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Marta Herraiz Fernández shows organizations how to be strong allies of their LGBTQ+ employees


How to be a strong ally of LGBTQ+ employees

Published 10 June 2021 in Leadership • 4 min read

For Marta Herraiz Fernández, life is good. As proud new mothers to their two-month-old daughter, she and her wife are busy adjusting to the new routines of parenthood that babies inevitably bring with them. Happily, Herraiz Fernández feels the childcare is truly shared in her home, unlike the majority of new parents, who often struggle with an unequal division of labor once kids come along. 

“It is less of a challenge than the typical heterosexual couple, because when you have two women, there are no pre-designated roles for either of them. So my wife and I do the same things and we are very interchangeable. I think we make a great team,” she says.  

There is certainly a lot to juggle. As the founder of LesWorking, the first international professional network for lesbian women, and co-general director of REDI, Spain’s first inter-business network for diversity and inclusion of LGBTQ+ employees and allies, Herraiz Fernández is a formidable leader and activist in the LGBTQ+ community. Her work has enabled both organizations and LGBTQ+ workers to engage in positive discourse that has resulted in better workplace environments for them. 

REDI’s work entails advocating best practices and the promotion of inclusive and respectful working environments for LGBTQ+ people within business organizations in Spain. Within three years, the organization has grown from less than 20 to currently more than 100 corporate members, including well-known multinational brands Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, and Pfizer.  

Herraiz Fernández’s motivation to create these organizations and champion LGBTQ+ causes is based on her own experiences as a young woman who struggled to come to terms with her sexuality against a backdrop of heterosexual hegemony.  

“It took me 30 years to understand and to accept myself. I was not a rebel in any aspect of my life, so I struggled. But also there were no visible role models around me and that is what made me decide to do what I do. I want to dedicate my time to making sure that nobody feels like I did when I was struggling with myself for simply loving the people I love,” she says. 

LesWorking joined with other LGBTQ+ activist groups in Madrid during Pride 2019
LesWorking joined with other LGBTQ+ activist groups in Madrid during Pride 2019

During her 10 years as a business consultant, Herraiz Fernández began to realize that many of her LGBTQ+ colleagues were hiding themselves in the workplace. They would deliberately avoid conversations about their personal lives for fear it would have a negative impact on their careers.  

“Now we have data. We know that there is a 20% positive impact on productivity [when LGBTQ+] people are able to come out [in the workplace],” she says. “Imagine you are a lesbian mother who has to hide her identity daily in the workplace – it is very tough.”  

The impact upon productivity cannot be ignored. As part of its advocacy work, REDI produces best practice guidance for companies who see the business case for encouraging equity, inclusion, and diversity. Herraiz Fernández offers a three-point list for businesses that wish to update their EI&D commitments for their LGBTQ+ employees.  

  1. Involve top management in publicly committing to EI&D policies regarding LGBTQ+ employees to ensure organizational buy-in. “The public commitment of the top management is critical, especially in the beginning when you’re starting to work on LGBTQ+ diversity,” says Herraiz Fernández. She adds that a supportive message from the CEO during Pride to emphasize organizational commitment to diversity is one way of doing this.  
  1. Engage the HR function to produce best practice and policy to ensure parity throughout the business. For example, employee resource groups specific to LGBTQ+ people and allies will help people feel more comfortable within the company. “Carrying out an annual, anonymized survey is a good way for a company to understand how comfortable its employees really feel about its inclusivity,” she says. “Our experience is that companies are surprised to find that maybe they are less inclusive than they perceive themselves to be.”
  1. Leverage internal and external communications to convey positive change effectively. For example, engaging local community groups in discussions, and empowering and championing their work, send powerful signals of organizational commitment. “The UN Standards of Conduct 2017 encourages businesses to consult with local communities to identify steps they might take – including support for LGBTQ+ organizations, and challenging abusive government actions,” says Herraiz Fernández.


Marta Herraiz Fernández

Marta Herraiz Fernández

Director of LesWorking

Marta Herraiz Fernández is Co-Director of the Spanish business association REDI for the integration of the LGBTI+ community in the workplace and Director of LesWorking, the international professional network for lesbians. She is also Co-Secretary of the EuroCentralAsian Lesbian* Community (EL*C), which defends the rights of lesbians in Europe and Central Asia. 


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