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Like many of us 23 SAP colleagues who had the privilege of using our Training & Development funds to attend the 2017 Out & Equal Workplace Summit, I am suffering from a little bit of withdrawal while flying home from Philadelphia.

First, let me tell you what this Summit was all about. The SAP Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Office works hard to ensure that we all get to thrive in a diverse workplace, one that matches the profile of the customers and communities we serve. This means that D&I at SAP includes not only women, but also African-Americans; Latinos; those on the autism spectrum; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) colleagues; and more. The LGBT component of D&I internally supports the Pride@SAP employee network, and externally supports the annual Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Equality Index, Lesbians Who Tech, Out & Equal, and other initiatives around the world.

This year, SAP co-sponsored the Out & Equal Workplace Summit at a level that included passes for 23 colleagues to attend. Besides being able to network with the other LGBT and ally SAP colleagues who attended, we had the opportunity to meet around 4,000 other people from around the world, and hear what other companies, agencies, and organizations are doing to ensure that the workplace is as diverse as it can be.

While SAP certainly is a leader in workplace diversity, including for LGBT colleagues, we learned from listening and discussing policy and practicality with other companies that we still have room for improvement. Here are the top actionable highlights from each of the sessions I attended:

Employee Resource Group (ERG) Best Practices and Inspiration from Wells Fargo, Target, and Johnson & Johnson

  • Create searchable toolkits for benefits. For example, a transgender colleague who is transitioning, or a gay colleague who is thinking about becoming a parent, will have different needs, yet it should be easy for them to figure out a way to learn about the company benefits that will support them.
  • Create and distribute resources for allies. Obviously, there are more non-LGBT employees than there are LGBT ones, and many of them want to help – yet they don’t know where to begin. This was actually proven to me today by a colleague asking me what he can do to help, after hearing about my week at the conference.
  • Demand better budgeting process / budget allocations. At Target, ERG budgets are created at the beginning of the year, separate from the D&I budget. J&J’s is small and they panhandle for larger initiatives (similar to SAP approach). Wells has been able to transition from J&J’s approach to Target’s, in addition to having separate pride parade and event sponsorship budgets. But also, there is a business case for LGBT equality, so Marketing should help fund the ERG and its initiatives.

How to Keep Your ERG Afloat During Turbulent Times with Deutsche Bank and AIG

  • Think about the objectives of your ERG. Deutsche Bank changed their LGBT affinity group from an ERG to a Business Resource Group (BRG), coming up with real business solution ideas, when times became tough.
  • Be creative with budgets. AIG said to be creative, like partner with other companies and other ERGs at your own company. For events, bring in your own members as speakers. Co-fund external benefit dinners with matching gifts. Try to tap into HR execs’ discretionary funds (since being out there is often for recruitment). Try to partner with other ERGs in your own company by finding common things to do. Most importantly, be proactive by developing a two-year plan you can present to your executive sponsor. This is important because some things need a longer lead time. For example, World Pride Celebration in NY is in 2019.
  • Invite customers to events. Deutsche Bank invites customers to events such as pride parades.

Bridging the Gap for LGBT Youth with REACH – with GLSEN, West Orange High School, Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Hospital, Johnson & Johnson, and others

  • Partner with a university, a hospital, and GLSEN or GSAN (gay-straight alliance organizations) to sponsor the gay-straight alliance at one or more area high schools. It’s important for LGBT youth to have role models and community resources, especially since some of them are disenfranchised at home.
  • Support a high school by “adopting” it. For example, attend or host an event there to show support (tips: order pizza; don’t give advice, just share experiences). Another example, have a community event at a school.

Leveraging Intersectionality to Drive ERG Participation with Whirlpool

  • Companies should use the LGBT ERG as a consultant to the business. If you push your value, they will then start to pull you in. For example, some companies reach out to the LGBT network to vet Pride Month-themed ads before they are used.
  • Encourage supplier diversity in your company. Kellogg is a good benchmark. They use local, gay-owned businesses. Join local NGLCC to learn who they are.
  • Have a panel of all ERG exec sponsors as a company activity. This could inform employees that the company cares, and also drive ERG participation. But give them ample notice to prepare!

LGBT Communications with a Purpose with Deloitte

  • Use newer tools. Blogs, video calls, Tweets, ambassadors. Product videos for Jam, SAP TV, and YouTube.
  • Develop user personas to refresh the internal website. Ensure you include a focus on allies.
  • Keys to good meetings. Use telepresence for meetings, not just conference call lines – this makes people feel more involved and familiar. Have meetings bi-monthly or quarterly – there may not be enough meat for monthly gatherings.
  • Think about timeliness of messages. Keep a calendar of important activities and dates, and tie a communication schedule to it.

Engaging Allies with Northwestern Mutual

  • Allies are needed. They help advocate for us on a national level – to accelerate progress.
  • Have a blood buddies program. Connect someone who cannot give blood to someone who can, to do on behalf of.
  • What it takes to be a visible ally: Speaking out, voting on our behalf, etc. Ask, stand up, and speak out.

Global Talent Trends and the Young LGBTQI+ Workforce with Mercer

  • Millennials want to thrive and be their authentic selves.5% look for ERGs. Start at diversity recruiting. Use algorithms, like the Mercer Match Profiles, to make job descriptions better.
  • ERGs have doubled in recent years, so are important. They provide a baseline level of reassurance to new hires that they will have somewhere to connect.
  • We still have some needs at SAP. We need out leaders on our executive team. We need self ID.
  • There are benefits to consider, country-by-country. Examples: Modern family planning, mental health, transgender, global mobility, inclusive facilities, financial protection.

I left the Summit enlightened, informed, and energized about what we can do at SAP to further the cause of equality, and I am recommitted to D&I at SAP.

We ended the week with a day of D&I and general leadership training in NSQ, led by the very talented Mary Park from the learning team. In this session, we met with four SAP senior leaders (Camilla Dahlen, Armin Kaltenmeier, Jewell Parkinson, and Ernesto Marinelli) via a panel discussion, discussed different communication styles, and discovered a how a leader’s well-intentioned behavior (e.g., consistently “rescuing” a situation) can negatively impact the employee experience. We ended with a strategic thinking session on LGBT-related objectives and goals for Pride@SAP and the D&I office.

I thank the D&I office and my team for supporting not only my attendance at this event, but also my overall participation in Pride@SAP. As an active Pride@SAP member in Silicon Valley, I also welcome anyone who has any questions about being LGBT or an ally at SAP to reach out to me directly.

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