Times have changed radically since the historic stand taken by homosexuals against police oppression in the summer of 1969 on Christopher Street, New York. Today people of all sexual orientations commemorate this uprising in the 1960s with a big ‘Christopher Street Day’ parade in many cities around the world. This day symbolises the liberation of sexual minorities from social exclusion and discrimination. It stands for tolerance, diversity, freedom, self-determination and the overall cultural transformation of our society – and is also an appeal to the many countries in which people still suffer discrimination and are persecuted due to their homosexual orientation.
However, Christopher Street Day has an impact far beyond its original purpose. Today, polarisation and discrimination are once again subjects of public debate not only in social media but also in the political sphere. This makes the commitment of every one of us to upholding our fundamental values, to the freedom of the individual, to tolerance and respect for those who think differently and hold different beliefs, more vital than ever before. We should all take responsibility for ensuring that the current trend towards division and polarisation, unequal opportunities for minorities, and the exclusion of those who think differently in our society gains no foothold in our society. What is at stake here is nothing less than maintaining civil awareness of the value of a diverse and open society, of a coexistence based on equal rights, and of our own identity as a democracy.
Citizens, companies, organisations and associations, the state, and every individual contributes to this awareness – and we are all called upon to play our part in safeguarding what we have already achieved and taking it further. Memorial events such as Christopher Street Day, at which people celebrate the fundamental values underpinning our coexistence as a society, are therefore all the more important as they remind us of these values and give us an opportunity to recommit ourselves explicitly to them.
It is particularly important for companies to take a clear socio-political stand, and explicitly demonstrate it. We are part of society and thus bear responsibility for upholding it. From the very beginning, it has been part of the Otto Group companies’ self-understanding to act respectfully, openly and free of prejudice within the framework of our social community. Also when it comes to selecting our employees we first of all consider the person and personality, because we know that different values, attitudes and experiences not only enrich our lives but also promote creative collaboration – and so are essential to our business.
Globalisation, digitalisation and demographic change are driving the transformation of business today, and are causing major challenges for companies in their daily work. Our customers expect from us above all that we respond to their differing needs more and more rapidly. If we want to stay competitive in our market, the employees running our business need to be just as diverse as our product and service offering. In view of this, particularly in HR we need differentiated solutions and a holistic perspective.
A fundamental attitude of openness and tolerance is vital here. Furthermore, for management this means developing an awareness of the practical advantages of diversity, and a skilled hand in assigning employees with the right strengths to the right tasks. This is not a question of gender, age, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, but one of equal rights, equal opportunities and the willingness of each and every one of us to help shape the massive societal and cultural shift that is only just beginning. This can only succeed with diversity.