Serbia! One can feel safe and supported in our company, despite any kind of difference or preference, and I am a good example of that. I believe that is how LGBT*IQ people can be encouraged to recognise METRO as a desirable employer. I regularly participate in all kinds of major events such as PRIDE, and I am also part of the METRO Pride organisation. It also happens nearly every day that I can be a mentor and lend an ear to mostly younger people in order to offer my experience if they are struggling with their sexuality, especially in a still somewhat conservative country like Serbia.
I believe that Serbia will take some important steps in the times ahead. With a prime minister from the LGBT*IQ community, we can see that the law on same sex marriage is on the agenda. Also, public opinion and the general atmosphere are becoming more tolerant. Last but not least, Belgrade will be the host of EuroPride 2022, which is a major event and will definitely put not only Belgrade but also the whole area of the Western Balkan states in the spotlight. Right now, we at METRO show that we live diversity and inclusion in every sense, so we are definitely contributing.’
Marina Marinova, Department Manager METRO Academy, METRO Bulgaria:
‘When my brother realised that he is pansexual and entered into a relationship with a man, it was a shock for my parents. But, step by step, they accepted it and today, it’s not even a topic that is discussed. Of course it took time, but that was the moment they showed their greatest support for my brother no matter how hard it was for them. I am not proud of this, but it was not until I started to face these questions within my family that I realised how significant they are in general. Because I personally am completely okay with any person’s orientation. Now I have experienced each step – sharing with parents, relatives, friends, and I saw for the first time how hard and scary it can be to be yourself.
When I was sharing our story with friends, they were all surprised at how liberal my parents were. Until that moment, I thought that almost every family would be just as supportive in a situation like this, and then I realised that things often don’t go nearly as smoothly. It saddens me that my brother lives in Germany and might never come back to live in Bulgaria. He also has friends who refuse to come back because they don’t feel free and safe tо share who they are.
For me, diversity is a way of living, a way of teaching basic values from an early age. It is a way of enriching my life, my mindset, my knowledge. When I was in the most diverse environment in terms of nationalities, cultures, age, gender, sexuality, I was as curious as a little kid – there was always something new to learn. That’s why I believe it is important to take action, because we create the environment we live in. Change is not a one-off action, it is a process and, in this case, it is a long process that we should start with baby steps. I believe every big company has an impact on society and has the power to become a “society shaper” and “trendsetter”. Therefore, it is important to support initiatives and causes that will make a positive impact on society’s well-being. I believe personal stories are the best teachers. Listening to what people from the LGBT*IQ community share, and what they and their relatives or close friends have experienced. That’s why sharing stories is essential in the company – especially coming as an example of openness from management.’
Patricia Mayoral, Human Resources Manager, MAKRO Spain:
‘Due to my personal history, supporting the LGBT*IQ community has been a commitment for years for me. I grew up in a very small town, culturally anchored in a past in which belonging to this community was not socially accepted, which meant a great deal of difficulties and suffering for some members of my family. Maybe that is the reason I believe that diversity and inclusion should be something unquestionable – rights as basic as the freedom to go to a restaurant and order the meal that you like the most. It should be something as natural as the fact of being tall or short, or having blond or brown hair, or preferring the colour red instead of white. What is the difference? I think that it can be a challenge to work in a diverse environment because it challenges the status quo of personal culture and customs. That can sometimes generate fear and make it difficult to see how enriching our differences can be, those that make us unique, and those that, when added together, enrich us and make us greater as individuals, as teams and as a society. I believe that if we all participate actively in proposing, implementing or supporting more and more initiatives, we will make diversity and equality a reality.’