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25th Jun 2018

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LGBTI activists and businesses fighting inequality together

  • Almost 30% of people who responded to the Fundamental Rights Agency’s detailed online survey in 2012 said that they had hidden the fact that they identified as LGBT at work. (Photo: iStock/Thinkstock)

LGBTI activists and businesses fighting inequality together is a no-brainer.

Workplace diversity is about much more than having an eye-catching policy or a slick website section. The next step in fighting inequality involves seeing businesses as active change-makers.

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This might require a bit of a change of mindset, but it’s something that both ILGA-Europe and Workplace Pride have talked about for many years.

Now is the time for this conversation to come to Brussels, and for civil society, multinational corporations and EU institutions to all play a role in creating more inclusive workplaces.

Workplace Pride and ILGA-Europe have long promoted the importance of implementation – whether that is of the laws and policies outlined in the Rainbow Europe Map, or of the equal opportunity policies included in staff handbooks. Getting these things done on paper is not the final step, but the first.

Those of us in employment spend a large chunk of our waking hours at work. Our co-workers can become like a second family, but not everyone’s experience is so positive.

On average, just under 30% of the people who responded to the Fundamental Rights Agency’s detailed online survey in 2012 said that, at work, they had hidden the fact that they identified as LGBT. 19% of the LGBT respondents said that they had felt discriminated against at work – but these are EU-wide averages, in some member states the figures are much higher.

Why does it matter? Firstly, people perform better when they can be themselves. Rather than worrying that a casual remark might inadvertently ‘out’ them, individual LGBTI employees will be able to foster a feeling of openness with their colleagues and clients.

And changing the dynamic in social settings like a workplace is key to changing the perspective of society generally. A place of work might not be a perfect cross-section of society, but nevertheless it is a mini-community.

By changing a culture within the four walls of an organisation, you can change many people’s lives. This change is within reach for employers – including the EU institutions themselves. When the European Commission or Google speak out about diversity and inclusion, people sit up and take notice.

There has been a growing interaction between civil society organisations and Workplace Pride for several years. So this increased cooperation is an organic process and a natural next step for both Workplace Pride and ILGA-Europe.

When you look at the ever-changing backdrop that European politics is being played out on these days, it’s no wonder that both our organisations, our respective members at national level, and corporations are all asking what they can do to react.

Workplace Pride

Increased cooperation is one of the answers - and the Workplace Pride 2017 International Conference in Brussels is the perfect platform to start making these connections.

Under the theme Building Bridges, Workplace Pride’s 11th conference offers lots of groups in Brussels a unique opportunity to meet. It gives major corporations and businesses the chance to learn from the experiences of LGBTI activists on the ground in different countries.

The conversations will demonstrate that there are many channels other than legislative that can be leveraged to create real change – a key message for the European institutions who will be in the room. And it gives NGOs insight into the core values of the multinationals, opening up possibilities for continued cooperation after the conference has finished.

To put it bluntly – we can’t afford not to work together on this. Multinationals, civil society, and EU institutions all have the ability to be change-makers in society. Business are our new partners and potential allies. And that is why we are inviting you all to join us in Brussels to help us build bridges and create the environment where this change can flourish.

The Workplace Pride 2017 International Conference is open for registration from now until 22 June. The conference itself takes place on 23 June 2017, at the Square – Brussels Meeting Centre.

Evelyne Paradis is the executive director of ILGA-Europe, the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. David Pollard is the executive director of Workplace Pride, a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTI people in workplaces all over the world.

Disclaimer: This article is sponsored by a third party. All opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and not of EUobserver.

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