Word of the Chair

“It’s a balancing act: do I come out or not?

You might ask yourself: what do we have to fight for now?’, says Sven Vandyck, working at Accenture and chair of Open@Work, a non-profit organisation that wants to encourage companies to set up a network for LGBTQI employees in their ranks. BNP Paribas Fortis, UCB and the Belgian Defence, among others, have already done so: ‘Because discrimination happens in various forms every day. Unfortunately, something shocking must happen to draw attention to it.

The working atmosphere plays an important role because we spend so much time there, says Vandyck: ‘Company managers sometimes ask me what the business case is for paying attention to this. The bill is easily passed if people want to stay with a company because of it. You hear in exit interviews that people want to leave somewhere because they cannot be themselves. Companies must give a signal externally that they are tolerant. But it must be more than ‘pinkwashing’, they must have an inclusive vision internally as well.

If people cannot just tell you that they have a same-sex partner, you risk them crawling back into the closet, when they may have just come out during their studies.’ But bad jokes are also persistent. I recently heard the story of an employee who found a post-it on his screen every day after his lunch break with the words ‘homo! Then you can say: ‘Oh well, haha’. But you do feel targeted. It is not physical violence, but it can escalate.

Interview De Tijd Of 13 March 2021