Sustainable Inspiration! A look back at the 2019 Workplace Pride International Conference

Post Date: July 1, 2019


Set in an awe-inspiring location, with captivating speakers and inspiring content, the Workplace Pride 2019 International Conference set another milestone in the history of the Foundation. More than 300 attendees gathered in an airplane hangar at Amsterdam Schiphol, a fantastic location provided by our host KLM to move the dial forward on LGBTI Workplace Inclusion.

This year’s theme “Sustainable Inclusion: The Next Destination for LGBTI at Work” looked closely at the intersection of ‘Sustainability’, a topic on everyone’s mind these days, and ‘Inclusion’; equally relevant for today’s modern organisations. The program included a plenary highlighting the experience of 3 executives, from the private, public and non-profit sectors, and continued with 12 breakout sessions; each taking a deep-dive into many topical issues surrounding LGBTI inclusion at work and around the world. It was a day of sharing knowledge, learning skills, storytelling and connecting.

As with all Workplace Pride events, it is a pleasure to see our members (many of them new) come together, share best practices, lead workshops, learn new skills, listen to each other and connect. As the Foundation’s flagship annual event, the conference left us all feeling satisfied with the strength of our network. But it also reminded us of all the work that still needs to be done and how the global LGBTI workplace community is in a unique position to drive positive change globally.

Majority of New Participants:
Moderated by Mark Emdin, Chair of the Workplace Pride Foundation, the conference kicked off with a live vote which showed 67% of the attendees were first-time attendees. Participants were also asked to type short messages on their phones indicating what ‘sustainable inclusion’ meant for them personally. Answers were projected on the screen in the form of a digital message board.



KLM Host sets the Tone:

The first speaker of the day was Ton Dortmans, EVP KLM Engineering & Maintenance, KLM. As host of the event, Ton welcomed the audience to his own workplace by underlining his personal commitment, as well as that of KLM, for both sustainability and inclusion in the broader sense. According to Ton, the work is never done when it comes to inclusion in the workplace. He gave insights on how KLM is currently focusing on LGBTI inclusion as well and left us with a beautiful metaphor of how KLM has stood for freedom, in many senses of the word, for 100 years now. This includes, of course, freedom to be yourself as an LGBTI person in their company and wherever they can spread their influence.

Everyone at Workplace Pride thanks Ton and KLM for hosting the conference this year at Hangar 10. This was the perfect location to remind us that we are on the LGBTI inclusion journey together.


Different Perspectives on Sustainability 

To have a deeper discussion and understanding of what sustainable inclusion means in relation to the workplace and LGBTI people, 3 keynote speakers were invited to share their views based upon their own vast experience:

Hans Docter, Director Sustainable Economic Development and Ambassador Private Sector & Development Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, spoke to the audience about the business case for LGBTI inclusion in the workplace. He expressed how this is a priority for the Dutch Government and how, together with Workplace Pride, international events have been developed in such diverse places as Suriname, Kenya, Hong Kong, The Philippines and Russia.

Margot Slattery, Country President of Sodexo Ireland, talked about her own coming out and shared personal insights on how, for years,  she hid part of herself at work. During the panel discussion with the audience, Margot also mentioned that organisations have to stand behind their inclusion policies and be consistent. Margot mentioned that, while in some regions actions might be adapted or localised depending on the culture, the fundamental right to be yourself at work remains constant.

Tim Mohin, Chief Executive of the Global Reporting Initiative also touched upon the benefits of inclusivity for organisations and how his own organisation plays a key role in facilitating reporting from thousands of businessess. He mentioned statistics on how higher productivity and being yourself at work are related and also the importance of reporting on social, and thus LGBTI issues. ‘You can only manage what you measure’. This is the mantra of sustainability reporting and it is crucial for making LGBTI inclusion a sustainable practice for organisations.  According to Tim though, while we must recognise the importance of data, we should also not forget that behind the data there are personal, powerful stories that matter just as much.

You can replay all plenary speeches on our Conference Podcasts page and also watch video interviews with speakers and participants..


LGBTI ‘Dilemmas’

Contrary to traditional conferences, participants in Workplace Pride events are asked to play an interactive role in the plenary session as well. This year, Four ‘dilemmas’ in the form of case studies were given to participants (one per table) with the task to find the best solutions to seemingly impossible situations involving LGBTI employees, projects or initiatives around the world. After the discussions, selected audience members shared their insights while our main speakers, Tim, Margot and Hans commented on these dilemmas as well.


Breakout sessions

With a comprehensive basis for discussion being set in the plenary session, conference participants took discussions even further during the 12 breakout sessions before and after lunch. These sessions covered topics ranging from ‘Inclusive Recruitment’ and ‘Setting up Global Ally Programs’ to the ‘Visibility of LGBTI Women at Work’ and ‘Mental Health in the Workplace’. Experts, primarily from Workplace Pride Leaders and Partners organisations, shared best practices and engaged breakout participants in highly interactive sessions. All sessions were full of engaged participants brainstorming, discussing, presenting videos, and most importantly sharing knowledge, personal stories and best practices. *


Closing the day
After the breakout sessions David Pollard, Executive Director of Workplace Pride, presented the 18 new members of the Foundation. He highlighted not just the growth of the Foundation, but also the growth of the topic of LGBTI Workplace Inclusion and the impact it is having on societies around the world.

Marriët Schuurman, Human Rights Ambassador in the Dutch Ministry of  Foreign Affairs, closed the day by reminding the audience that the current state of advanced tolerance in the Netherlands was not sudden; it took 70 years to achieve! She spoke about the power of partnerships and the importance of stories.

Even when you start the change at home, the impact of your leadership [in promoting LGBTI rights] is international, especially when joining forces together.”

Large events like this only happen with the dedication of many people. Workplace Pride would, therefore, like to thank everyone who was part of the conference as an attendee, host, speaker, presenter, exhibitor, crew, or volunteer. We had an inspiring day thanks to your enthusiasm and your stories and, together, have taken international LGBTI workplace inclusion to the next level.

We look forward to the next events this year and to our next International Conference in 2020!


*Over the next few weeks, detailed information from the breakout sessions and other content from the conference will be published on the Workplace Pride website, in our Newsletter and on social media.  Subscribe to our newsletter in order to be notified when new content comes online. 

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Conference Photo Album
Click on link or images below to see all the photos of the Conference.