Doubting professional skills, being sidelined, insults, inappropriate jokes, or systems inappropriate for recognizing gender identity – these are still discriminations that the LGBTQIA+ community sometimes faces at work. The Belgian railways have moved in the direction of greater integration. For 5 years now, Trainbow Belgium, a group of LGBTQIA+ sympathizers of NMBS / SNCB, Infrabel and HR Rail, has been helping to make things move.
Today the association celebrates its 5th anniversary in the presence of the three CEOs.
NMBS / SNCB is the passengers’ train operator. Infrabel is the rail infrastructure company in Belgium. HR Rail manages the personnel of these companies.
The founding of Trainbow Belgium was anything but a sinecure, the group says in a press release.
Trainbow Belgium has encountered difficulties in making itself known internally to the railway staff and in obtaining cooperation from the then management during its start-up. The team had to roll up their sleeves and find support. Today the association has evolved and works closely with the management of the railway companies. The objective remains the same: to promote the well-being at work of LGBTQIA+ employees of the Belgian railways.
Trainbow is also active internationally: together with similar diversity networks within rail companies in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, they have united to form Trainbow Europe. In 2019, a meeting in Brussels provided an opportunity to exchange experiences and best practices.
Actions to promote integration
Training, tools, awareness and much more. Over the past five years, many initiatives have been taken to combat homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia and transphobia and raise awareness among staff that discrimination related to sexual orientation or gender identity is not acceptable.
Trainbow Belgium has also supported many people: some board members have become confidants to whom LGBTQIA+ colleagues can turn in case of problems or discrimination.
These actions and the expertise of the active members of the association have made it possible to collaborate constructively with SNCB, Infrabel and HR Rail and to support the change policy for a culture of diversity and inclusion.
In 2017, a transgender person who worked within the NMBS asked Trainbow to help her with her transition. At the time, there were no guidelines for this. For example, the change of e-mail address was dependent on the official name change at the municipality, although there was no legal connection.
Subsequently, clear guidelines and an advisory manual were worked on to make such part of a transition run more smoothly. Infrabel is also currently working on a transition guide for both employees and managers.
“An impressive turnaround in five years”, says Ramses Noffels, chairman of Trainbow Belgium.
A drastic change
Fearing negative consequences for their careers, some LGBTQIA+ people do not openly communicate their sexuality or avoid difficult questions.
And yet it is important to be able to come out, because an employee who can be himself in the workplace also achieves better results in the job. Today a long way has come and the railways are now committed to tolerance and openness. This approach makes it possible to promote diversity and tolerance between railway colleagues.
As long as different expressions of gender identity or sexual orientation are not considered normal, Trainbow Belgium will continue to exist.
Today, the Belgian railways want to be a reflection of society and their passengers. Actions for diversity and inclusion are central to the strategy of the three companies, a change to which Trainbow Belgium has certainly contributed. On to the next five years.
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