European Lesbian and Business Roundtable

Post Date: April 19, 2019

Successful Roundtable event at the Dutch Embassy in Kiev sets a milestone for Workplace Pride.

Hosted at the Dutch Embassy in Kiev and organised by Workplace Pride in partnership with the NGO Fulcrum UA, and the Ukrainian Corporate Equality Index, the European Lesbian and Business Roundtable kicked off with a full house on April 11th.

This event brought together employers, employees and civil society to address specific challenges and opportunities for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex women at work. There was a nice mix of Dutch and Ukrainian people present. Hearing stories from both countries showed similarities but also big differences.

Present at the Embassy were representatives from the business communities from ABN AMRO, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, IBM, Accenture and Shell among others; NGOs Fulcrum, Insight LGBTQ, KyivPride, WECF, LesWorking; and members from the Dutch and European LGBTI police networks.

The Dutch ambassador in Ukraine, Eduard Hoeks was in charge of the opening speech and explained the Dutch perspective on Diversity and Inclusion when he pronounced his support with the following words:

“The Embassy is a strong supporter of equality and diversity and remains committed to reducing discrimination at the workplace”

 

David Pollard, Executive Director of the Workplace Pride Foundation gave context to a global view on Inclusivity with a presentation titled: ‘LGBTI Workplace Inclusion, The International Perspective‘. He explained the business case for LGBTI inclusion and how organisations can leverage the Workplace Pride Global Benchmark and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals for improving the lives of LGBTI people in workplaces around the world.

The event followed with a panel discussion called: ‘Lesbians in business and civil society: defining the common ground‘ moderated by Marion Mulder, Board Member of the Workplace Pride Foundation. The discussion focused on how companies and governments can play a key role in LGBTI inclusion and how local activist groups can leverage the power of business to improve the lives of LGBTI people. Lesbians in business and civil society were represented at the panel by the following organisations:

After the group discussion, the participants took part in 3 breakout sessions where they could discuss challenges, share best practices, inspiration and personal experiences. The panel discussions touched on the following topics:

  1. Human Rights as a catalyst for progress. Moderator:  Yana Tovpeko, Fulcrum
  2. Activating businesses with Lesbian awareness. Moderator: Chantal van den Bossche WECF – Women Engage for a Common Future
  3. Building Bridges and Support for Lesbians in Europe. Moderator:  Marta Herraiz LesWorking

 

 

Through active discussions, the attendees gained insights into the economic advantages of leveraging Diversity & Inclusion in their businesses. They received actionable ideas and concrete examples to take back and implement in their own organisations.

After the breakouts, there was a Q&A session. Common topics were the need for role models, visibility and support from (straight) allies. Also covered was how to stimulate the creation of legislation, how to put policies in place, and finding ways to build communities or networks to generate positive change.

A shared question among the participants was how to make inclusiveness appealing to senior managers.

There was also a strong interest in receiving training on how to approach companies for fundraising and collaboration. There is a need to share expertise in areas like crowdfunding and to develop (online) training materials that are shareable and easy to reproduce.


European Lesbian* Conference

This roundtable event was a prelude to the European Lesbian* Conference (EL*C 2019) that took place during 12-14 April in Kiev and attracted 350 lesbians from all over the world. The participants were human right and LGBTI activist leaders, politicians, academics, scientific experts, artists, sportswomen, businesswomen, community organizers and lesbian show business VIPs. The conference promoted the engagement of lesbians* with a diverse and interdisciplinary background from all ethnic groups, religions, ages and degrees of ability. The term “lesbian*” was used with an asterisk to include anyone who identifies as lesbian, feminist, bi or queer, and all those who feel connected to lesbian* activism.

The learnings from the Workplace Pride roundtable were further explored and reported by Marion Mulder, Yana Tovpeko and Marta Fernández Herraiz at the European Lesbian* Conference during a specific workshop titled ‘Lesbian Economics, how to combine welfare and well being in our activism and our daily lives’. Some of the topics addressed during the workshop were human rights violations and the lack of funding, even in Europe, to raise awareness on women-specific initiatives. Only 3% of LGBTI funding goes to lesbians, for example. This is a figure that needs to change in order to achieve equality and improve the quality of lesbian lives worldwide.

As part of her report, Marion compiled a comprehensive document with personal notes and slides from all the presentations of these two events in Kiev into a master pdf that you can download here.

Click to open the summary in pdf format.

 

In spite of the presence of anti-LGBTI protesters, these two events together created a fruitful climate for discussion and provided an inspiring platform for LGBTI women from all over the world. New connections were made at these 2 events and it was clearly stated by the participants that there is a need for collaboration and an appetite for international women-specific activities.

We thank our host and sponsors and firmly believe that this weekend in Ukraine was a milestone in the journey to change the world for better and to improve the lives of LGBTI women in workplaces all over the world.

 

External Resources and Relevant publications:

  1. Embassy of the Netherlands in Ukraine social page (report and images)
  2. Website EL*C – European Lesbian* Conference 2019
  3. Press coverage, press reviews and articles on the  EL*C 2019

 

Watch the video with impressions of the EL*C: