New LGBTQ+ group provides a sense of belonging

Mike Kramer-Jansen has worked at Vanderlande for seven years. He enjoys the company’s diverse and inclusive working culture, which encourages everyone to be themselves. This positive atmosphere has given Mike the confidence to establish the ‘I am Vanderlande’ LGBTQ+ group called Proud@Vanderlande: a social network for LGBTQ+ colleagues and allies.

Author

Mike Kramer-Jansen

Controls Development Engineer

I’ve been working at Vanderlande for seven years and always felt at home. I’ve never had to hide who I am and have always been open about my sexuality. It helps that the company has such a diverse and inclusive working culture, where everyone is encouraged to be themselves.

Our workforce is truly international, and in Veghel – where I’m based – we have people from all over the world. I think that helps make us an open company, ready to accept everyone.

From a personal standpoint, going to events like Pride allows me to be part of a community, where I feel safe and comfortable showing affection towards my husband. This isn’t something I usually do in public, but being with like-minded people is reassuring and gives me confidence.

Feeling positive about these moments got me thinking about starting an LGBTQ+ group at work. I talked about the idea with my manager, who after a while mentioned someone else in Human Resources with the same interest. Employees are free to set up their own informal social networks through the ‘I am Vanderlande’ initiative. This is independent of the company, and groups are now established on a wide range of subjects – from cycling to board games.

So in October 2021, we launched an I Am Vanderlande group called Proud@Vanderlande: a social network for LGBTQ+ colleagues and allies. Since then, we’ve grown from five to 26 members. Most of us are based at the company headquarters, but we also have members in America, Australia and Germany.

We meet for regular lunches at headquarters, and we certainly aim to develop more social events. Due to growing numbers, we have established a six-person board to look at future activities. These will take place at the Veghel campus up till now because the majority of our members are based there.

I think our most significant event so far came in June when we raised the Pride flag at our Veghel campus for the first time. When we asked to do this, the company was helpful and a board member was present to mark the occasion.

For me it reflected the best of Vanderlande. During the past few months, I’ve reached out to people I’ve never met before and always get an enthusiastic response, with support for the group.

Our main task is to raise the group’s profile and get more people to join, whether they are new to the company or have been here for a while. We’ve even started doing some merchandising to increase awareness.

Acceptance is about welcoming everybody, which is why we would like to hear from members of the LGBTQ+ community and our many supporters inside Vanderlande. Coming together, we can show that everybody is allowed to be their authentic self.