OPEN and proud: how I started a LGBTQ+ employee resource group

June 30, 2022 | 5 minute read
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My name is Angela Äinschi Jacobsen, and I started working in the IT industry at an American global corporation in 1987. At that time, the terms diversity and inclusion were still unknown. When I moved to Oracle in Germany in 1994, I didn’t want anyone to know that I was a lesbian. The IT world was dominated by men and coming out was unthinkable for me at that time.

Angela JacobsenHow I would have loved to know a person in the company who is open about their sexual orientation and doesn’t hide. Today, it would be called a role model: a person who is spoken about respectfully, who is respected, and who has every career opportunity, regardless of sexual orientation or religion, ethnicity, disability, gender, age, or beliefs. Maybe even a person who would have pushed the issue in the corporate culture back then.

But back then, the time was not yet ripe. On the contrary, I once faced harsh consequences after my outing, received a bad evaluation for flimsy reasons, and even had to fear for my job.

That time made me strong. And when two Oracle colleagues asked me in 2018 why there was no Oracle Pride Employee Network (OPEN) chapter in Germany, I knew that something must change here.

I took the time to first inform myself about OPEN in general and found out that while there are many countries with an OPEN chapter, there are also many countries where there is no Oracle OPEN chapter. Germany was one of them.

On the information page, I found a contact person: René Duijn, the OPEN lead for EMEA. I wrote René, my first OPEN contact. When we met, I immediately felt in good hands. René explained a lot of things to me and gave me all the information I needed. Many thanks to René, who always had an open ear for me and is now not only an Oracle colleague, but a friend.

The start of a new chapter

Together with a few other employees, we founded Oracle Germany’s OPEN chapter in December 2018. At the time, it was important for us to make clear to German Oracle employees why we needed an OPEN chapter in Germany. You can find my statement video about our foundation here.

We publicized Oracle OPEN Germany prominently through management and the country leadership team. This was important because we wanted to achieve a high visibility. Now people knew that we existed—but how could we bring more visibility both within Oracle and the outside world?

Two years earlier, I had been at Munich’s Christopher Street Day PRIDE celebration as a spectator and saw so many big companies there. Oracle’s competitors, customers, and partners were all actively participating in PRIDE—where was Oracle?

“For a long time, I didn’t realize that I could be the person I wanted so much in my youth: a strong personality who clearly shows where she stands.”
—Angela Äinschi Jacobsen, Senior Business Development Manager, Oracle

So I set a high goal for our team: We wanted to be present at four Christopher Street Day parades in Cologne, Munich, Frankfurt, and Berlin.

We did just that in 2019. I have to say, I don’t know if I could muster the strength to organize it all over again, because what we did for the 2019 parade was terrific and unique. With a handful of OPEN supporters (many thanks to Robert Mondorf, Till Brügelmann, Nicole Meyer, Klaus Preussner, Karin Patenge, and all of our local supporters), we managed to be in all four parades with more than 30 OPEN members, allies, family, and friends.

When more than 50 of us walked across the Rhine bridge at OPEN’s first PRIDE parade in Cologne, I had goose bumps and was very touched by the atmosphere. Belonging is such a good emotion!

Even today, I have goose bumps when I think back to these actions. One experience in Munich touched me very much: When we were still waiting for the PRIDE parade to start, a few young girls came up to me, and I realized they wanted to start a conversation. I told them that we are a big company, and that we are actively walking here to show visibility. Then one of the girls asked me, “Are you a lesbian?” I said, “Yes, I am!” “Wow,” she said, “I think that’s so great, I don’t know anyone older who’s a lesbian and then walks along here and just says that. Can we walk along with you?” And so it happened that we spontaneously had this group of young girls with us in the Oracle OPEN group. I was very happy about that.

Angela Jacobsen representing OPEN at Pride paradeLeading the change you want to see

I am also involved in founding an LGTBQ association in my hometown. Here, too, I am by far the oldest. One of the young women recently told me that she has been watching me for years and always thought to herself, “Great, she’s pulling it off, she’s come out. So I’m not wrong, she’s cool too, even though she lives like this!”

For a long time, I didn’t realize that I could be the person I wanted so much in my youth: a strong personality who clearly shows where she stands.

I have consciously taken on this role and am also proactive about it. If, by my visibility, I can contribute to helping someone feel safer, or be there when someone asks me for help, then I have done it right.

When I was able to marry my dream woman last year, we both consciously asked the mayor of our city if she could perform the wedding ceremony. We wanted to achieve a certain visibility in our city, because although we do not experience any obvious political persecution in Germany, there is still hostility and exclusion in many regions—which I myself have experienced.

I also don’t want to have to hide anymore in my working life. I want to be able to talk about my “wife” and not have to think twice when someone asks about my private life.

At Oracle I can do this. I don’t experience any exclusion, and for that I thank the OPEN community, which has been following a clear path for years and promotes the necessary appreciation for every employee. I’m very happy that I can be involved in this initiative and not have to fear for my job or my reputation in the company.

Angela Jacobsen

Angela Äinschi Jacobsen is a Senior Business Development Manager at Oracle. Jacobsen has been with Oracle for 27 years and is based in Germany

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