Company

24 August 2023

Ten years of di.to. – REWE Group’s LGBTIQ network celebrates its anniversary

Reading time: 9 min.

“di.” means different. “to.” means together. On Friday, 150 employees and guests celebrated the tenth anniversary of the REWE Group’s LGBTIQ network. From regular, informal get-togethers to becoming a strategic driving force and pioneer of diversity, di.to looks back on a history that introduced fresh ideas to the REWE Group from the very beginning and improved the visibility and acceptance of LGBTIQ employees within the company.

di.to. is quite a colourful bunch, said Sebastian Lange, looking out onto the hall where 150 people were gathered to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the REWE Group’s LGBTIQ network, the very embodiment of different and together.

As a member of the di.to strategy group, Sebastian Lange, the Head of the REWE Group’s Berlin office (Public Affairs), hosted the afternoon thoughtfully and with quiet humour. Unlike others, he had been lucky enough to be “out at work” from the very start. He was therefore all the more pleased to see how firmly diversity is rooted in the company today.

This point was reinforced by the Head of Human Resources and Sustainability, Dr Daniela Büchel, in her welcome address, which followed Lionel Souque’s digital message of congratulations.

“Sensational work”

In her speech, Dr Büchel reminded attendees how the group had grown from regular get-togethers for gay and lesbian colleagues in Cologne to becoming a national LGBTIQ network. She also highlighted the network’s importance from a recruitment perspective, stating: Diversity is an attitude. The internal and external impact has increased and continues to grow.

This increased visibility over the past ten years is also the result of di.to. initiatives, such as rainbow flags and stickers at stores and offices, attendance at Christopher Street Day (CSD) events in five German cities and the Come Together Cup and, last but not least, the numerous fundraising programmes. From the business perspective too, diversity strengthens companies because diverse teams produce very different results.

Diversity is an attitude. The internal and external impact has increased and continues to grow.

Dr Daniela Büchel, Member of the Management Board – Chief People and Sustainability Officer
Dr. Daniela Büchel
Dr Daniela Büchel, Member of the Management Board – Chief People and Sustainability Officer

It is laudable that di.to. can already look back on ten years of history, while other companies are only just getting started. Board member Dr Daniela Büchel said the challenge of the next few years would be to raise awareness of diversity across all areas of the company, particularly on the shop floor. Discrimination still exists and there is no guarantee that it won’t happen in our company. But there is no doubt that the di.to. Pride Champions have helped to shape a corporate culture where everyone feels accepted, plays their part and can be themselves.

As she finished her speech, Daniela Büchel was asked by host Sebastian Lange how she would toast di.to. Here’s to your sensational work! she replied immediately.

Martina Weinhold, di.to. spokesperson, spoke at the event to mark the network’s 10th anniversary.

The shared path at di.to led to many friendships.

Dr Daniela Büchel, Member of the Executive Board – Human Resources and Sustainability, introduced the event.

Tobias Koch and Anna Pavlitschek, di.to. speakers, at the anniversary event.

All di.to. speakers at the event.

“At REWE, you can be yourself at work.”

Anna Pavlitschek, who co-founded the network in 2013, and Tobias Koch, co-founder of the eastern regional network, looked back on how di.to. grew from a group of regulars in Cologne to a nationwide network.

While friendship, leisure activities and the CSD may have been the focus at the start, di.to. quickly grew to become a strategic driving force and pioneer of diversity. From rainbow flags and stickers to setting up the corporate diversity network, drafting guidelines on gender-neutral language and the upcoming e-learning on LGBTIQ issues, di.to. made and continues to make change happen within the REWE Group and has improved the visibility and acceptance of LGBTIQ employees within the company.

This was the case for Tobias Koch, who waited until he knew the company and its values better before he came out at work. At REWE, you can be yourself at work.

Franziska Halstrick, Head of PMO HR and Sustainability, talked about the diversity network launched by di.to., which brings together all the facets of diversity beyond sexual orientation, as well as people who are “passionate about making a difference”. There’s a lot going on and it looks like that’s going to continue, said researcher Dominic Frohn, who raised the importance of a network like di.to. for the community and the significant impact that experiences of discrimination can have on psychosomatic complaints, job satisfaction, mental health and commitment.

franziska-halstrick
About:
Franziska Halstrick

Head of Personnel Development Handel Deutschland

Donations for organisations of diversity

On the occasion of the birthday celebration, di.to. founder Frank Bartels and Tobias Koch presented donations to four associations: a cheque each was presented to Aidshilfe Köln e.V., CSD Leipzig e.V., the largest LGBTIQ youth organisation in Europe anyway e.V. and the Come Out! foundation, which supports contact and free spaces for young queer people.


“The tone is getting harsher again”

Why drinking Kölsch is not enough and how straight people can make a statement at CSD. Frank Bartels, co-founder of di.to., on his motivation for getting involved and why it’s important to demonstrate together peacefully.

How did di.to. come about?

Frank Bartels: In a nutshell, in 2013, some of my colleagues, all male at the time, had seen the CSD float from the REWE store in Ridders, Cologne and said, ‘You’re the REWE Group’s events pro; why don’t we make a float?’ So, the main idea was to take part in CSD, as well as the usual networking over a Kölsch. And it also gave me an opportunity to give something back.

Erhalten von Frau Hamacher am 16.05.2019 für one-Artikel, SoMe
About:
Frank Bartels

is Head of Event- und Travelmanagement at REWE Group and Co-founder of the company’s own LTGBIQ network, di.to.

Give something back…?

Frank Bartels: When I arrived in Cologne in 1998, I was welcomed here with open arms. I never had to hide who I was or fight for my rights. Many pioneers had paved the way for me, people who had taken to the streets decades earlier to fight for their own rights and later for mine too. In that respect, I was able to take advantage of what they had achieved. Yet, at our very first get-together of gay and lesbian colleagues at a pub on the Eigelstein in Cologne – there were around 25 of us – we very quickly realised that the REWE Group still had a long way to go and that a simple, informal get-together was far from enough. Hence the idea of giving back and getting involved.

What are the take-aways from the past ten years for you?

Frank Bartels: First and foremost, all the colleagues I’ve got to know over the past ten years, many of whom have become friends. The more open interaction within the company, the fact that many inhibitions have disappeared. And I’m particularly pleased that di.to. was the starting point for everything that followed within the REWE Group in terms of diversity. That makes me proud.

What are your immediate hopes for di.to.?

Frank Bartels: I want to see the CSD campaign being rolled out even bigger and better in the future and us being able to rely on the support of our straight allies. At the moment, we are living through a time of upheaval once again, the tone in society is getting harsher and this is sometimes reflected in physical violence against the LGBTIQ community. But beyond that, I feel as though the threshold for verbal or physical violence has fallen sharply in recent years and respect for others is now a foreign concept for many. It seems to me that the CSD is the perfect platform for demonstrating the peaceful coexistence of everyone, queer or straight. My perception is that, for some time, there has been a growing number of allies within the REWE Group who want to support our network at CSD and in other ways too. Not because they want to party, but because they want to demonstrate alongside their other colleagues and make a statement. I think it’s cool, it reflects exactly what we are: di.fferent to.gether.

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