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The Power of Diversity: LGBTI at SAP

January 2, 2017 by Jasminka Webb

SAP is very committed to advocacy on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and intersexual (LGBTI) community. The company’s own Pride@SAP network has grown to include some 8,000 members.

SAP employees at the CSD in Berlin

Even from an outside perspective, there’s plenty of proof of how engaged SAP is with regard to diversity and inclusion. Just recently, for example, the company received international gender equality certification. For years, SAP has also been among the leaders in the Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a benchmark survey and report published by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation that assesses efforts to ensure LGBTI equality at American companies.

Meanwhile, the LGBTI community at SAP is especially proud to have seen the global director of Pride@SAP, Niarchos Pombo, named among the “Top 30 Future LGBT Leaders” by the LGBT network OUTstanding and the Financial Times.

The LGBTI community receives tremendous support from within SAP, as well. Numerous employees are active LGBTI allies.

Marie-Andrée Barthelemy and Björn Groneberg

Two of these supporters – Marie-Andrée Barthelemy, a U.S.-born project manager with roots in Haiti, and Björn Groneberg, a German software developer who works in finance – recently spoke with us about how and why they’re working on behalf of this particular community in their everyday lives.

The pair met at Christopher Street Day (CSD) in Berlin in 2015, the first year in which SAP provided financial support that enabled its LGBTI community to represent the company with a float of its own.

The day before, SAP colleagues in San Francisco had already taken to the streets under the theme “Run Prouder Around the World.”

“Those were some unforgettable moments,” Marie-Andrée and Björn recall.


Just be yourself – there’s no need to hide! – Björn Groneberg, SAP Software Developer (LoB Finance), Strategy & Program Office


For Marie-Andrée, who works at the SAP Innovation Center in Berlin, it was the general subject of human rights that motivated her to get involved. Björn, meanwhile, had some specific personal goals that led him to serve as one of the main organizers of SAP’s participation in CSD 2016. Both believe that authenticity is paramount, and that no one should have to live in fear of discrimination.

Motivation to Succeed

Every company has an interest in attracting the most talented people out there in the job market. “A person’s sexual orientation or gender identity really shouldn’t make a difference,” Marie-Andrée points out.


Companies only stand to profit from this kind of diversity. It’s inspiring and really motivates people to innovate, which ultimately helps an organization succeed. – Marie-Andrée Barthelemy, Project Manager, SAP Innovation Center


This is part of the reason why SAP regularly attends the Sticks and Stones, which calls itself “Europe’s biggest career event for the LGBTIQ community and its straight allies.”

Both Marie-Andrée and Björn have been dispatched to previous editions of this career exhibition by the company’s HR department. Another event showcasing the essential resources the LGBTI community has to offer the technology industry in particular is Unicorns in Tech, a conference the SAP Innovation Center Potsdam has already supported as a host.

Meanwhile, accomplishments like the Gender Transition Guidelines, which Pride@SAP compiled for anyone unsure about how to interact with those about to undergo a transition, demonstrate just how serious SAP takes inclusion as a company-internal matter, as well. The guidelines advise affected employees to talk with their managers and their colleagues in HR about the best way to plan such transitions in their respective working environments. They also contain recommendations for managers and HR employees.

Although SAP is already providing extensive assistance in this regard, Marie-Andrée Barthelemy and Björn Groneberg are still hoping for some clearer directives from the higher-ups at the company. While “there’s awareness at every level,” according to Marie-Andrée, as long as campaigns like these continue to be viewed as non-essential outside of SAP’s official Diversity & Inclusion activities, they believe some managers will lack the motivation to get involved.

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