“Where did all this diversity talk come from? I mean… I have never seen so many big companies and their CEOs putting up rainbow logos and statements.” And we all know that changing logos is a capital crime in the eyes of the corporate brand and marketing departments.  The Germany vs. Hungary game earlier this week at the European Football Championship (June 2021)

While the petition to illuminate the Munich Stadium with rainbow colors for the aforementioned game drew a lot of attention to the controversial new Hungarian legislation restricting LGBTQ+ rights, it also helped white, middle-aged men to finally have a voice about #diversity and #inclusion: football!

But the question of my friend got me thinking deeper about the origins of this massive surge in corporate social responsibility. So yes, the pandemic played a part – the year we all remember as transformational in many ways and while we all had our unique experiences, I don’t think there is anybody who had not reflected on the big questions of life while enduring social distancing and toilette paper shortages.

Subsequently, it catalyzed deep-rooted social issues in the USA, where the early phase of the COVID19 crisis was particularly devastating and gave rise to the “Black Lives Matter” movement. That also did not come from out of the blue, there were many building blocks up to this moment as a result of the long history of mistreatment and discrimination of the African-American community in the country. Also from other angles, like the anti-sexual harassment and violence “Me Too” movement of 2016, the discourse about human rights started to take center stage in the privileged, wealthy, western societies – both in governmental and private sectors alike.

What do all these initiatives have in common?

They all originate from the USA.

Don’t get me wrong, obviously it’s not the only country that has unequal social structures and problems with discrimination. But it’s the biggest, most-influential, most economically and politically powerful country that has the culture and the willingness to address these issues openly and loudly. And thus, in our global, capitalized economies it has an impact on European, Asian and African countries to some extent

In my opinion, this is the question that leads us to the true reason why diversity is so big now and not before. And to answer it, we have to go on a little time travel back to the second industrial revolution. When the German-born philosopher and social revolutionist Karl Marx published his iconic works “The communist Manifesto” and “Das Kapital”, it started the labour rights version of the “Me Too” movement in the late 19th century. Marx became stateless due to his views, but factory workers and other blue-collar members of society benefited from them greatly as they started to unionize and form collectives to fight for better labour conditions and rights. This socialist wave swept across Europe in the 20th century, deeply embedding itself into the political and social structures of many countries. Minimum wage, paid vacation days, paid maternity leave, universal healthcare and paid sick days – just to name a few of the achievements of the human and workers rights activists. Subsequently, workers councils formed inside big corporations to continue representing employee interests and keep checks and balances with profit-oriented productivity maximization.

Back to our days, when workers councils in Germany, France, The Netherlands and many other European countries are well-established and part of the corporate governance structures, they are seen as a bit old-fashioned entities that stand in the way of progress. But in fact, they are the refined and organized successors of the thousands of activists demonstrating and fighting for workers’ rights on the streets a century ago, much like what their American counterparts are doing in recent years related to adequate Black, Latinx, LGBTQ, Female rights and representation in all facets of society.

Employee Resource Group (ERG) is the term in the US for a group of people sharing similar values and interests, meeting regularly for peer-support and to advocate their agendas towards the employer. However, since socialism and unionization are among the scariest words in the dictionary for many American big corporations, they have a vested interest in preemptively forming and closely managing ERGs, thus continuously balancing on the thin rope between support and control.

And doing all this in a very American, loud, patriotic and inspiring way.

That’s why recently many big corporations have ERGs, Chief Diversity Officers as member of their Senior Leadership Teams and most of their Board Members are outspoken about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) topics in a form of emotional, often tear-jerking and personal stories.

It’s a country of Hollywood and the Land of Dreams, so no surprise that human and labour rights activism is not confined to the boring limits of court rooms and legislation bureaus. They say everything is bigger in America – so is the wave of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion that is sweeping across the corporate world, and leaving many European businessmen, like my friend from Friday dinner, puzzled on why this is happening right now.

DE&I is in many ways a conversation about privilege that some of us are born with and others are not, yet it profoundly defines everything in our lifetimes – our socio-economic status, educational and career opportunities, health and life expectancy and family prospects. I have been blessed with many privileges in my life and after this conversation I realized I have another one: being European and – even more so – living and working in Germany, where the workers’ council of my employer is advocating for my rights so I can go and help those who don’t have this privilege.

And facilitate conversations about rainbow-colored buildings and football so everybody can find their role in the DE&I fight, as it is universal, it takes all of us and it never stops.


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