Coming Out at Work

Written by: Nora Krischer

Today is Coming Out Day, an annual worldwide day of advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community. But what does this have to do with work? Companies are getting involved and taking a stand. Back to June: To talk about Pride Month and how it was celebrated at Covestro.


June 2022: Rainbow flags as far as the eye can see. Pride Month saw many companies take up colors. And while just a few years ago companies were criticized for not actively promoting such days, this year the term “rainbow washing” has become common: companies are being criticized for taking advantage of their supposedly progressive support of the LGBTQ+ community for marketing purposes

For us at Covestro, the idea was not to join in just as we started planning Pride Month. As in the past, it was important for us to become active where gaps needed to be closed: to communicate information both internally and externally, to clarify ambiguities, and to communicate the relevance of the topic to employees. After all, showing solidarity is important, but it is not enough. 

So it seemed fitting that our logistics partner MAERSK offered to stop by with its rainbow container. This was not only a strong statement to demonstrate our position, but also a good opportunity to create a place of exchange. The aim was to make room for all  topics and open questions, and to allow those who can provide  answers to have a chance to speak: the members of our employee networks UNITE (LGBTQ+) and Compass Diversity, Equal and Inclusion enabled growth and learning through open conversations, questions and support.

The result was three colorful days during which employees from all departments and work areas visited the container in front of our headquarters in Leverkusen and inscribed their messages on the topics of Diversity, Equal and Inclusion on the inside wall of the container. Opinions were exchanged, and there were numerous in-depth conversations and constructive discussions.

The most important takeaways I was able to gather during the three days were: 

1. Homosexuality is still prosecuted today in 69 countries. In 11 countries, the penalty is even death. Transphobia and discrimination are still often commonplace. To increase awareness and provide encouragement, there must be days of awareness such as this one. In times when homophobia, biophobia, 
interphobia, and transphobia are still widespread, it is essential that companies openly state and represent their positions – and do so consistently and continuously.

2. Fears such as mobbing, discrimination, or professional retrenchment lead the majority of homosexuals, transsexuals, and bisexuals to keep their sexual orientation a secret in the workplace. Numerous studies show that these concerns are unfortunately not unjustified today. A strict separation of professional and private life has long been outdated. Certainly everyone has already asked or been asked a question or two about vacation or weekend plans with one’s partner. Consequently, sexual orientation cannot always be left out of such water-cooler conversations. 

3. Gender outing also plays a role in one’s professional life. Why? Biological sex does not necessarily correspond to gender identity. So, in order to be perceived and addressed as the person you feel you are, coming out is inevitable. 

4. A show of solidarity in the form of raising a rainbow flag is no substitute for taking action to create a discrimination-free environment. What’s more, it’s important to formulate clear policies against discrimination, provide points of contact, build LGBTQnetworks, and provide internal training. 

We at Covestro are on the right track. Taking such actions not only at the headquarters in Germany but at Covestro sites around the world is a positive and important step. For example, during Pride Month, parades were attended in the U.S., Mexico, and China, and numerous other actions were taken to increase the visibility of LGBTQ+ discrimination and raise awareness of non-discrimination as a human right. 

But the road to a discrimination-free world is not over yet. That’s why we are also dedicating ourselves to the topic today on Coming Out Day at our sites around the world. We must continue to show our colors, because as a company we are part of society. A society in which every person should be able to love and develop as they wish. 

Our rainbow container was then filled with Covestro materials and continued its journey, first to South America. Our thoughts and messages were thus carried into the world.

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