Everyone should be able to be themselves at work

Every year, 11 October is Coming Out Day – the annual LGBTQ+ awareness day to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender people in ‘coming out of the closet’. Within ING, the Rainbow Lions networks are aimed at helping to create a work environment in which everyone can be themselves.

Ibrahim Cirak and Sandra van Scheppingen are both board members of Rainbow Lions NL, which was formerly called GALA. Ibrahim wanted to seek out ‘like-being people’ at work as well as in his private life and play an active part in fostering an (even) safer, more inclusive corporate culture. Sandra is an ‘ally’; she herself does not identify as LGBTQ+ but is keen to contribute to more inclusiveness for colleagues who do. Her commitment stems from when she had a part-time job in a men’s clothes shop when she was younger. She formed close friendships with her gay colleagues and their stories had an impact on her.

Ten percent

Sandra: “Ten percent of the population identify themselves as LGBTQ+, so logic tells us that ten percent of the ING population do too. They need the active support of ‘the other’ 90% to make sure their voices are heard loud and clear. That’s why I became a member of what was known as GALA at that time. Even back then, I helped to organise workshops on subconscious prejudices.”

Mixing gay, the provinces and Turkish roots

Ibrahim: “I work in a very diverse team and always feel I can be completely myself. I am gay and from Twente with Turkish roots, which is quite an interesting mix. We’re generally doing well at ING in terms of diversity and inclusiveness, but there are thousands of people working here and I’m sure that in some settings things are less ideal than in my team.”

Good conversation

Sandra: “Occasionally situations arise in which you think ‘Listen to what you are saying! Don’t you realise how hurtful it can be?’ – such as when people ask ‘Who is the real mother?’ when a lesbian couple have a child. That’s so rude! I challenge people when they say things like that, and it can sometimes lead to a really good conversation, which is encouraging. The Dutch have a strong reputation for tolerance but it’s actually pretty disappointing in reality. Even within the bank, we still have a long way to go.”

No Pride, unfortunately

Ibrahim: “With the Rainbow Lions, our primary aim is to promote awareness and understanding. It should become entirely natural to take other people’s identities into account, whether in terms of sexuality, religion, origin, gender or age. We organise all kinds of initiatives in this context. The coronavirus outbreak put a stop to live events. Personally, I think it’s a huge shame that Amsterdam Pride had to be cancelled during that period. We’ve participated in Pride with an ING boat for years, and it makes a fantastic statement that extends far beyond the day of the event itself.”

Online activities

Sandra: “We organized online activities instead, such as a webinar on the different phases of a transgender’s transition process and how it can impact their working life, a session on what the letters LGBTQ+ actually stand for, and webinars with the Rainbow Lions from other ING countries. This is effective, but I'm glad we can go ‘live’ again!”

About Ibrahim

Ibrahim is Business Credit Advisor. He now lives in Amsterdam but grew up within a Turkish family in Twente, which initially caused him to feel “continuously torn between conservative Christian provincialism with Islamic roots and the progressive city. I struggled to figure out how to live life the way I wanted. The fact that I’ve succeeded fills me with satisfaction and pride, because it has also enriched me”. Ibrahim is on the board of Het Blauwe Fonds, which raises funds and invests in LHBTQ+ emancipation. He loves travelling and cooking, and is very interested in politics and economics.

About Sandra

Agile Coach Sandra is married to Sander and has two children. Dancing has always been a big part of her life – first classical ballet, then salsa, and now modern ballet and flamenco. She loves being outdoors, either walking or cycling, enjoys reading, is a keen singer and is actively involved in promoting inclusiveness in various ways.

Rainbow Lions NL collaborated on a documentary about why it is important that corporates take part in Pride. Click here to watch the video.

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