The fact that gender identity and sexual orientation play a role in the workplace is demonstrated by a recent study on “Workplace Situations of LGBTI Individuals in Austria” commissioned by the Vienna Chamber of Labour.1 This study’s summary indicates that four out of ten LGBTI employees have experienced whispering behind their backs, slander, and/or obscene jokes. One in five has already quit a job because such discrimination grew unbearable, and discrimination caused one in six to not be hired for a job.

The Meritus Award attempts to combat forms of discrimination that LGBTIQ individuals experience in their working lives as well as to break down taboos and contribute to a culture of respectful interaction. This award is presented on a bi-annual basis to organisations that deserve recognition for their social commitment regarding issues of sexual orientation. It is conferred in four main categories by Pride Biz Austria, an umbrella organisation that promotes sexual diversity in business and the working world, with support from the Austrian Chamber of Labour, the City of Vienna, federal ministries, and private companies.

Vice Rector Gerda Müller and Ulrike Mayer at the awards ceremony ©

On 7 November 2019, the mdw received a 2019 Meritus in the award’s “Public Institutions” category for its multitude of activities and initiatives, its varied forms of involvement and commitment, and its diversity-focussed developmental strategy. Eligibility was contingent on a given organisation’s having implemented internal measures pertaining to the core dimension of “sexual orientation”—with “internal” defined as directed at the organisation itself, its structures, culture, guidelines, and projects. In the case of the mdw, these included: activities and initiatives by the Administrative Department for Equality, Gender Studies, and Diversity, the Senate Working Group on Sexualities and Gender Diversity, the Working Group on Equal Opportunities, and Plattform Gender_mdw. Furthermore, themed workshops offered by the Centre for Further Education, events organised by the hmdw’s Women’s Policy and Queer department, and the series Gender*Diversity*Talks encourage discussion of unequal treatment, work to help make sexual and gender-related violence visible, and facilitate the provision of support.

The mdw’s decision to enter the award competition embodied an opportunity to review all LGBTIQ-related measures implemented at the mdw to date. And for this reason, the preparation of this submission was simultaneously a process of reflecting on our own institutional work. Additionally, the tasks of researching, collecting, and documenting information and knowledge as well as engaging in exchange with colleagues from other departments and committees proved to be fascinating aspects of this process. The Meritus Award is hence not only an important form of recognition for prior work at the mdw but also motivation for future undertakings.

  1. Schönherr, Daniel; Zandonella, Martina (eds.) (2018). Arbeitssituationen von LSBTI-Personen in Österreich. Final report by SORA commissioned by the Vienna Chamber of Labour.
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