On the occasion of the International Day Against Homo-, Bi- Inter and Transphobia, I interviewed Lea. She had the idea to shed light on that day and plan a company wide action and create a mosaic picture of our colleagues dressed in the LGBT+ Pride flag colors.The result speaks for itself. We talked about why the IDAHOBIT is important, why Lea involves herself in diversity actions at work and what she wishes for the future.
You had the idea to start a campaign at SinnerSchrader on the occasion of the IDAHOBIT on 17 May. Why is it so important to you to draw attention to this topic at the moment?
Unfortunately, dramatic developments have recently been observed around the world, and of course that is what concerns me. There is increasing violence against LGBT. Not so far away, in Poland there are new LGBT-free zones and in Hungary a trans hostile civil status law is planned. In addition, there are LGBT-hostile media fomenting continuous hatred. Hate speech is not only on the agenda in social media, and this can even go as far as death threats. I think it is important to point out as often as possible what is happening, especially in current times when such events are quickly repressed by others.
This is not the first action you are involved in. How did you get so involved?
As I said before, I am concerned with current developments and I personally have experienced discrimination. Particularly in the professional environment, unfortunately not everyone is as tolerant and you are confronted with unpleasant and inappropriate questions in job interviews, for example. And I am not alone in this. There are opportunities to network and I have also gained security and empowerment, especially through self-help groups. That's why I want to position myself publicly and sensitize society.
Would you describe yourself as an "LGBT+ activist"?
Yes and no. In principle I don't like to put myself in the limelight and the more you are in the public eye, the more headwind there can be, of course. Nevertheless I think it is very important to show the flag. It doesn't always need super big actions. Even the little things help a lot. For example a code of conduct at events like conferences or meetups. That sounds rather unimportant for many people, but it helps that you can feel welcome and secure as part of an underrepresented group.
What is the general response to initiatives in which you have been involved in the past?
The feedback on the various small and large actions is often very positive. The participation in our Rainbow Collage was also very active and many people think the initiative is great. Of course there is always backlash and lack of understanding. But it is important that the initiatives not only help to draw attention to the topic, but also empower the community.
How important do you think sensitization and diversity actions are in the working context?
Extremely important. In general, sensitization and educational work is super important to reduce unfounded fears and prejudices against underrepresented groups. This applies to HR as well as to the team.
You work as a developer. How are you doing as part of an underrepresented group in the tech industry?
Regarding diversity and tolerance there is still a lot to be done in the tech industry. It is still the case that it is predominantly men who work as developers. Women are often not taken seriously and it is not always easy to assert yourself. This also applies to other people from underrepresented groups. Often misjudgements are made and under certain circumstances this can lead to a woman not getting the exciting project or even the job. Nevertheless, there are many possibilities and platforms in the community to change this and make the industry more diverse.
Which helpful changes have already been made in Germany?
In the past e.g. legally a little bit has been done in Germany. The civil status law §45b PStG, allows 3rd gender entry as well as first name and civil status changes without TSG proceedings, but the ban on disclosure is not regulated here. In addition, from 2022 on, being trans will no longer be classified under the ICD key F (mental and behavioural disorders), but will receive its own category of gender dysphoria. Currently, questionable conversion therapies and the advertising of them have been banned, not only for homosexuality as originally planned, but also for trans persons. But also the Code of Conducts at conferences mentioned above, but also here at dev.to, are of course an enormous help to create the important safe spaces.
What do you wish for the future with regard to diversity, especially LGBT+?
I wish for more diversity in the tech environment. Also, more courage from employers not always to hire stubbornly after work experience and degrees, but also to give a chance to candidates who did not start their career with the best qualifications.