by J. Kevin Jones, Jr., Out & Equal Deputy Director | I had the great privilege of attending the GLBT People at Work conference on May 17-18 in Rome, Italy.
Organized by Parks Founding Executive Director Ivan Scalfarotto – a friend and former colleague from Citi – the conference brought together business professionals, professors, journalists, and activists from around Italy to discuss lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion in the workplace.
The conversation was very familiar, although I required a translator to understand most words. Academics and business professionals underscored the importance to productivity and health of allowing employees to be their authentic selves at work. The panel also addressed the cost of secrecy, the impact of minority stress, the business case for inclusion, and how corporate social responsibility and human rights can make a difference for everyone in the workplace.
In a country where much work remains to achieve cultural acceptance, respect and safety for the LGBT community (non-discrimination laws notwithstanding), I witnessed the passion of corporate champions of inclusion from IKEA, Johnson & Johnson, Citi, McKinsey, and IBM. I was inspired by the LGBT employees in the room, and the advocacy of Paolo Patane’, president of Arcigay, Italy’s first and largest LGBT organization. I was proud to see the courage in Ivan’s work, and those of his colleagues at Parks, knowing that Selisse and Out & Equal played an important role in his personal journey. (Ivan attended his first Out & Equal Summit as part of our Citi contingent in 2003 in Minneapolis and has been a great friend and collaborator ever since!)
My time in Rome reinforced, for me, the tremendous amount of work still ahead of us (globally, and most certainly in the US), the huge opportunity for change by focusing on workplace inclusion globally, and – most emphatically – the commitment and courage of LGBT leaders and allies that are already making a difference in places where, just being who they are, is a challenge.
We often frame the struggles we face as a community as striving to be accepted for who we are and whom we love. To everyone involved in workplace equality in Italy – I love you for what you are doing and what you stand for. Vi salute tutti.
Note: I was very proud that the event was sponsored by the US Embassy (the Deputy Chief of Mission, Doug Hengel attended), along with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.