As the world is celebrating Pride this month, we also wish to express our public support for the LGBTQ+ community in the fight for self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and visibility. In many places, including countries where responsAbility has offices and is operating, LGBTQ+ people are still struggling to have their rights recognized and face threats of violence.
In this context, our company has taken various steps this year to further promote and maintain a friendly and inclusive environment in the workplace for our LGBTQ+ colleagues worldwide.
So we interviewed our two official LGBTQ+ Allies at responsAbility in order to learn more: Michael Fiebig (Executive Management) and Younes Bouaziz (Senior Investment Officer, and member of our Gender and Diversity Advisory Group).
Why is diversity and inclusion a priority for responsAbility?
Michael: responsAbility is committed to the active promotion of diversity and inclusion (see our diversity statement). Workplace diversity is the new normal. Business leaders everywhere recognize diversity in all its forms as a competitive advantage. Inclusive policies and practices have indeed proven to be a driver for creativity, innovation, productivity, and employee retention. This wave of progress should include LGBTQ+ employees, who have historically suffered from discrimination and exclusion and are often forced to hide their identity at work.
Younes: Recent studies have shown that employers can help shift culture and advance LGBTQ+ equality. This is particularly true for global companies like responsAbility that conduct business in jurisdictions that are not supportive of the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals -and in some cases even penalize and persecute them.
What was your motivation to become LGBTQ+ Allies?
Younes: I grew up in Morocco, where homosexuality is penalized, and LGBTQ+ individuals are socially ostracized. A similar predicament can be experienced in Kenya, a country where I worked for a short period at the beginning of my professional life. As a millennial, I have always been outraged by these discriminations, and gradually started speaking up whenever I could. Thus, when I was elected to our Gender and Diversity Advisory Group (GDAG), I decided to use this platform to promote the fight for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace.
Michael: As a strong believer in diversity and equality, and as a senior manager with more than a decade in the company, it is natural for me to use my position of privilege to support under-represented groups. So, I was more than happy to work closely with the GDAG and to deliver a strong leadership message on LGBTQ+ inclusion.
In 2022, responsAbility adopted its first dedicated Action Plan for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace. What are the key actions that have been scheduled this year?
Michael: As a first step, Younes and I attended the Stonewall Network’s LGBTQ+ Allies Program in May. We are confident that this training will help us fulfil our roles as official Allies within responsAbility. Our Legal and HR departments are working together on a formal policy review to ensure that all our internal policies reflect sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression as prohibited on grounds of discrimination, illustrated by relevant examples, and with a clear route for reporting such behaviours, as well as related sanctions. We also want to use inclusive language whenever possible/relevant. Finally, we are planning to organize various awareness events during Pride Month, as well as a specific training for managers before the end of the year.
Younes: I wanted to add that this Action Plan is of course not exhaustive. It was the result of a benchmark exercise on global best practices conducted in the second half of 2021 and followed by a gap analysis. Then, we had to prioritize the resulting measures considering two criteria: potential impact and ease of execution. Therefore, complementary actions will be needed in the following years, including but not limited to joining an external LGBTQ+ network, a review of our travel and mobility policy, and customized awareness events for each local office. At this stage, we are proud and happy to have initiated this wave of changes, and we look forward to deepening our footprint going forward. Could you tell us more about the specific actions planned for Pride Month?
Younes: We sent rainbow stickers to all our offices and on June 1st, we have informed and encouraged all colleagues who want to show support, to display the stickers on their laptop, desk, or phone. This may look like a small gesture, but small gestures are key in building a friendly and inclusive environment in the company. The sticker has in fact a signalling effect for our LGBTQ+ colleagues who may or may not be out or are still searching for who they are. By wearing a rainbow sticker, you are sending the message that they can be themselves in your presence, without fear of judgement or discrimination. This alone can make a difference in someone's life, especially if the external environment is hostile.
Michael: We are also organizing Diversity Allyship Workshops in the second half of the month. Following the external training that we have received in May, Younes and I have decided to share our learnings in a condensed format with all colleagues who are interested. Promoting and maintaining a friendly and inclusive environment in the workplace is indeed a collective effort. So, our hope is to help as many colleagues as possible in becoming Diversity Allies.