LGBTI Collective: Sweat and tears to come out of the office closet | Business

Ízaro Amilibia, head of diversity at BBVA.
Ízaro Amilibia, head of diversity at BBVA.

Ízaro Amilibia headed BBVA’s Security area in the Canary Islands. “It was a very traditional apartment, it was surrounded by men,” she recalls. She did not feel comfortable saying she was a lesbian until her move to Madrid in 2018. “Shortly after, I saw that the bank had joined Redi (a business network for LGBTI inclusion). I wasn’t overtly visible, but something in my head clicked. I got in touch with the person at the bank who was dealing with diversity issues ”. She began to collaborate with the department: her first act was on the day of lesbian visibility. And from there came Be Yourself, a movement to build an inclusive work environment where employees could be themselves.

In time, Amilibia has become president of Redi In addition to being responsible for Diversity in the bank and like her, some 200 people in the entity have wanted to give visibility to their sexual orientation. They may be small for a workforce of 123,000 employees around the world, but his goal, he says, is not so much “to get people out of the closet” as for anyone to feel comfortable where they spend most of their day. “We are a traditional company, a century-old bank that has its own culture, what we want is to evolve it, fill the environment with other voices.” In his case, he adds, with a “very clear management commitment” that extends throughout the company in all markets where it operates, even in countries where homosexuality is socially punished.

It often happens, as Salvador Lorenzo, Repsol’s diversity manager, laments, “that people leave part of their lives behind when they arrive at the company”. According to the study Adim, a survey funded by the EU and carried out among more than 5,500 people in which 16 companies and 8 universities in Spain and Portugal participated, 72% of LGBTI people hide their orientation to a greater or lesser extent at work. Many of them, however, have no problem making themselves visible with their friends or family.

Companies come out of the closet

He illustrated it a few days ago at the Work Pride conference José Ignacio Pichardo, coordinator of the work and professor of Social Anthropology at the Complutense: “The only thing that the people of the collective have in common in the world is that we know that by the fact of being, another person can feel legitimized to reject you ”. That makes 54% of homosexuals justify their invisibility in the workplace with the argument that “nobody cares what I do outside of work: my private life is my business.”

That is a trap called liberal homophobia: messages that seek to reduce sexual and gender diversity to the strict sphere of the private, ignoring the affections and family relationships of a part of those who work in the company. This forces them to be silent or to lie, which causes situations of inequality with respect to heterosexual people who do share their family experiences and other essential facets of life. Sadly, it is a fear that has a real basis even in countries with egalitarian laws: in Spain 80% of citizens declare themselves respectful of sexual diversity and gender identity. But what if a client, a colleague or a superior is part of that other 20% not so tolerant or openly homophobic? There arises, explains Pichardo, that “preventive concealment” that makes people invisible in the workplace. And that discrimination “costs a lot of money”, as Olga P. Valverde, general director of ARN Culture & Business Pride, recalls.

For this reason, every day there are more corporations that include diversity policies of all kinds in their day-to-day life. They seek to avoid the so-called “minority stress”, a pressure that causes non-heterosexual people to dedicate a good part of their energies to avoid being discovered. Energies that they would otherwise use at work. That pressure is what increases stress and depression, and ultimately, absenteeism. As Benjamín Ramírez, Head of Culture, Change and Diversity at Seat, says, “we are very diverse, but inclusion is the other part of the equation: we have to ensure that there is really psychological security for everyone. Only in that environment can we be authentically free and freely authentic ”. In his company, for example, a year ago now, a group of employees had the initiative to create a network of LGBTI people and allies of the collective that meets to expose problems, share strategies and ideas. “It is a sounding board, it identifies things that can be improved.” Because many times discrimination is subtle, difficult to demonstrate, and can manifest itself, for example, by avoiding promoting someone to a position they deserve. “There are unconscious biases that influence us in decision making. That is why here we choose to provide training for all people who occupy leadership positions with the aim of reducing these unconscious biases. It is also important to take a good look at the processes. Establish very clear criteria that guide us and help us to be more objective ”, adds Ramírez.

Repsol has also created its group of allies. “The idea was to say: I don’t care if you are from the collective or not, only if you want to support this cause. That was the beginning, and it has been an absolute success. We started eight people and today there are more than 80 in nine countries ”, Salvador Lorenzo sums up. These policies are included in its sustainability plan, which makes it clear that the company must generate opportunities for the full development of people without distinction. “Your orientation is never going to be an obstacle to working here.”

In North American multinationals, respect has been working for years. Mariangela Marseglia, vice president and general manager of Amazon in Italy and Spain, tells by email that she feels lucky.Amazon is a company that values ​​the diversity and differences of its employees. We are a company of innovative people with very diverse profiles, ideas and points of view. Having diverse perspectives allows us to constantly innovate on behalf of our clients. ” She confesses that on a personal level, she has never had problems in her job due to her sexual orientation, origins or because she is a woman. “In this sense, I received the support of many colleagues when I came out of the closet openly,” he says. The multinational is part of the Emidis program of the State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Trans and Bisexuals (FELGTB) to continue improving its policies of inclusion and affective-sexual, family and gender diversity. And since this year, it collaborates with the YesWeTrans program of the FELGTB, which seeks to generate opportunities for social and labor insertion for trans people.

Mariangela Marseglia, Vice President and General Manager of Amazon in Italy and Spain.
Mariangela Marseglia, Vice President and General Manager of Amazon in Italy and Spain.

One more step

Like that of Marseglia, that of Javier Pejito, vice president of marketing for Danone in Spain, it may be a different case. When at the age of 19 he entered as a sales promoter in Argentina without even university studies, he did not know that the company, far from being a brake, was going to be an engine for his personal development. “Danone has given me the opportunity to grow. I have been seven years in Argentina, five in Mexico, four and a half in France and now in Spain and from minute one I have always felt respected ”. He and her husband have just become parents to María, who is now three months old, and has become a promoter of policies to help the group. In his company they are grouped under the slogan “nurturing diversity”, and involve suppliers who sign contracts with the dairy dessert brand, which is one more step that not all corporations are willing to take. They have an anonymous reporting channel; they promote self-expression by allowing the entire staff to choose the name and pronoun they prefer in the corporate signature; They offer access to a network of volunteers and guarantee selection processes without bias, with blind resumes.