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We’re Here, We’re Queer, We’re Good for Business

Feature Article | July 1, 2015 by Robin Meyerhoff

On Friday, June 26, The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that same-sex marriage is right nationwide, joining approximately 20 other countries in liberalizing marriage laws.

This past weekend SAP marched for the first time in the 45th San Francisco LGBT Pride parade. I was part of the 300 person contingent that represented all five SAP Silicon Valley campuses. The mood was decidedly celebratory. Epically so. Estimates put attendees in the millions.

SAP was in good company.  Other Silicon Valley giants joined the march including Apple, headed by openly gay CEO Tim Cook, who marched with 8000 employees. Google, Airbnb, Uber, Yelp, Salesforce and Facebook also participated — joined by legions of smaller companies.

Pride@SAP, a global LGBT employee network, showed their pride around the world. SAP Berlin marched for the first time in the Berlin Christopher Street Day Parade on June 27. Over 60 people participated and rode on the SAP float.

Diversity + Business = Innovation

Why are so many companies participating? And why has SAP decided to invest so much globally this year? Quite simply, diversity is good for business.

Moya Watson, SAP HANA Cloud Platform Product Manager, is co-lead of Pride@SAP North America. She marched with her parents by her side – her wife and their daughter at home preparing for the after party.

She pointed out that the Supreme Court ruling, “is important for businesses because in the United States there has been a patchwork of inconsistent marriage laws. To figure out the benefits according to each state’s laws previously cost the private sector approximately $1.3 billion per year.

She added, “It’s also still legal to get fired for being gay in approximately 28 states and transgender in 31.”

Jenny Dearborn is SAP’s Chief Learning Officer and the newly-appointed global executive sponsor for Pride@SAP. She said, “SAP’s growth depends on our ability to innovate. And Innovation depends on bringing different perspectives to the workplace.”

“That’s why SAP is a huge advocate of diversity. For people to do their best, they need to be able to be their true selves. Supporting our LGBT colleagues is critical to creating that environment. If everyone thrives, then SAP thrives too.”

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Pride Unifies SAP Silicon Valley

The San Francisco march was also an important way to unify the five SAP Silicon Valley campuses. Just a few years, SAP’s presence in Silicon Valley was limited to Palo Alto. But through the acquisitions of Sybase, SuccessFactors, Concur and Ariba it now include over 4,000 employees and five cities.

George Teixeira, Senior Analyst Relations Manager, organized SAP’s participation in the San Francisco march and talks about why SAP Silicon Valley got involved this year. “We’ve acquired quite a few local companies in the past few years and this was a great event to bring those campuses together, while uniting people to support SAP’s LGBT employees.”

He continued, “Also a lot of companies in Silicon Valley have become very active in the parade and we want to show that we’re committed to diversity. We appreciate diversity and know the benefits it brings to the workplace, which helps solidify our reputation as an employer of choice.”

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

But things weren’t always like this at SAP. Pride@SAP started as a network called Global HomoSAPiens in Waldorf in 2001 and grew slowly as a grassroots movement.

“It was really quiet – we didn’t even have domestic partner benefits when I started in 2001. But things really gained momentum in 2010 and 2012,” said Watson.

In 2010, SAP got a perfect score in the Corporate Equality Index, created by the Human Rights Campaign, a group that promotes LGBT welfare in the United States. This ranking galvanized the Silicon Valley Pride@SAP team, according to Watson.

Then in 2012, SAP produced a video to support the It Gets Better Project, created to stem the rash of suicides amongst LGBT youth. Pride@SAP was prompted to participate when the son of an SAP executive took his life after years of homophobic bullying. The team put together a video featuring openly LGBT SAP employees, and hosted a series of events on campus to raise awareness.

As Teixeira says about Pride@SAP, “This is not just about LGBT people. It’s also about parents, friends and relatives of people that are part of the LGBT community.

This past spring SAP signed on to the Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness and its Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in the United States.

There are still areas where SAP could help its LGBT employees. Says Watson, “Almost 80 countries around the world still ban homosexuality. We need to build bridges globally and make it safe for LGBT employees around the world.”

“We’ve made a lot of leaps. People who’ve not been accepting are now evolving and SAP is also evolving to embrace all people and all diversity. SAP is a place where I don’t have to worry.”

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