Back in July 2011 when I, Julien Devaux, first joined Bayer in Leverkusen as a young and openly gay HR professional, I was rather surprised by the low visibility of LGBTIQ topics across the organization – especially in the heart of North-Rhine Westphalia, a region known throughout Germany for its very open, diverse and welcoming culture. Seven years later, the picture couldn’t be more different, with the BLEND Employee Resource Group now well established in numerous countries and with the awareness of LGBTIQ topics within the company now greatly increased.
Alongside my BLEND colleagues and friends, I feel really proud to have played a small part in the various stages of this cultural journey. One of my latest contributions on this journey was taking part in the Berlin-based job fair, STICKS & STONES, which aims to discover LGBTIQ and Ally talents.
On a hot summer day in early June at SchwuZ, a well-known LGBTIQ cultural center in Berlin, a few BLEND members and I joined our HR colleagues from the University & Talent Relations department to represent Bayer at our company booth. I felt like it really made sense for me to be there, both on a professional and on a personal level, as inclusivity in the workplace and attracting the best talents are both topics that are very close to my heart. I was impressed by the number of interested and interesting potential candidates and by the diversity of their backgrounds, whether educational or geographical. However, despite their differences, they all had something in common: they were all motivated to join our company and each support our mission of Science for a Better Life in their own way.
Representing Bayer’s working culture as a BLEND ambassador…
Beyond the professional nature of their questions, many of them asked specific questions about diversity and how it is reflected within the organization. Our presence as BLEND ambassadors allowed discussions to move from the professional to the personal, as each of us was able to use our individual journeys to illustrate how diversity is already expressed within the organization and that it is not just a buzzword used to attract talented candidates. My being French also highlighted that diversity doesn’t just stop at sexual orientation or gender identity, but rather encompasses a much wider range of characteristics. The BLEND members around me – a highly diverse group with different ages, genders and ethnicities – could only confirm that. It became all the more obvious how our diversity is the best asset in our company’s endeavor to innovate.
…and offering career perspectives
One of my personal highlights was the encounter with a young visitor who only had very vague notions of her future career. As I approached her, she was reluctant to talk to me as she felt that her career options were not specific enough. We talked nevertheless and I learned that even though she had a background in marketing and sales, she was also very much into IT and didn’t know which path she should take. I started telling her about our business partnering model and how she could combine both of her passions by becoming an IT business partner, supporting the business in all IT–related matters. She had no idea that such positions even existed and it was a real eye-opener for her. As she was leaving, she told me: “You know, even if I didn’t get a job by coming here today, it brought me much more than a job: it gave me a concrete job perspective.”
That experience alone made participating in STICKS & STONES all the more worthwhile for me, and I look forward to taking part in next year’s event! In the meantime, maybe I’ll happen to meet an IT Business Partner with a familiar face at the Berlin site…
This post is also available in: German