The BLEND community advocates respect for people who are different, participating in events such as the Christopher Street Day parades in the United States and Germany. Michael Lengwenat is very much involved.
“It’s a bit like carnival, but even better,” says Michael Lengwenat, enthusiastically bobbing his head in time with the loud music. He has painted blue and red lightning bolts on his face and attached vibrantly colored butterfly wings to his back. In contrast to his get-up for Cologne’s street carnival, though, today he is wearing a t-shirt with the Bayer logo, just like over 100 other participants and supporters of Bayer’s LGBT+ community – BLEND – at this year’s Christopher Street Day in the city.
In perfect weather conditions, over 1.2 million spectators line the route and join the 148 groups in marking the annual festival of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community that is celebrated worldwide with colorful demonstrations. The focus of all this year’s activities is the 50th anniversary of the protests at New York’s Stonewall Inn where, for the first time, homosexual, transsexual and transgender people fought back hard against persecution and harassment.
Bayer staff are also involved in activities outside Germany this year, making their debut at the parade in St. Louis as well as participating in the events in Cologne and Berlin. “Celebrating along with our co-workers from the former Monsanto for the first time created a very special atmosphere,” says Lengwenat, who took part in the Pride activities in the United States in his role as Bayer’s German LGBT+ ambassador.
In addition to the Parade, the events in the U.S. included a Global Strategy Summit to develop a three-year roadmap for BLEND. Another important goal was to integrate Monsanto’s LGBT+ business resource group – Encompass – into BLEND. 20 co-workers from 14 different countries in the network participated in the Strategy Summit. “As one of the largest groups at the Pride St. Louis Parade, we demonstrated Bayer’s support for LGBT+ equality and increased our visibility as a diverse employer,” explains William Warren, Employer Branding Lead at the St. Louis site.
This is already the third occasion Bayer staff have taken part in the Cologne parade, spending a great deal of their own time on preparations. “I simply want a workplace where everyone is respected as they are – for my co-workers and myself – and it’s a cause I also support in my spare time,” says Lengwenat.
In his role as Global Service Delivery Manager, Lengwenat essentially acts as an interface between the operational side of the business and IT. His experiences were not always positive after he came out, so he knows all too well that everyday life is often far from easy for people from an LGBT+ background. “In my eyes, though, inclusion and diversity belong together, and I’m keen to spread that message,” he says.
Lengwenat draws his motivation from the time he spent abroad. “I was incredibly lucky to encounter so many fantastic people and cultures. I’m extremely grateful to my employer for that and I’m keen to give something back to the company,” he explains.
The butterfly wings and make-up kit will be needed again in Berlin. “The people there don’t celebrate carnival like we do in Cologne, but you wouldn’t know it at Christopher Street Day. Everyone joins in and, above all, it’s amazingly colorful,” says Lengwenat.
The global BLEND community brings together LGBT+ employees and their allies at Bayer to raise awareness of LGBT+ issues and drive the Group’s inclusive corporate culture forward. At Bayer, no one, regardless of orientation or identity, should have to hide their true self.
BLEND was founded in 2014 and now has over 1,000 members at Bayer worldwide. It is represented globally in more than ten countries, including Brazil, the United States, Spain and China. The German BLEND group is currently active in Wuppertal, Dormagen, Monheim, Leverkusen and Berlin, taking part in career fairs, organizing events and holding meetings where people can share their thoughts. BLEND members use their experience and knowledge to help LGBT+ staff.
Find here more information about BLEND.