Johannes Donath
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How we empowered our LGBT community

How we empowered our LGBT community

Last time, I wrote about the adidas Group’s engagement with the Sticks & Stones and how the company publicly showcased its ambition to be a “proud employer” and to promote diversity and inclusion amongst its workforce. Back then, I asked you to stay tuned about this exciting topic to see where the journey takes us. And I can tell you, a lot has happened since then!

When talking to a few employees and some of my friends, we agreed already during Sticks & Stones that we want to establish an LGBT network within the adidas Group. This is something that some companies already have but we never thought we would need because all of us feel accepted at work. However, after having been exposed to representatives of other companies at the 24/7 Unicorn, I am convinced that an LGBT network can benefit the company and the employees equally.

Right after the fair, in October, the HR Diversity & Inclusion team held their yearly Diversity Day and, for the first time, wanted to put the LGBT topic on the agenda. As I was part of the Sticks & Stones team, they approached me to host a workshop. I was flattered and of course willing to do so. I held a one-hour interactive presentation and tried to show opportunities how the employees within the adidas Group could organize themselves to better address the needs of their LGBT community. I was positively surprised that many of the attendees of the workshop commented right then and there they would like to be part of this network and they believed in the potential that this group can have. What started off as a single workshop has now transformed into a self-sustaining network of employees who are keen to bring this topic on the company’s agenda as well as offer a platform for all employees to exchange experiences and opinions.

From a get-together to defined objectives

It didn’t take long until a group of about seven or eight had the first get-together at the famous Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt to get to know each other while enjoying some hot wine punch. Since then, we have grown to almost 20 people and have had a couple of more meetings in the office to discuss WHAT we want to achieve with this network and HOW we would like to organize ourselves. Now we have already finalized our mission statement and vision of HOW we want to contribute to the adidas Group´s life. Our main objectives are:

  • Educating and creating awareness amongst employees
  • Providing information and resources within the company
  • Acting as a liaison entity towards the outside LGBT community

Of course, we are in close contact with the senior management team within HR and I am very proud that they signed off right away our mission and vision statement. It is good to know that the management team of the adidas Group is truly supporting our network and our initiatives.

Setting an example in diversity

This week, I was filled with pride once I found out that our CEO Herbert Hainer has signed the Berlin declaration against homophobia in sports. This declaration, which is also signed by politicians and sports functionaries, aims at the promotion of diversity, respect, inclusion and acceptance in the world of sport, particularly in soccer. In good company with famous soccer clubs like Bayern Munich and sports associations like the DFB and the Bundesliga, the adidas Group is the first company to officially take a stand against discrimination against homosexuals on the pitch by signing this document. Of course, diversity is one of our four Group mission statements and values. We always say that we create an environment that welcomes, respects and embraces diversity. Herbert Hainer´s signature on the Berlin declaration demonstrates once more that we really mean what we say.

With our network we want to address all interested LGBT employees as well as any supporters. Of course we are aligned, in contact and in close collaboration with our PDX LGBT group. Within our network, we want to propose initiatives and ideas on how the adidas Group can engage internally amongst its subsidiaries and workforce as well as externally to promote the topic of inclusion and acceptance. We are currently populating our own intranet page which allows all employees across the world to interact on this platform. With the help of the adidas HR Diversity & Inclusion team as well as the network’s growing number of participants worldwide, I am sure there is plenty more to come over the next months.

I am absolutely proud to have been part of making this happen from the very first and to work with such passionate and enthusiastic colleagues who are willing to go the extra mile and contribute to turning this into reality. If you have any ideas or requests, please let us know. We are only at the beginning of our journey and are open for feedback.

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  1. congrats!

  2. Fantastic Johannes, inspirational in fact! Keep up the good work x

  3. Hey guys,why is adidas only focused on issues in Europe,North America and Asia and I never hear the words South Africa or Africa for that matter and other developing countries like the Phillipines,Indonesia and so on in any of your topics but your company trades and operates in those countries? I’ve been intouch with the adidas brand both here in my country South Africa and in Germany in terms of employment and it seems they are not willing to hire me seing I have worked with the brand previously which makes me asked a very important question,why invest and use(buy) my money at a company/corporation that just won’t hire me.

  4. Congrats to the adidas Group for their commitment to diversity and inclusion as an integral part of their organizational practice.

    As we discuss in our training with groups, even though you don’t see the need for creating a network or outward explicit support (because you may assume your space is already inclusive), this can hinder engagement, experience and outcomes. Just because we don’t see it, doesn’t mean issues are not present for individuals or groups that may internally feel marginalized. It is no surprise that by exploring and implementing explicit support for LGBT members, that some of those members at adidas Group felt inspired to immediately mobilize the effort.

    As part of a task force engaged with developing LGBT and ally resources and support for the National Soccer Coaches Association of America this past year, I quickly learned that the global sport experience that is soccer is a leader within sports regarding LGBT inclusion. Other sports could certainly learn a thing or two from many efforts within soccer about the importance and impact of declaring a commitment to LGBT inclusion, an entry-level gesture of respect in terms of the incorporation of LGBT-related programming and policy, and one that has the potential to create incredible impact.

    Thanks for sharing and congrats to the adidas Group for raising the bar as the first company to take a stand on the pitch.

  5. Silvia (Moderator)
    February 25, 2014 1:49 pm

    Dear Tukulu,

    Thanks for your comment.

    As we have started with our LGBT network we decided to first concentrate on our main Headquarter locations. We definitely want to have a truly global network one day and are looking forward to establish this in all locations worldwide.

    Sorry to hear that you didn’t manage to get your dream job yet. Don’t be disappointed. Always remember that we receive a hundreds of applications and that the competition is pretty high. If you have been rejected for one position this time around, it doesn’t mean that you don’t fit into the adidas Group. Create a search agent within our system which will inform you of new positions being advertised and apply again. However, you should always stay focused and not start applying for every open position. I encourage you to apply for positions you are qualified for. I keep fingers crossed for you. Maybe one day I’ll see you walking the adidas halls.

  6. Wish you a lot of success for the future as this is such an important topic. All the best, Kerstin

  7. All individuals of any background, sexual orientation, culture or any sense of diversity need the full support and backing of their business and management teams. This is a great blueprint of how a business can execute a successful campaign of respect and inclusion for those from all walk of life.