First, hope everyone is having a great start to 2024 and looking forward to the year ahead.
As the Executive Sponsor of proUd, Unilever’s LGBTQI+ network, I take great pride and am continually humbled by the remarkable achievements of our network. Since its launch in 2019, proUd has made significant strides in shaping a diverse workplace that values and celebrates a more equitable life for all. The commitment from proUd to fostering inclusivity has become a powerful force. and has grown into a beacon of inclusion, with 1,250 members across 20 local chapters worldwide.
During that time, we’ve been able to create an informed and empathetic community that breaks down barriers and dispels misconceptions. Our Queer’iosity learning pathway provides curated content on essential LGBTQI+ topics such as history, pronouns, allyship, and identities. Some areas of our business have modified their employee health policy to include same-gender partners and diverse family structures, and we implemented our ‘Transitioning at work’ policy in Mexico, the Netherlands, the UK, and Brazil.
We actively engage in educating, celebrating, and advocating for the LGBTQI+ community both within and outside Unilever all year round. Our international awareness campaigns and Pride celebrations have reached thousands of employees globally. In partnership with our Global Marketing team, proUd collaborated with Gay Times to create a groundbreaking LGBTQI+ playbook. This resource empowers our marketers to unleash creativity, reach new audiences, and challenge stereotypes in their representations of the LGBTQI+ communities. And, in 2023, we nominated six employees to attend Out Leadership’s signature talent development program for emerging LGBTQ+ leaders, OutNEXT.
While celebrating our achievements, it’s crucial to acknowledge the ongoing challenges faced by the LGBTQI+ community in 2024, with a particular focus on the struggles of transgender individuals. Despite progress, discrimination, lack of understanding, and inadequate legal protection persist. Transgender people often face heightened levels of violence, unequal access to healthcare, and societal prejudices.
As ‘out’ leaders, executive sponsors, and allies our role extends beyond the workplace, encompassing a commitment to driving awareness, educating society, and challenging stereotypes everywhere, every day. Our brands at Unilever have a significant role to play in shaping narratives, breaking down stigmas, and contributing to a more inclusive society both in front of and behind the camera. By leveraging our influence and reach, we can actively participate in initiatives that promote understanding, celebrate diversity, and contribute to the dismantling of barriers faced by the transgender community. As a global entity, we have the power to effect change not only within our organization but also in the broader societal landscape.
However, the only way we can achieve this is through the power of collective effort to drive the positive impact we can create when we stand together for a more inclusive future. Not just as the Executive Sponsor of proUd, but as an individual, I feel I am in a privileged position to drive the change I, or should I say we all want to see – a more inclusive and equitable society for all. I hope you and your companies will join us on this journey.
VP, Global Head of People Data Centres, Unilever
Executive Sponsor, ProUd
Here’s what you need to know this week…
Meet OutLEADER Sarah Schueddekopf
Pictured above: Sarah Schueddekopf, Head of R&D Personal Care BNX, DACH, NDC, Unilever
Across our member companies, trailblazing OutLEADERS are using their voices to create more inclusive and welcoming workplaces for all. Out Leadership spoke with Sarah Schueddekopf, who shared her experience as a senior OutLEADER at Unilever:
I transitioned within Unilever quite some years ago and there were hardly safe spaces in society or in the company area. I was afraid of the reaction of people when telling and showing my real me – there was no safety net established.
Going through the process in the factory environment here in Germany was a real surprise to me. I was “confronted” with more acceptance and help than anticipated. Then I heard about an existing network in the United States — my boss told me — which I could connect to. I was no longer alone. And I think this is the great thing in Unilever, that you are not alone, we are many, sometimes you have to show up and speak up to find. But that should be history in Unilever now as we have quite a strong proUd network, globally and I was initiating a local one for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. To give space, to let people breathe, and to celebrate diversity, stretching stereotypes into a multidimensional room. We launched it on Valentine’s Day, as love has many colors. And this is being seen, respected, and valued. One could say that it doesn’t matter who I am at work, but it DOES!
The culture in Unilever I would say is a culture of inclusion. This is a strong foundation where people within the company can grow, build on, and thrive. If you want, you can move the needle—and that’s amazing.
Business leaders aren’t backing down from DEI in spite of backlash.
Pictured above: JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon reiterated his bank’s commitment to its diversity initiatives after another year of record profits.
“I’m going to start by telling you that I’m a full-throated, red-blooded, patriotic, unwoke, capitalist CEO,” Dimon said. “I’m not woke anything.” Nevertheless, he emphasized that very little about JP Morgan’s diversity programs would change, except modifications where necessary to comply with changes to the law.
Dimon’s perspective reflects broader trends. A recent survey of Chief Human Resources Officers showed that 0% planned to scale back DEI efforts in 2024. According to the survey, business leaders are loathe to dismantle DEI programs because they provide enormous benefits to business operations and profitability.
More than one-fourth of Gen Z adults identify as LGBTQ+, a US survey says.
According to a new survey released last week by the Public Religion Research Institute, 28% of American adults aged 18-25 identify as LGBTQ+, compared with 16% of millennials, 7% of Generation X, 4% of baby boomers, and 4% of the Silent Generation. Gen Z teens were not asked about LGBTQ identification.
A Gallup poll from February 2022 indicated that nearly 21% of Gen Z adults identified as LGBTQ, compared to 7.1% of the overall population. This week’s survey indicated a notable increase in the proportion of Americans identifying as LGBTQ+
As the LGBTQ+ community becomes e a larger share of the workforce, companies must invest further into initiatives to attract, include, and retain LGBTQ+ employees to remain competitive in the global talent marketplace.
Seattle Police raid gay bars, shocking LGBTQ+ community.
Pictured above: The Cuff Complex in Seattle, Washington
The Washington state LGBTQ+ community was rocked by coordinated raids on multiple gay bars in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. During the unannounced inspections, police cited patrons for wearing revealing clothing, which is considered “lewd conduct” under Washington State liquor law.
Advocates across the United States decried the raids as a ridiculous use of police resources and called for the laws to be updated to reflect modern sensibilities. A coalition of nightclubs issued a statement condemning the enforcement of antiquated laws, arguing that “the absence of violence or liquor-related issues in the citations indicates a concerning focus on targeting queer individuals in queer spaces.”
Washington’s first openly gay state senator Cal Anderson suggested he would attend bars in his underwear to dare the police to arrest a sitting lawmaker.
The modern gay rights movement began in response to draconian police raids on gay bars, sparking an uprising from bar-goers at the Stonewall Inn in June of 1969.
From Florida to Utah, states place more restrictions on trans equality.
Utah became the 11th state to regulate bathroom access for transgender people, in a souring climate for gender-diverse people across the United States. In Florida, regulators rescinded a provision that allowed Floridians to change the gender indicated on their driver’s licenses.
According to new guidance from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the misrepresentation of one’s gender on a driver’s license is fraud. The guidance clarifies that “gender” should be understood as sex assigned at birth. Trans people in Florida could now face civil or criminal prosecution, as well as the suspension or revocation of their driver’s licenses.
Did you know?
In 2014, the world’s first openly gay prince, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, the heir presumptive of the honorary Maharaja of Rajpipla in India, spoke at the Out Leadership Asia Summit. Once subjected to years of conversion therapy, the prince is now an activist against the barbaric practice. A longtime advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, he has opened up his palace as a safe haven for those who have been ostracized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and chairs the Lakshya Trust, which is dedicated to combatting HIV/AIDS.