Boehringer Ingelheim Regenbogen Netzwerk
17 August 2017

“Now things make sense!”

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity – what does this have to do with the workplace? In this day and age, we believe a lot. Since only in 1990, the World Health Organisation (WHO) removed homosexuality from its list of diseases. Much has changed for the better in the almost three decades since then – but equal opportunities for lesbians, gays and transgender people is still a work in progress.


Boehringer Ingelheim is making its own commitment to establishing a culture where diversity is valued, be it gender, cultural background, age, physical characteristics, or sexual orientation and gender identity. The German Rainbow Network is supporting this by increasing the visibility of the “brightly coloured” side of life in our company and giving LGBTIQ colleagues a safe space for exchanging experiences and ideas.


In our series of LGBTIQ interviews, colleagues from the Boehringer Ingelheim Rainbow Networks in Ingelheim and Biberach tell us about their experiences. So get to know Alice Oehninger, transident Boehringer Ingelheim employee at Biberach.


Ms Oehninger, what is your current function at Boehringer Ingelheim?


I am a full time vocational trainer for biological laboratory technicians. I supervise a respective class of our next-generation employees, from their application interviews to their final exams, and sometimes beyond. I consider myself a learning coach, who recognizes and promotes our students’ resources and talents. In the way of encouraging holistic personality growth, I am a person of trust in whom our students can confide. If challenges arise in the way of cognitive learning or disciplinary organization, I am first contact.


You are a transgender colleague. What have you experienced in the workplace with your supervisors or colleagues after coming out?


I find it difficult to find myself in the term „outing“. I have no gay boyfriend or lesbian girlfriend whom I would meet secretly. I am a woman who has successfully lived in the role of a man for many years, as dictated by my biological disposition. I have decided that I gain more out of life, and am more attuned to myself, living my life according to my perceived gender – that of a woman. I have found that there are enormous amounts of openness, respect and good will. My entire environment has, almost without exception, shown me so much support and empathy. I have abundant reasons to be grateful.


What distinguishes my environment at Boehringer Ingelheim, supervisors, colleagues and students alike, is how easily they all embraced the new me and how readily they shared my learning process.


What was your most positive “coming out” experience?


It was long-standing friends and colleagues who looked at me with surprise. They paused, and then broke out in smiles, saying, “Yes, of course! Now things make sense!” And there are also erstwhile students who have long finished their training and approached me with support and encouragement.


What role do sexual orientation or gender identity play in your professional everyday life?


The easy answer would be: none. But that is too superficial. I believe I have lived my role as a man to the best of my capabilities and strengths, and that I have given my fullest in all situations. I have gained and learnt enormously through my road through life. To live as a woman today, to permit myself to be myself is liberation. It has set so many abilities and resources free, has opened so much in the way of empathy and agility. I am enriched by so many experiences.


How did you get into contact with the Rainbow Network at Boehringer Ingelheim? In what way are you involved?


The topic of Diversity &Inclusion has accompanied and moved me my entire life. I have spent a lot of time abroad and have gotten to know many cultures. I have been in contact with people like Denise Hottmann for quite a while, and I was involved in initiating the Rainbow Network in Biberach. Today, I offer my “expertise” and counselling concerning Transgender and Intersexuality.


What can the Rainbow Network do for employees? Why is it worthwhile to participate?


The Network can connect and mediate. The Network can counsel people, strengthen and support them in their self-confidence. And it can clearly show: you are not alone, that you do not have to carry this all by yourself. At the same time, it is my hope that the Rainbow Network can emphasize that we are an enrichment.


What benefits do employees participating in the Rainbow Network bring for the company?


I believe each person comes with their assets and resources, which stem from that person’s life experience. In direct correlation: each person comes with their own individual blind spots. I carefully claim that the blind spots of the rainbow community lay elsewhere than those of the heteronormative population. The enrichment lies in the community as a whole. The chances lie in the mix. The combined overall experience boosts diversity and resources. Together we are in a position to achieve things that are truly new and beyond scope and produce results that are extraordinary.


What do you see as the next steps for the Network and LGBTIQ visibility in the company?


I wish it would truly be irrelevant what I am; that my social identity plays no role. I wish to be appreciated for the contribution I am capable of, for my intuition and my capabilities – which happen to be different from someone else’s.


What advice do you have for new LGBTIQ employees at Boehringer Ingelheim who have not yet come out in the workplace?


Boehringer Ingelheim is among those global players that openly support diversity and equality. So: where else should one come out, if not here?


We are open and multicultural.

We are colourful – lunchtime in both our canteens proves this.

We are curious – here, people approach each other.


Yes, it takes courage and perseverance. Each person requires courage to leave their own comfort zone.

I have decided for myself, I am worth it. And my friends and colleagues are worth it, as well, that I am the way I am.


"Together we are in a position to achieve things that are truly new and extraordinary, says Alice Oehninger. "
Denise Hottmann
Alice Oehninger, Boehringer Ingelheim

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