Open and proud of it!

Roche welcomes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees, but challenges remain

From left to right: Mark Trombley, Christine Renz, Andreas Kistner

The Out Proud and Equal Network (OPEN), was launched at the Basel Diversity Leadership Summit held in 2012. Focused on fostering a working environment where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees can feel comfortable being themselves and contributing their skills to Roche, the group already has more than 180 members in Basel, despite having a low key start.

“We want to attract and retain the best talent at Roche and that requires a commitment to promoting diversity and showing LGBT recruits that they are welcome and valued,” says co-chair Mark Trombley, Senior Development Excellence Leader, Product Development. “At Basel HQ, Swiss law guarantees that LGBT employees must be treated equally with regards to opportunities and benefits. Having our network here at Basel HQ acts as a beacon to our affiliates and sends out a clear signal.”

Previously an organisation called the Pink Molecules worked to foster LGBT connections across the life sciences sector in Basel, but that was slowly replaced by company level initiatives. OPEN was created based on the work of several people in Roche. Mark teamed up with Andreas Kistner, Regional Portfolio & Solution Architect EMEA for the Pharma division, to promote the establishment of such a network, at a time when the Diversity Forum was looking to expand the number of sponsored networks at Roche in Basel.

Meetings over coffee

Co-chair Andreas explains, “OPEN is run with the assistance of our members who contribute in different ways to keep the momentum going. We currently have three co-chairs (Christine Renz, Head Attraction, Sourcing and Hiring, HR, is the third). We also have sub-groups that work on specific initiatives.” OPEN has started a bi-weekly Meet and Greet coffee that allows interested employees to come and speak with current members, learn more about the network and join if they desire.

“OPEN is focused on the Basel site, but we hope that the network grows. If there are LGBT members in other locations who want to start networks locally, we are happy to connect with them and see what support can be offered,” says Christine. For example, South San Francisco has a group called GO&E (Genentech Out & Equal) which has been in existence for a few years now and also Germany has a group of 120 members. Furthermore, Mark has worked to also establish an OPEN network in Welwyn (UK).

Challenges exist

“OPEN was created to raise awareness that the LGBT community is alive and well at Roche and that the contributions of these employees are highly valued. In general, Roche and Basel are welcoming to LGBT employees but that does not mean that there aren’t challenges that exist in certain departments of the organisation. It also doesn’t mean that things cannot be improved for the community,” Mark emphasises.

The three co-chairs are focused on “ensuring the full inclusion of LGBT employees, their significant others and children in alignment with Swiss law,” points out Christine.

Increase social interaction

Adds Andreas, “Our goal is to raise awareness, increase social interaction and provide peer support and mentoring about LGBT issues across the Roche organisation in Basel. We need to ensure that LGBT employees receive equal opportunities for career and development prospects. It is also critical that Roche continues to attract and retain the best and brightest talent and highlight its commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

The initial feedback to OPEN has been encouraging. “As colleagues became more aware of OPEN, their support is blossoming independent of their own backgrounds. They also echo the need for more visibility of LGBT themes within Roche,” says Mark.

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