Campus - 17.10.2023 - 08:00 

Andreas Oberholzer on the success story of Pride Month at HSG

With the initiation of the first Pride Month at the University of St.Gallen (HSG) three years ago, Andreas Oberholzer pursued the goal of making the HSG a safe space where queer people can live openly and be themselves. Pride Month has now established itself as a tradition and is currently taking place for the fourth year in a row. By student reporter Victoria Lorenzen.
Andreas Oberholzer über die Erfolgsgeschichte des Pride Month an der HSG
Mit der Initiierung des ersten Pride Month an der Universität St.Gallen (HSG) vor drei Jahren verfolgte Andreas Oberholzer das Ziel, die HSG zu einem „Safe Space“ zu machen, an dem queere Menschen sich trauen können, offen zu leben und sie selbst zu sein. Der Pride Month hat sich nun als eine Tradition etabliert und findet aktuell zum vierten Mal in Folge statt. Von Studentenreporterin Victoria Lorenzen.

Andreas Oberholzer graduated from HSG with a bachelor's degree in business administration and a master's degree in business innovation and has now been working as a management consultant at Accenture Song in the field of digital marketing for one and a half years. During his studies, Andreas was involved in a variety of activities, such as working for StartWeek and the HSG's corporate communication, launching the Student Podcast, getting involved with SHSG, and welcoming interested high school students at the bachelor information days. During his studies, Andreas traveled to LGBTQ+ conferences for students in London and Madrid. Inspired by these conferences, Andreas noticed that something was missing at HSG – a Pride Month.

Winning over the President´s Board with a PowerPoint presentation

About a year before the first Pride Month, Andreas came up with this idea. In December 2019, he pitched his proposal to the UniGay board and found support. Then, in January, Andreas took a PowerPoint presentation to the President´s Board and presented reasons why HSG needed a Pride Month. The President´s Board also supported the idea and finally, Andreas was able to get financial support for his project from the Equal Opportunities Commission. There were hardly any stumbling blocks on the way to the first Pride Month. "The resistance was only small, for example, it was more of an issue whether to hang the rainbow flag for one week or three weeks" Andreas reports. Organizing Pride Month was also helped by his previous involvement, as he already knew many of the university's internal stakeholders.

It was important to the team around Andreas that the first Pride Month started with a statement of President Prof. Dr. Bernhard Ehrenzeller, who emphasized the relevance of the initiative. The topic of Pride was not a matter of course at HSG. A large campaign with flags, posters, videos on Instagram, and a TV and radio report drew attention to Pride Month at the HSG in early October 2020. This led to many reactions, and so both support and unfortunately negative comments, memes, or jodel messages were not long in coming. "The first day of Pride Month was difficult for me", Andreas recalls.

Since 2020, Pride Month has grown every year, and cooperations, for example with the city of St.Gallen, the canton, the OST, and even Google were established. The topics have also become more complex in terms of content. At the first Pride Month, Andreas still had to start with the basics and explain to students, for example, what the rainbow flag means or what "LGBTQ+" stands for. In the coming years, intersectional topics such as mental health, gender, and sexual assault were increasingly addressed. In addition, queer culture found its way into Pride Month, such as through this year's voguing dance class.

Even though Pride Month gives the queer community special visibility, the community also counts on everyone for support. As "Allies", HSG members can show their support by, for example, wearing rainbow pins, attending events, and, most importantly, speaking up against homophobia. For example, if you hear discriminatory statements against LGBTQ+ people on campus, you should speak up against it and contribute to a more respectful and inclusive campus culture.

HSG in transition

In recent years, HSG has evolved. Andreas has observed that diversity at HSG is much greater today and that students express themselves or dress more individually than they did in 2015 when he first came to HSG. Part of this change is that topics like sustainability, intersectionality, or gender studies have found their place at the university, and Pride Month also contributes to this change. HSG is more colorful than it seems at first glance.

In addition, initiatives like Pride Month should also help HSG recruit diverse students, faculty, and staff. Above all, a more diverse faculty is important, because students need role models with whom they can identify. In the meantime, many companies are also loudly promoting diversity and pride. If HSG wants to keep up with this, then a sign must be set here on the Rosenberg as well.

Signs such as a Pride Month are especially important at universities, as they act as a field of experimentation and a place of reflection and progressiveness. Furthermore, it is a mission of the university to progressively develop and help shape society, which includes advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community. Learning at the university should happen in an environment of openness and respect, in which queer people also feel comfortable, which is why it is important that the university supports Pride Month. It's no longer a political question of whether to support the LGBTQ+ community because support and openness have become established social values, Andreas said.

Betty Business takes on the business world through drag

For a year now, Andreas has also been on the road as drag queen "Betty Business". In a gender studies course at HSG, drag was discussed and Andreas began to deal with gender roles. It was exactly in this course that the concept of his Drag Persona was born because a colleague said to him: "You already do make-up for going out and you could also do drag. Instead of Betty Bossi in the kitchen world, you could be Betty Business in the business world, working with PowerPoint slides."

It wasn't until after graduation that Andreas was moved to implement the concept through a drag workshop given by Swiss drag queen Milky Diamond. Since then, HSG alumna Betty Business has been connecting the queer community and nightlife with the business world. Vice versa, she also brings the business world to nightlife, presenting her slides in dance clubs and breaking the stereotype of an HSG alumna. She lectures in the business context about safe spaces, self-expression, and questioning social norms in which, for example, queer people and many others often don't fit into. Betty Business also lectured at her alma mater as part of Diversity & Inclusion Week. Andreas wants to establish Betty Betty Business as an inspirational speaker and touch the audience at team events or conferences with his vision of bringing more diversity, color, glitter, and pink into the monotonous business world.

Pioneering queer visibility in the workplace

He is also committed to supporting the LGBTQ+ community in his job as a consultant at Accenture. At Accenture, he is co-lead of the Pride Initiative in Switzerland, co-creator of the global Pride Campaign 2023, and a speaker on diversity. When Andreas started his career, he didn't even think twice about coming out in the workplace, because for him it's normal to talk about his vacation with his boyfriend at work, for example. Andreas advises queer young professionals to find a company where they don't have to hide. Companies should inform about LGBTQ+ initiatives on their website and strive for the Swiss LGBTI label, which sets clear standards for queer-friendliness. More openly queer role models and leaders are needed in the business world - especially more "colorful birds", as Andreas says.


Are you part of the LGBTQ+ community? Here you can find resources at HSG and in the St.Gallen area:
Equal Opportunities
Psychological Counselling Services of the University of St.Gallen


Pride Month 2023

Victoria Lorenzen is a student in the first semester of the Master's programme in Banking and Finance at the University of St.Gallen.

Image: Andreas Oberholzer as "Betty Business" at the Diversity & Inclusion Week 2023 at WBZ, Photographer: Anna-Tina Eberhard

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