Rainbow Lions: Helping people to see things from a different perspective
Every year, 11 October is Coming Out Day – the LGBT+ awareness day to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in ‘coming out of the closet’. This year, ING’s Rainbow Lions networks across the globe are paying special attention to Coming Out Day. ING’s Rainbow Lions network is aimed at helping to create a safe and trust-based work environment and promoting LGBT+ inclusivity and awareness, both inside and outside the bank.
Eva Leysen, Julia Schneider, Corentin Declercq and Wojciech Michalek are four of the seven Rainbow Lions board members in Belgium. All four of them regard ING Belgium as a safe place to work already. Eva: “We just ran a survey among LGBT+ people about how inclusive ING Belgium is, and the results are very encouraging.”
Are you sure you’re gay?
“Nevertheless, people still make careless remarks or jokes sometimes, and I think we've all been asked our fair share of inappropriate questions, like ‘Are you sure you’re gay?’ or ‘Which one of you is the guy in your relationship?’! Questions like that are rarely intended to be hurtful or offensive; they usually stem from curiosity or just plain thoughtlessness. So we’ve recently launched a series of internal videos called ‘Ask me anything’ to address this issue,” she adds.
We’re in this together
Julia agrees: “I think we can all admit to not always being as sensitive as we should be – even me, and I’m someone who is super-aware and super-interested in diversity and inclusion! I’m an ‘ally’ of the Rainbow Lions and don’t actually identify as LGBT+, so for me my membership is really about listening, learning and being aware of my own privileges. From that position, I aim to provide support, be an advocate of inclusivity and send out a clear signal. It’s not about ‘a minority group’ having to solve ‘their’ problems. We’re in this together!”
Still work to be done
Wojciech, who has been chair of the Rainbow Lions in Belgium for the past two years, says: “Joining a network is very worthwhile because it can help you to see things from a different perspective. I personally have never felt discriminated against, but I know there’s still plenty of work to be done to make sure that people are treated equally on all fronts. Right now, one issue is how our company meets the needs of trans people at work, such as by providing gender-free toilets and establishing procedures related to transitioning in the work environment. I’m also very committed to improving the status of the LGBT+ community in my homeland, Poland, which is currently not so great. There’s still a lot of progress to be made internationally.”
Cross-network, cross-company and cross-border events
The coronavirus situation is making it difficult to meet up in real life, but the Rainbow Lions are nevertheless looking at all kinds of opportunities to organise activities for a broad group of people – across networks, across companies and even across borders. Wojciech: “I sometimes feel a touch of nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ when we celebrated Brussels Pride – that was the highlight of the year!” Corentin: “And what about the X-mas party last December, which involved Lioness, Crossing and Ring?! Let’s hope that we’ll soon be able to organise those kinds of events again. In the meantime, we’re making do with online events like webinars, pub quizzes, training sessions and workshops that are open to everyone.”
Coming Out Day
Eva: “To mark the occasion of Coming Out Day, we want to emphasise that any of our colleagues can reach out to us if they are struggling to come out at work. And we’re keen to hear from new arrivals or anyone else at ING who would like to connect with the Rainbow Lions, either as a community member or as an ally. Everyone is welcome!”
Corentin is a Customer Journey Expert in Payments. He first got to know ING as an external consultant and decided to apply for a job thanks to the positive environment. With his background in gender and diversity and as a promotor/fan of gay culture, it’s no great surprise that he joined the Rainbow Lions network. When he’s not working, you’ll probably find him dancing somewhere!
Employer Branding Expert Eva was born and raised in Germany. She moved to Belgium in 2016 together with her Belgian wife, whom she met in Canada where they were both students. They have two daughters together, aged 4 and 2. Eva loves cooking, baking and sewing – especially to make clothes for the girls.
HR Expert Julia is a German who lived and worked in Copenhagen for a while before moving to Belgium to be with her boyfriend. Julia is a so-called ‘ally’ of the network; she doesn’t identify as LGBT+ but joined out of professional and personal interest for the topic of diversity & inclusion. Julia loves to cook and to dance the Lindy Hop.
Wojciech is a Chapter Lead Dev Engineer from Poland and the current chair of the Rainbow Lions in Belgium. He moved to Belgium 12 years ago and initially lived in Leuven, where he met his boyfriend. Four years ago the couple bought an apartment together in Brussels, where they now live, along with their cat Ólafur. Wojciech loves playing boardgames, travelling and all kinds of outdoor activities involving water and mountains, such as rafting and climbing.