All the colours of the rainbow
What is Swiss Post doing for the LGBTIQ community? Is it possible to be confident and open about one’s sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace? Our interview with Mariel Lemos, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Swiss Post Group, and Peter Rüfenacht, Co-Chair of the internal Swiss Post RAINBOW network, on the challenges of diversity and the milestones reached on the journey to inclusiveness.
Just yellow? Think again: Swiss Post has pledged itself to all the colours of the rainbow – to diversity and inclusiveness – with two special stamps that show different lifestyles coming together. How did this come about?
Peter Rüfenacht: We received a positive response both in Switzerland and abroad when we issued our first motif dedicated to the LGBTIQ community on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York. We at Swiss Post are delighted that we have been able to convey such an important message with such a small piece of paper.
Mariel Lemos: What’s more, with around 49,000 employees in Switzerland, we reflect our diverse population – which is reflected in turn in our customers. Including the LGBTIQ community, who are an important target group.
How important is diversity to Swiss Post?
ML: As an employer, we want to attract the very best in talent – so we want to appeal to people who represent all colours of the rainbow, as they can help us broaden our horizons. We cannot succeed in providing the Swiss public with products and services unless we recognize and understand all their needs. At Swiss Post, diversity and inclusion have been an ever-evolving theme ever since the 1990s. Our new holistic diversity and inclusion strategy spans the dimensions of language, disability, generations, gender+, origin and world view.
How will you go about implementing this strategy in a practical sense?
ML: As a public service company, we reached a new milestone with our new collective employment contract (CEC), which comes into force in 2021. Expanded provisions for maternity and paternity leave for opposite-sex and same-sex couples, family-friendly employment conditions, work-life balance, equality and protection from discrimination – specifically also in relation to gender identity and sexual identity – are major themes in the new CEC.
PR: It is absolutely key that inclusion and protection from discrimination are enshrined in a strategy. It’s about knowing I have a right to be treated equally and being able to stand up for myself. Our internal networks will play a particularly major role in putting these values into practice. Just as we have the Young Voice network for young people and the MOSAICO network for promoting language and cultural diversity, we also have our own RAINBOW network for the LGBTIQ community, and this was created in 2015.
What is RAINBOW’s role?
PR: Our role as contact point is to encourage dialogue amongst members of the LGBTIQ community at all levels of the company. That said, we are not trained counsellors or psychologists. But we do provide assistance and support: if someone is undergoing a gender transition, for instance, we can help the person overcome administrative and social barriers.
We voice our concerns clearly and take part in Pride events on a regular basis: in the beginning, there were just 10 of us waving the Swiss Post banner, which we were applauded for. That was a very emotional moment. In 2019, though, 50 of us took part – an incredible success.
ML: We published our invitation to Pride as a big, colourful advert in the staff newspaper. This was designed to make it crystal clear that Executive Management also supports the event. Swiss Post does not just support RAINBOW on an ethical level, it also does so on a financial level.
What other initiatives are you running at the moment, and what do you have planned?
PR: We created a Swiss Post image stock that shows members of the LGBTIQ community. Finding models who are happy to express themselves in public, finding a suitable photographer and avoiding clichés – all of this posed a major challenge for us. Now we have reached the point where we will actually use these images, be it on the Swiss Post website, in brochures or in the Annual Report. To make inclusiveness a given.
ML: We regularly run training courses on diversity and discrimination prevention for apprentices, recruiters and managers. To ensure we don’t just adopt a top-down approach, we are also trying to work more with HR managers in each department.
To save the theme of diversity from obscurity, we also organize events. In autumn, for instance, we will be running a Group-wide anti-discrimination campaign. And in October, there will be a major diversity week, with many different activities for all the staff at Swiss Post.
What do employees think of Swiss Post’s work in this area?
PR: We actually reflect the Swiss public in this respect, as well. Let’s take the example of gender-neutral toilets, which we have installed at our headquarters and at our site in Zollikofen. One piece of feedback we occasionally get is: don’t we have more important issues to deal with? But the fact is there are many different gender identities – and that’s a good thing.
ML: And they all have a place here at Swiss Post, where we want everyone to feel welcome and happy. The thing about gender-neutral toilets is that we’re not taking anything away from anyone, we are actually becoming more inclusive. We’re also telling everyone: Swiss Post is actively engaged in social discourse, and we pay attention to new developments. What’s more, we are responding to the needs of the younger generation – who, after all, are our future.
That said, as a Swiss company that operates on behalf of the Swiss Confederation, we of course cannot be too outspoken. And there is no doubt that patience, tact and perseverance are the keys to success when it comes to our work towards cultural change and inclusion.