Become a member

Businesses and MPs honored at this year’s awards for promoting LGBTQ+ equality

On Thursday, May 16th, the Pride Business Forum hosted an awards ceremony at the Prague Castle Ball Game Hall, recognizing companies for their efforts in fostering LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace. Among the attendees were representatives from member companies, along with notable figures such as Minister of Defense Jana Černochová, MPs Jan Berki, Josef Bernard, Klára Kocmanová, Věra Kovářová and Michal Zuna. This seventh annual awards ceremony coincided with the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia, observed on May 17th.

Monika Ladmanová, Head of the Representation of the European Commission in the Czech Republic and honorary member of this year’s Pride Business Forum Hero award jury, extended a warm welcome to all participants. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Czech Republic’s accession to the EU, she stressed that the European Union represents more than mere economic interests; it also nurtures principles of governance. According to her, the absence of Russian tanks in front of the Prague Castle and the legality of same-sex relationships in this country can also be attributed to the EU.

Heart for Equality award for a group of MPs

The first award presented during this celebratory evening was the Heart for Equality, bestowed by the We Are Fair initiative to express gratitude to the main sponsors of the Equal Marriage Act: Josef Bernard (STAN), Marketa Pekarová Adamová (TOP 09), Olga Richterová (Piráti), Martin Baxa (ODS), and Jana Pastuchová (ANO). Two of them stepped up to the podium to accept their awards. Reflecting on the enacted law, which replaced equal marriage with a partnership featuring a complicated adoption process, Klára Kocmanová remarked, “We have made great progress, but it is not yet equality. I see this award as a reminder that the struggle is not over yet.” Josef Bernard extended gratitude to the Jsme fér team for their collaboration in the Chamber of Deputies and commended their efforts in reshaping public opinion on this matter within the Czech Republic.

Big Step Forward by Škoda Auto

Škoda Auto has been honored for its remarkable strides in promoting LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion. The company was presented with the Big Step Forward award, which was enthusiastically accepted on stage by a group of six employees. Martina Zimmermann, Expert Coordinator for Diversity, spoke on behalf of the team, stating, “We are very committed to implementing diversity and inclusion at our company and improving conditions for our LGBTQ+ employees. Sometimes it goes quickly, like with the signing of the letter to the Prime Minister calling on him to embrace equal marriage. Other times it goes slowly. I’m especially proud of the fact that we’ve been able to improve conditions for trans employees, especially those in production. In addition, from January we will have a third box in the IT system with the pronoun they.”

Employee Driven Initiatives

In the Employee Driven Initiatives category, ČSOB won the award for its proactive ERG group called PROUD, which has achieved significant cultural changes within the corporate environment over its five-year lifespan. Barbora Vachová, during whose tenure as Diversity Lead the ERG group was founded, spoke on behalf of the four colleagues who came on stage to receive the award. “We truly deserve the award. Our traditional Czech bank inspired our mother company KBC in Brussels, where we played a role in co-founding PROUD.”

The jury also decided to bestow an honorable mention upon Pivovary Staropramen. When the brand first decided to support the Prague Pride festival in 2015, it faced criticism and was dubbed as “gay beer” by some detractors. However, Staropramen persisted, eventually becoming a member of the Pride Business Forum and this year, becoming the first Czech brewery to apply for the LGBTQ+ Friendly Employer Award. The company representative Miroslav Picek expressed upon receiving the honorable mention, “We didn’t let criticism deter us. Today, we are seeing the initial positive outcomes of our perseverance.”

LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion heroes

In the top management category, the title of Hero 2024 was bestowed upon Hana Součková, the Country Manager of SAP Czech Republic. Upon receiving the award, she stated, “I think I speak for all CEOs. If you have a strong team behind you, it is very easy to give them support. So this award is not just for me, because I was just supporting my team.” Another senior executive honored is Beata Borer from MSD Czech Republic, who also expressed gratitude to her ERG team for their support. The third awardee is Bohumil Říha from Johnson & Johnson, who highlighted that the corporate environment is enclosed in a bubble and easily forgets what the world outside is like. “Beyond our workplace, LGBTQ+ inclusion is a much larger issue. I myself come from a small village, and discussing my support for LGBTQ+ causes there often sparks controversy.” However, within his company, LGBTQ+ equality is a routine topic of discussion, partly because LGBTQ+ individuals are represented in senior global leadership roles. “They even visited Prague for Prague Pride, elevating the visibility of this issue. Two hundred out of our thousand employees participated in Prague Pride,” said proudly Bohumil Říha.

In the HR category, the Hero awards were presented to two women who had already been on stage earlier that night. Martina Zimmermann from Škoda Auto accepted her award as a call to action for her colleagues to become LGBTQ+ allies, while Barbora Vachová from ČSOB, though now in a finance role after her stint as a diversity leader, harbors a personal ambition to extend LGBTQ+ equality efforts to branches in Hungary, Bulgaria, and Slovakia. “We invite colleagues from these countries to our events, and they do participate, but they’re not yet as visible or heard due to the challenges they face. We’re striving to create a safe environment for them. However, it’s a gradual process that requires time, dedication, and the establishment of supportive networks. I am sure the progress will come,” says Barbora Vachová.

In recognition of their achievements with Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), the Hero 2024 title was awarded to Barbora Šikolová from Amazon, who serves as president of the GLAMAZON employee group; Garrett Dibon-Smith, who pioneered the Pride Czechia employee group at Novartis Czech Republic; and Stanislav Švec, a founding member of Honeywell’s LGBTQ+ employee group in Central and Eastern Europe. Švec, a communication professional with keen interest in inclusive language, has taken initiatives such as translating Honeywell’s Trans Inclusion Toolkit into Czech. “We’re an engineering company, specializing in aircraft engine parts. The majority of our 800 employees are Czech speakers, so we need to translate materials from our headquarters,” explains Stanislav Švec. He further adds, “I utilize techniques like asterisks, and I’ve started providing more explanations about the importance of avoiding generic masculinum in Czech language. Additionally, I’m careful to use gender-sensitive language in the newsletters I write for our employees.”

The awards ceremony was followed by a delightful evening in the castle garden, offering a picturesque view of the impressive St. Vitus Cathedral. However, the acknowledgment of LGBTQ+ diversity champions will yet continue at the Pride Business Forum’s 14th annual conference, themed “Networks of Support,” where companies awarded the title of LGBTQ+ Friendly Employer 2024 will be announced. Tickets for the event, scheduled for 17th June at the Marriott Hotel Prague, are readily available for purchase online.

Take a look at how the event looked like.