Q&A Pride 2022

How Pride month celebrates diversity and inclusion

Pride month began in the United States as a way to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969. This has grown into a global phenomenon in which countless pride events are held during this month to recognize the impact LGBTQIA+ community has had in the world. At Deloitte we are proud to come out in support of the community and actively participate in Pride month every year.

We sat down with three Deloitte colleagues, Jelle, Wout and Maarten, to discuss what Pride month means to them and the community.

Tell us a little about yourself!

Jelle: I grew up in the Netherlands before arriving in Zurich last September. In fact, I’ve never been to Switzerland before moving over for Deloitte so that was quite an adventure. Back in Amsterdam, Deloitte was my first employer since March 2018 and my sweet spot has always been at the intersection of technology and other businesses such as finance; the puzzle of companies integrating or separating is a nice one for me to unravel. This year my handball career ended so the focus will be shifting more towards boxing, mountain biking, hiking and most definitely skiing.

Wout: Something people may not know about me is that I've been a tap dancer for ten years. I was inspired by the movie Happy Feet when I was young, as my parents told me the sound of the penguins dancing was made by tap dancers! I’ve even performed live on television. I ended up at Deloitte after I attended a job fair at KU Leuven, my university in Belgium. At the Deloitte stand I met my current boss who encouraged me to apply and a few months later I started working as a trainee at Deloitte Switzerland. I'm involved in various internal projects, live streaming events and I’ve had the opportunity to work on our Strategy25.

Maarten: I've been living in Switzerland for the last 12 years and I just became Swiss last week! I'm originally from the Netherlands but I've also lived in Italy, China, France and the U.S. My home is now in Switzerland where I also found my now husband. We've been together for almost ten years, got married about four years ago and earlier this year we got a puppy. I do try to keep healthy through different activities and I'm training for the triathlon this summer. I've been with Deloitte for almost a year and I really enjoyed starting and meeting all the people across the firm.

Maarten’s dog showing his support for the community

What does Pride mean to you?

Wout: Pride means different things to different people. For me it's far broader than a person’s sexual orientation or identity, it’s a celebration of life and of self-expression – of who you can be. During Pride month people can show their true colours and it’s amazing when this is endorsed in a corporate environment.

Jelle: When in the phase of coming out Pride was difficult for me to understand. As a child I grew up watching the Pride Amsterdam parades on TV, which always focused the most colourful and extravagant people participating. At that time, I was struggling with who I was and searching for role models, and I was afraid of the perception of being that extravagant. However, the weekend after coming out to my best friend Pride was held in Utrecht and he demanded that we go together. It is still a very clear memory for me; standing at the side of the canal, seeing the diversity of the community, feeling the love of people at the side and on the boat. It felt like a warm, positive blanket grabbing me with the great message: It is absolutely fine being who you truly are, loving who you really love.

Maarten: For me Pride helps raise awareness of what has already been achieved but also of what still needs more work. Everything that has been achieved so far has real life benefits for the community, for example being able to get married. I got married in the Netherlands, but this was only recognised as a registered partnership in Switzerland until now. However, with the new law taking effect from July 1 it will finally be ‘upgraded’ to an actual marriage. Therefore raising awareness is important; it helps to drive real progress that impacts people.

Maarten (left) with his husband (right).

Who are some of your LGBTQIA+ role models?

Wout: I'm a big fan of Queen and of Freddie Mercury in particular. He was a pioneer in a sense that he really tried to talk about being gay openly. I think it's important that we continue to speak up, especially in the corporate environment.

Maarten: For me it’s people who can be themselves, who really feel comfortable with just being the way they are. You never know how this can impact others. For instance, in one of my previous companies I happened to work with a gay boss who at the time kept this hidden in the workplace – whereas I was openly myself. This encouraged him to become more comfortable with being more open at work, so you never know how inspiring it can be if people are just themselves.

Jelle: Before coming out Deloitte hosted a consulting community event with the theme “Diversity & Inclusion” and there was an hour scheduled in which several leaders took the stage. A senior-level manager from a bank, a senior-level manager from a telecommunications company and a Partner from Deloitte all told their stories of coming out in front of over 1000 participants. They told stories about always correcting people when they pose questions around their husband/wife and shared how it felt like they had the come out almost every single day. Inspired by their boldness I felt like I was not being honest to my loved ones about who I am and who I love. That evening I shared my personal story with friends and so my coming-out journey started. My role models are the people that in everyday life stand for who they are and dare to speak up to their friends, family and colleagues, or just hold hands or give a kiss when walking through the park.

What is your favourite Pride anthem?

Maarten: For me probably Lady Gaga, “Born this way”.

Wout: Definitely “I will survive” by Gloria Gaynor, “I'm so excited” by the Pointer Sisters and “I want to dance with somebody” by Whitney Houston.

Jelle: For me, one great song is “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” from Sylvester. Not only is the disco version of her original gospel song brilliantly mixed to dance and feels ecstatic, but the people involved are also true pioneers in the music industry. The artist Sylvester was not only openly gay but also played with the concept of gender and identity. The producer Patrick Cowley was also openly gay and brought many great disco hits to the community. He sadly died of HIV/AIDS.

