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Stronger together: celebrating LGBTQIA+ identities at Umicore


Love takes a different shape for each of us. At Umicore, we recognise that everyone should be able to love who they choose, and to fully express who they are. Yet we’re also aware that our LGBTQIA+ friends are often denied this right. That’s why today, 17 May, is so important. The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia highlights the adversity the LGBTQIA+ community continues to face, while also offering a chance to promote inclusion and reduce unconscious bias.

As our colleague Tim van Hoydonck IT specialist, points out, there have been great strides over the last 30 years but there’s a lot more to be done: “17 May is an ‘emancipatory’ day in LGBTQIA+ history. On this day in 1990, the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. No longer was our sexual orientation considered a disease, but rather a natural, unchangeable characteristic that’s no different to the colour of our hair or our height. This is a momentous date that shows how far we’ve come in a short time, but it also serves as a reminder that in some countries, especially outside Western Europe, same-sex relationships are still illegal.”

For Alonso Reyes Ratana, 17 May is another opportunity to remind people that the LGTBQIA+ community is here, and here to stay:

“Visibility is key. Only then can we build up allies in every corner. And it’s never been a better time to do so; after all, if we can humanise robots and AI, surely it wouldn’t be a stretch to humanise people?!’’

Alonso Reyes Ratana, process operator

Queer at Umicore: one year on

As a company, we want to do all we can to make sure Umicore employees feel comfortable at work, fully able to embrace their sexual orientation and gender identity. It was exactly a year ago that the Queer at Umicore employee resource group was launched to help fulfil this aim. It not only provides a space where colleagues who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community can share experiences and support one another, but it also helps to create allies by raising awareness around key issues. 

Tim: “Queer at Umicore began in a surprising, but positive way. We found that during a webinar organised by LGBTQIA+ advocates KLIQ, there was a lot of healthy employee engagement, with discussions around what it’s like to be ‘out’ in the workplace. It was a perfect opportunity to set up the  community a few months later, so that we could continue to heighten visibility for our LGBTQIA+ colleagues. We’ve seen tangible results over the past year, including updated wording for internal documents to better reflect the diversity of orientations and gender identities.” 

Alonso: “When I arrived at Umicore, I looked to see if there were any groups I could join and landed on Queer at Umicore. I was really pleased to see that it was an active group – and inspiring too. People from all around the world were unafraid of coming out and expressing who they are, which only goes to show how welcoming our organisation is. It’s also great to see that there are allies in the group looking for ways they can lend their support.”

Express yourself

Having a company culture where everyone feels accepted only leads to a stronger sense of unity and a more enjoyable workplace. For Tim, this meant his colleagues were able to share in one of his biggest life moments:

“My husband and I got married during Covid so we couldn’t have a party at the time. We were finally able to mark the occasion earlier this year, and I was delighted that some of my team members and their partners could attend. It felt natural that the people I see every day could be part of this special moment! So when I go into work, I know this side of my identity is accepted and welcomed, which gives me that extra level of confidence.” 

When Alonso applied for a role at Umicore, he felt there was no need to hide his sexuality, but he was pleasantly surprised by the reception of his team in Production:

“There was an assumption that people working in Production might not be as open as others in the company when it came to LGBTQIA+ issues, but that has been far, far from the case in my experience. While many aren’t yet familiar with Queer at Umicore, that hasn’t stopped us from having some honest, insightful discussions. I joined the company in search of doing some amazing work; what I didn’t expect was to do so alongside some amazing colleagues. In fact, the only other place where I’ve seen this level of encouragement and togetherness was at Disney!”

Looking ahead

Umicore is gearing up for Pride month, and we’re excited to have the Pride flag flying at our Hoboken site in Belgium, a rainbow zebra crossing in Hanau, Germany, and plans to raise more flags and have more rainbow crosswalks in other sites. As for Queer at Umicore, its work is only just beginning. Tim: “Most of our meetings so far have been held virtually, so I’m looking forward to some in-person social events! At the moment, the community is mainly European, so it would be good to have colleagues from South America or Asia get involved. But this has to happen organically; they should feel able to join without feeling forced to. Ultimately, each local community will know what’s best.”