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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Five ways to be an ally to your LGBTQ+ colleagues 

Published 16 June 2023 in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion • 6 min read

A bad experience with just one colleague can negatively impact whether an LGBTQ+ person feels safe at work. Luis Ornelas, a member of the IMD MBA class of 2023, offers his advice on how to support and make sure LGBTQ+ employees feel included in the workplace. 

Nobody likes people gossiping about their private lives at work. When it happens to a person who is LGBTQ+, it can feel even worse.  

Early in my career, I was working as a consultant organizing healthcare conferences across the United States, and part of my role involved building relationships with speakers. During one particular conference, a speaker with whom I had struck up a particularly good rapport pulled me aside and said my line manager had been questioning my sexuality with other speakers. I was horrified. Not only was this deeply unprofessional, but it made me feel incredibly uncomfortable and unsafe to have my manager discussing my identity with clients. 

I eventually went to HR about the matter. They responded supportively, but I ended up leaving the company to take up a new job before the matter was resolved. 

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While I am “out” at work, this doesn’t mean I declare my sexuality immediately every time I meet someone. Instead, this is disclosed in casual conversation over time. A colleague might enquire about my partner, and I’ll tell them about my husband. Some people act surprised and say nothing, while others use it as an opportunity to learn more. 

Worldwide, 67 countries continue to criminalize homosexuality, and 11 impose the death penalty for private, consensual, same sex activity. At IMD, several of my classmates in the MBA program come from one of these countries. But they have shown themselves to be open, empathetic, and curious to learn. I’ve been struck by how many people have asked whether I feel included during certain group activities. Several have shared their sadness about friends or acquaintances who were gay in their countries and had to leave for their safety.  

If we are to reduce rates of stigma and discrimination in the workplace, it is important for everyone to be supportive, respect the rights of, and advocate for their LBGTQ+ colleagues. Here are some reflections from my personal experience on how you can do this: 

Authors

Luis Ornelas

2023 IMD MBA Candidate

Luis F. Ornelas is a 2023 IMD MBA Candidate. He has 9 years of experience in healthcare industry in consulting, strategy, and operations. His expertise has been leveraged by US federal government, nonprofit organizations, and private firms. His ambition is to apply his skills to the Cleantech sector to make a meaningful impact and contribute to a sustainable future.

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Inclusive Leadership

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From confronting bias to achieving breakthrough: unleash the power of inclusive leadership.

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