Wout, a Deloitte Trainee and member of PROUD

This year’s theme is trans-inclusion. Why is it an important topic to highlight?

Wout: I’m far from an expert on the topic, but I have quite a lot of trans friends and think it is a fantastic theme for this year. I think a lot of progress has been made in Western Europe for the gay and lesbian communities, but this has not been the case for trans people. I think society doesn’t really understand what transitioning is and how it may affect a trans person. There, I think it’s a good idea to make it this year’s theme.

Maarten: I think quite often the male gay community can be a very dominant part of the of the LGBTQIA+ community, so it's really good to highlight one of the more ‘minority groups’ within the community.

Jelle: The LGBTQIA+ community has always been this colourful and diverse group, advocating the right to be your true self. To the outside world this is often associated with the more visible groups within the community which are the gays or the lesbians. It is the right time to make the trans community more visible and I believe that within society we can progress positively in mutual understanding and acceptance with the celebration of this year’s theme.

What is an issue the trans community is facing that many people might not know about? How can people be more supportive?

Wout: My trans friends have explained that it is sometimes difficult for people to address them correctly. By this I mean that people want to address you in a certain way and with trans people they sometimes struggle. As a result, trans people can be ignored or pushed aside, which is of course not what we want. This is why trans inclusion matters. Education is a means to help people understand and this leads to inclusion.

Jelle: For me, there is a lot to learn on this topic as I do not have many close friends who identify themselves as such. Someone I know is on the journey of exploring who he or she is, while also exploring whether it would even be something as binary as the one or the other. It must be a tough process for which you need friends, family and role models. This journey could mean dressing differently, wearing make-up and/or adjusting the way you want to be called, and the people around you might want a choice in your gender identity, in announcing the pronouns and/or new name, or might request a slower pace of transition so that they can cope with it. Everyone involved needs an environment that is supportive and Pride can help drive understanding forward and accelerate the required changes in society.

Maarten: I can imagine if someone is going through transition that this might not be easy to do in a professional environment. The more awareness there is on the topic the more we are able to normalise it, so that when you encounter such a situation it is just normal. Just like in my experience it has been normal for me to be able to just say “I'm married, and I have a husband”.

Jelle, a Deloitte employee and member of the community

What do you think people can do this Pride month to raise awareness about important issues that impact the LGBTQIA+ community?

Wout: Since I'm 23 years old I can speak for the younger generation. I love to share LGBTQIA+ posts on social media. There is a lot of content available that has a very supportive messaging, so if you see something then don't hesitate to share it! A lot of my straight friends repost some very supportive and educational messages about different topics related to LGBTQIA+ throughout the month. This achieves three things. First it supports the community a lot, second it educates people and third it raises awareness.

Jelle: For me, sharing stories to educate people about the community is one of the strongest pillars to raise awareness. Whether it is your story of coming out, your struggle as a working mother or whether it concerns your gender identity, these stories are the gamechangers. For some it is about recognition and the role models they can look up to, knowing they are not alone in their internal struggle. For others, the stories might make the issue tangible and foster understanding as a first step to true inclusion.

How does Deloitte support & celebrate Pride month?

Jelle: Throughout the year PROUD organizes events for community and our allies. During Pride month the activities are diverse enough to be attractive for the whole community. There is a Deloitte Drag Queen Bingo, spinning classes, a cross fit class, a summer event and of course the Pride parade itself. Deloitte has partnered up with Trans Welcome, a project of the Transgender Network Switzerland, who support trans people as they pursue their careers and help Swiss employers create an inclusive workplace. To support this project Deloitte is donating 50 CHF for each participant in every Pride event up until a maximum of 5000 CHF.

Maarten: I think that donating to Trans Welcome is a really great way to incentivise people to join and contribute to the community.

Wout: Also, our people will have tons of opportunities to participate in events in the office. For example, I'm responsible for the LGBTQIA+ themed movie nights. We have some great, award-winning short films and LGBTQIA+ movies lined up!

Read article: Introducing PROUD: Our LGBTQIA+ community of employees and allies

What would you say to someone who is new to Pride and would like to participate somehow? Where/how can they start?

Wout: If you're curious about the gay scene then attend the Pride parade. I think it's a fantastic visual demonstration of what being gay or queer or whatever means. And if you are afraid to do it on your own then go with other colleagues. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn and connect, but mainly also to have fun!

Maarten: I suggest to simply join one of our events! The Pride parade is like a celebration. It's not quite on the same scale as the Zurich Street Parade, but it’s still great fun to get together and to bring attention to Pride.

Jelle: Pride is one big celebration of life, diversity and love. Whether you are part of the community, an ally or simply curious to understand what all the fuss is about, the Pride parade is a place for everyone. It is a warm and inclusive occasion that brings people together to share a laugh, a drink and a dance. On Saturday the 18 June it starts in Zurich at Helvetiaplatz, and a group of Deloitte colleagues will be there having a first drink together and being part of the Pride walk afterwards. Join us!

Learn more about diversity and inclusion at Deloitte