“Ten per cent are LGBTIQ” – a podcast episode about diversity in working life

Whether age, gender or sexual orientation – colourfully mixed teams work together more productively and are increasingly encouraged in companies. BFH expert Lena Scheidegger has investigated this in a study. In the current podcast episode, she talks to Swisscom’s diversity officer Stefan Gal about the role of outed managers and the impact of successful diversity & inclusion management.

Click here for the podcast and a short version of the conversation.

53 companies took part in the study. One of them is Swisscom. Stefan, you are co-responsible for diversity at Swisscom. What does your D&I management look like?

Stefan Gal: We drew up our diversity strategy three years ago, and the first thing we did when revising it was to obtain the commitment of the Group Executive Board and the Board of Directors. We chose a hybrid approach. This means that we also started to establish internal communities at the same time. For the last two years we have had an LGBTIQ community and four other communities, for example Women’s Empowerment, Young Voice Community. There are about a thousand employees in these communities.

How many of the companies surveyed also have such a community as Swisscom?

Lena Scheidegger is a psychologist and researcher at the New Work Institute of the BFH Wirtschaft.

Lena Scheidegger: Not many companies are implementing this yet, but there are certainly more today than in 2017. After all, many companies have already heard about it, but first they do awareness training. Building communities involves effort; they are a basis for signalling to employees: We care about the issue, we take it seriously, here you will find like-minded people.

Stefan Gal: Flag bearers are particularly important: people who actively promote the issue in the company. We are a team of five with a share of about 150 percent of our staff.

This sends a strong signal to the staff when they know that it is supported with structure and percentage of jobs. This shows that Swisscom is serious and not just a flash in the pan.

Stefan Gal: Yes, exactly. We have also chosen the approach that the members of our diversity team are employees from the line. This means that on the one hand they are anchored in their departments, but on the other hand they also work for diversity to a certain percentage. This setup has proven successful because you are much closer to the people.

Lena Scheidegger: At Swisscom, this is really an exceptional set-up. In other companies, D & I management is mainly affiliated with HR. Swisscom is almost the only example I know of.

There were also companies in the study that did not have an explicit concept, but stated that it was completely clear to them that they shared these values. Why is such a fundamental commitment not enough?

Lena Scheidegger: Indeed, many companies say: “Everyone is equal with us, we make no distinctions between groups.” But I would like to emphasise that acceptance alone is not proactive inclusion. It is nice when everyone is accepted, but often subtleties or implicit discrimination are overlooked. Let’s take the example of outed executives, precisely in such companies that say we accept everyone. People then ask: Are there outed persons or managers in your company? The answer is often: No, no one comes to mind. Which is a sign that it can be so open.

Because people don’t dare.

Lena Scheidegger: Yes, because people don’t dare. But if you think about it, ten per cent of the population is LGBTIQ, it’s almost impossible that no one in a big company is outed or no one identifies with it.

Stefan Gal is co-responsible for Diversity & Inclusion at Swisscom, together with four colleagues.

Stefan Gal: We have to keep this number in mind: Swisscom has 16,000 employees, ten per cent of whom are 1,600 people meant by these letters. It is absolutely legitimate to give them a platform. It is not enough to say: we are inclusive.

That is why it is also important that knowledge is imparted. In the study, you recommend workshops and further training.

Lena Scheidegger: Yes, for example, external experts offer training on unconscious prejudices, among other things. In some companies it is important to address the topic in principle and to explain what LGBTIQ means. Then it usually becomes obvious that many people are not really sensitised.

Stefan Gal: We all have unconscious prejudices. That is one of the central issues for me. Unconscious prejudices play an incredibly big role. It already starts with the job advertisement and recruiting. That’s why we have e-learnings, campaigns and mandatory training to make people aware of the issue.

Have the trainings already had an effect?

Stefan Gal: Yes. We can also measure that. We used the IAT, the Implicit Association Test from Harvard. This determines not whether, but to what extent one has unconscious prejudices. We saw that a lot of people took it and presented the topic at divisional meetings. In the past, people didn’t talk about diversity in meetings, but today it’s about such diverse issues as succession planning, baby boomers, retirements and women in management. We always say we’ve done a good job when it no longer needs us. When it’s a no-brainer, and that’s the direction we’re going in. We are still a long way from our goal, that would also be a false statement, but the direction is right for us.

This is an abridged version, you can hear the whole conversation here:

All other episodes of the podcast can be found here.


More on the topic

Lena Scheidegger is a psychologist at the Institute New Work at BFH Wirtschaft and has been studying how Swiss companies recruit and integrate LGBTQ employees for several years. In her recently published study, she surveyed universities, companies and organisations with more than 200 employees and located in German-speaking or French-speaking Switzerland. The results show that around two-thirds of the respondents have developed a coordinated overall concept for the diversity and inclusion of their LGBTQ employees.

One of the participants was Swisscom, which has implemented a diversity and inclusion management concept. Stefan Gal reports on this in this podcast episode. He is co-responsible for diversity at Swisscom and the topic is “a matter close to his heart”. Together with four colleagues, he has built up an internal network over the past few years.


Want to learn more about this topic?

Click here for our offer: Specialist course Diversity & Inclusion Management: LGBTIQ+


This podcast is produced with the kind support of: Audioflair Bern and Podcastschmiede Winterthur.

AUTOR/AUTORIN: Anne-Careen Stoltze

Anne-Careen Stoltze is Editor in Chief of the science magazine SocietyByte and Host of the podcast "Let's Talk Business". She works in communications at BFH Business School, she is a journalist and geologist.

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