Training: Essential for Institutions and Companies to Be More Diverse

Anthropologist José Ignacio Pichardo Galán is part of a program that evaluated the LGBTQ+ inclusion climate in 16 businesses and 8 universities of Spain and Portugal. Most people who identify themselves as part of that community feel uncomfortable in their work environments. According to the academic, training at all levels is one of the basic steps to achieve more inclusive work environments.

Both Portugal and Spain have pioneering laws on the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. This, however, has not yet resulted in fully inclusive work environments. In this context, the European Project ADIM, Advancing the management of LGBT diversity in the public and private sector, was created, which evaluated the climate on this issue in different organizations, also identifying the experiences and feelings of LGBT+ workers in the work environment.

Funded by the European Union, the program was jointly developed by the General Directorate for Equality of Treatment and Diversity (Dirección General de Igualdad de Trato y Diversidad) of the Ministry of the Presidency, Parliamentary Relations and Equality of Spain, the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality Commission (Comissão para a Cidadania e a Igualdade de Género) of Portugal, and Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Sixteen businesses and 8 public universities of both countries participated in the program.

The first step was to carry out an anonymous survey among the employees of these organizations to make a diagnosis. Of 54,000 workers, 8,557 answered the survey, representing almost 16%. Among those who responded, 1,147 were LGBTQ+ persons. In addition to achieving one of the largest samples that exist today in order to analyze the relationship of this collective with its work environment, another positive aspect of ADIM was that it set an efficient and sensitive methodology to measure climates at work.

The results were conclusive and they reflect that there is still a long way to achieve full inclusion. Out of those surveyed, 36% of them who identify themselves as LGBTQ+ stated that they used to hear rumors, jokes or derogatory comments about their sexual orientation or that of others. Furthermore, those who include themselves in the community stated that they feel less calm and less personal fulfillment at work than those who are not part of that community.

José Ignacio Pichardo Galán, professor of Social Anthropology at Universidad Complutense de Madrid and member of the Executive Committee of ADIM, explains the program’s main findings.

 Delfina Campos: Which was the most frequent problem observed in the results of the survey?

José Ignacio Pichardo Galán: Today many people of the LGBTQ+ community avoid talking about their private lives and feel uncomfortable expressing their gender identity and sexual orientation at work. Of all the surveyed people who were members of this community, only 28% talked freely about their sexual orientation. Many of them are out of the closet in their daily lives in general but not at work. The problem is that this concealment is a barrier to professional development. People who conceal themselves tend to avoid participating in informal spaces of socialization. And it is in those spaces where projects and promotions are arranged. Even though this may seem something minor, it has significant consequences.

DC: In an official video of ADIM, you mention there are unconscious biases behind discrimination scenes. What does this mean?

JIPG: A person may pass a remark without intending to be discriminatory but the remark carries that burden. The same happens with sexism: there are remarks or expressions that may make somebody feel bad or create an uncomfortable environment without that being the intention. There is a kind of passive lgbtofobia: although in Spain most of the population is respectful of sexogeneric diversity, many people hear homophobic jokes and say nothing. Thus, nothing changes in the context.

DC: Which was the next step after getting the survey results?

JIPG: It is important to highlight that the data management was conducted at ADIM. We shared with each company and university their specific results and we only published the general results. Each organization was free to use that information as they wanted. Telefónica, for instance, carried out a campaign mentioning their results. Based on each specific case, tailored training was offered for each sector of the company, from the managerial staff to the factory workers and the business teams. Training is essential: It must be put in practice at all levels, from the decision-taking teams to the base workers.

DC: Beyond the fact that more inclusion results in more wellness to people in the LGBTQ+ community, which other benefits does a good management of diversity bring?

JIPG: Promoting inclusion of this community is a matter of human rights and something required by the law. Beyond any other consideration, we want people to feel good and to have their rights recognized. This is also related to talent management. A company cannot afford losing its best worker for reasons of discrimination. There is also another very important issue: the more diverse a company is, the richer it is regarding insights or world views. Diversity should be considered a value in itself. Having different views within a team helps have a better knowledge of the customers and users with whom the personnel works.

The program recommends different lines of action for organizations:

 – Talking about sexual diversity and gender identity with freedom and respect.

– Ensuring anonymity for those who report harassment and discrimination situations, as well as a proper response.

– Training and raising awareness among the staff.

– Recognizing and celebrating diversity.

– Creating internal employee networks and working with other partners organizations on respect and positive management of diversity.Before finishing the program, ADIM launched a training program in Spanish entitled Gestión de la diversidad LGBT+ en ámbitos laborales (Management of LGBT+ Diversity in Work Environments). It is a massive open online course (or MOOC) which, as indicated by its name, is open to anyone for registration and attendance. For more information or to register, please visit

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