Queer at Umicore

Stories

It all started back in October of 2021 when we invited KLIQ – advocates of LGBTQIA+ – to give a webinar called 'Diversity in orientations and gender identities'. The purpose: correct assumptions, bring the LGBTQIA+ community closer and to make a safe workplace for all. But what we got, was so much more than that. We proudly present: the inspiring story of Umicore's brand-new Yammer community ‘Queer at Umicore’.

‘Queer at Umicore’ is a grassroot movement. Sparked by the desire from both HR and employees to heed the doubts and questions their colleagues were presenting in the chat box of the KLIQ webinar. The large number of people actively involved during the session, was a clear signal to HR that further follow-up on the subject was called for. They launched an open question to see what could be done and a group of volunteers stepped forward.


One of them was Tim Van Rompaey (R&D), an ally:

“Caring about other people is important to me. My unconscious bias used to be quite substantial. But then my sister married a woman and have children. And I myself have teenage kids asking questions about where they belong on the spectrum of colors and identities. On top of that, my wife’s a very socially active high-school teacher. So, questions are quite natural around our dinner table and in our house. Which made me think and evolve. And I think everyone has to go through some kind of evolution of their own. I still have to learn a lot but I’d like to help my colleagues. We have to raise awareness, educate people how to be an ally, how to use the right language, and so on. As an ally, I would like to help people initiate their own evolution.”


Florencia Marchini
(Project Manager at R&D) agrees:

“During the webinar, there were a lot of anonymous questions from colleagues across the organization. They were asking for more education on how to be an ally, for information – or even colleagues belonging to the community afraid of coming out, wondering if the workspace was a safe space. My sexual orientation has never been something I showed off, I’ve never been active in movements or communities. But I’ve also never hidden it. When those questions arose, for the first time ever, I thought my visibility could be of help. Seeing colleagues asking questions about things you’re not wondering about yourself; you realize you have some kind of privilege. Or that you went through a process already.”

The initial community of allies and members were ten people, gathering behind the scenes. They started with a review of Umicore’s communication policies, to make sure all the communication uses neutral language and are all fully inclusive. And not coincidentally on May 17, International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), they launched the community ‘Queer at Umicore’ on Yammer. Stating the community’s purpose with their first post:  
 
This community is created for all Umicore employees who identify anywhere under the rainbow umbrella, their allies and anyone who wants to discover more about it. With this initiative, the LGBTQIA+ community aims at: 

  • Supporting each other, share their unique experiences, exchange useful information
  • Raising awareness, and helping everyone to understand better LGBTQIA+ identities and become better allies. In that way, they want to promote inclusion and reduce unconscious bias regarding sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression
  • Helping Umicore in making their policies more inclusive and advise the company regarding its communication towards the external world on the LGBTQIA+ topics 

 
Immediately, people from all over the globe reached out. One week later the community consists of 54 people. Tim: “Apart from it being an environmental strategy, Umicore’s ‘Let's go for zero’ entails a social goal as well. As a whole, Umicore wants people to be able to express their identity. This community serves as a catalyst to reach that goal. But there’s no denying the cultural and political specifics of a country. We want to show that there are people you can relate to. That within the context of Umicore, you’re safe. The idea is to create a positive group, setting examples, being available to anyone who has questions. People from the community and hopefully also allies. In the Yammer community we’ll be posting information on how to use pronouns, how to act inclusive etcetera.” 
 
The ultimate goal of ‘Queer at Umicore’? Florencia: “We started small, but dream big. If it’s up to us, we go bigger and wider. Starting regional is the most effective approach but the ultimate dream is to become a global community. To organize events as well. Bring people physically together. Some people were thinking they were the only ones in their environment. Now they see others and know they’re not."