A rainbow colored bench with the inscription

Here is room for everyone!

The rainbow bench

A statement for diversity

On the occasion of World Diversity Day on May 21, 2022, a new eye-catcher was inaugurated on the Gurten: a rainbow-colored bench with the inscription "There's room for everyone here". The loan of the Bernese action artist Jrene Rolli fits the foundation motto of the local mountain "Gurten for all" and is already a popular photo subject after a short time.

Why a rainbow-colored bench and what does the Gurten  Park im Grünen want to achieve with it? Let's start at the beginning. I have known Jrene Rolli for a long time. She was once my colleague at the Migros Aare Cooperative and later supervised my master's thesis in the continuing education program at the Institute for Marketing and Corporate Management at the University of Bern. And since then, we've been following each other on the various social media channels. Then, about a year ago, I saw this post on Instagram.

Instagram-Post von Jrene Rolli zum Projekt "Hier ist Platz für alle"Not even a few seconds later, I wrote Jrene via direct message that I had a suitable place for the "Here is room for everyone" bench. After a few times of writing back and forth and a personal meeting on the Gurten, it was clear to both of us that the bench would fit perfectly on the Gurten and would fit into the award concept of the Migros Culture Percentage. Thus, the location and the financial participation in the project were clarified within a very short time. But how did Jrene come up with the idea of the "Here is room for everyone" bench in the first place? I was able to ask Jrene a few questions about the rainbow bench, diversity and her connection to the Gurten:

How did the idea of the rainbow bench come about?

The idea came about in May 2021, at the "Hello, Death!" festival in Zurich. At a workshop, we discussed alternatives to the gravestone. And there I saw for me personally quite clearly a bench. I want people to feel welcome in my surroundings, to be able to pause consciously before they move on enriched. And a bench makes this possible when I myself am no longer here in this world. I carried this thought around with me for a few months until the concrete idea of the rainbow bench and the slogan emerged.
 
According to the Duden dictionary, diversity comes from Latin and means variety and multiplicity. But why is diversity so important? The answer is actually quite simple. Every person should be able to contribute as he or she is  without having to pretend or follow a certain norm. 
 
The word inclusion is often used in connection with diversity. These are different terms, but they are closely related. As already mentioned, diversity is about variety, for example in terms of age, origin, attitude and religion. Inclusion goes one step further: all people should be given the same opportunities. It is therefore about creating a culture of equality. Not only by being open to each other, but also, for example, by designing the workplace for a person with a disability so that he or she can use it in the same way as a person without a restriction.
The culture percentage logo depicted on a stone fountain and the rainbow colored bench

What does diversity mean to you? 

Diversity means enrichment and freedom for me: When things are different from what I'm used to, I can learn new things. That enriches me a lot. At the same time, diversity allows me to go my own way. This freedom is important to me.

Why are you so committed to diversity?
 
Because I firmly believe that there is not just one way to live a happy life.
 
What can companies do to promote a diverse and inclusive culture?
 
Not put up benches. :-) Or not only. It's about an inner attitude and not about what rainbow-colored advertising posters or company headquarters look like.
 
What do you think still needs to happen for diversity and inclusion to become a matter of course?
 
It takes time for us to break down our patterns and norms that have been socialized for years in our society. Many of these biases are unconscious within us. Mindfulness and self-reflection help to become more aware of them. And we should talk about them instead of being afraid of doing something wrong.
 
And finally: What connects you to the Gurten in the first place?
 
As a "Bärner Meitschi", a lot of things: as a child the miniature railway, as a teenager the Gurten Festival and dancing nights, as a marathon runner the steep training runs. Today the versatility that the local mountain offers. People with the most diverse interests and needs feel at home here. No matter with whom or why I am up here, it fits. There is room for everyone here. That's what connects me with the Gurten.
Action artist Jrene Rolli sits on her

After Jrene's exciting statements, I come back to the diversity issue. I maintain that we still have room for improvement when it comes to diversity in the workplace. However, it is often a subconscious process. Take the recruitment process, for example. When first getting to know each other, similarities make the other person seem more likeable right away. What is the reason for this? We view most situations, fellow human beings or behavior through our personal filter. This filter is shaped by our culture, education, upbringing or other value-determining experiences.

Or, to put it another way, by quickly and automatically categorizing people into social groups based on certain characteristics, we unconsciously ascribe to them characteristics associated with that particular group. This categorization makes it difficult for people to be perceived in their unique individuality with their particular talents. This phenomenon of unconscious bias is referred to as "unconscious bias." It would go beyond the scope of this blog post if I were to now list possible recipes for avoiding unconscious bias. If you still want to know more about it, here is a great listing including solutions to the different types of "unconscious bias".

But back to diversity and its importance in the workplace. Diversity in the workplace means that a company's workforce is made up of people with many different characteristics and backgrounds. Employees are hired regardless of gender, age, background, religion and belief, or sexual orientation and identity. 
 
Imagine if all employees had the same knowledge, all had the same strengths and all shared the same opinions. Our daily work routine would probably be unparalleled in terms of boredom. A colorful mix within a company results in a variety of views, opinions, experiences, knowledge and strengths. There is never a day when you don't learn something new and don't develop further, whether professionally or personally. Diversity in practice is an employer branding tool that should not be underestimated. It creates a sense of belonging, strengthens the employer brand and helps to recruit new employees. In addition, various studies confirm that diverse teams are more productive and produce better solutions. So the more colorful the better!

Finally, here are two figures on diversity at Gurten:

Martin Geiger, Head Marketing & Sales

Author

Martin Geiger

Head Marketing & Sales

18

different nations in the company

38 %

women in management positions