Fabrice Houdart, Managing Director of Equality Initiatives at Out Leadership sat down with Óscar Muñoz, the co-founder of REDI, the LGBTI business network in Spain, to talk about the fight for LGBTQIA+ equality in Spain and around the world.
Can you give us a background on REDI and what it has achieved so far?
REDI (Red Empresarial por la Diversidad e Inclusión LGBTI) was established in June 2015 as a network of professionals with proven expertise in diversity, who were interested in promoting LGBTI employee’s inclusion’s best practices in the Spanish business context. The creation of REDI was inspired by the experience of similar international entities, such as Stonewall in the United Kingdom, Out & Equal in the USA, Parks in Italy, PROUT AT WORK in Germany, etc. REDI soon became the most active network/forum in Spain regarding LGBTI D&I at the workplace and, in February 2018, was established as a non-profit organization including some of the most important Spanish companies as well as many international companies located in Spain.
Our main goal is to foster an inclusive and respectful environment in organizations where talent is valued, regardless of their identity, gender expression and sexual orientation, therefore contributing to the social ‘normalization’ and the eradication of socio-cultural prejudices that hinder LGBTI employees’ development and full performance.
REDI has developed a vast number of activities that contributed to making LGBTI diversity and inclusion a “hot topic” within Spanish companies, as proven by the huge increase in the number of member companies, currently more than 85. We also collaborate and look for synergies with public sector institutions, labor unions, business schools, universities, LGBTI associations, NGOs, etc. and we have recently signed a collaboration agreement with the national government to promote LGBTI D&I programs within public administrations. Additionally, we have a considerable presence in different media and public forums, and we have published reports and studies to increase the visibility of our mission.
Spain is one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to LGBTQ+ inclusion yet the far-right party has been antagonistic towards our community. Do you see this as a marginal effort or part of a global backlash on LGBTQ+ rights?
Despite social and legal LGBTI rights advancements in Spain, socio-cultural bias that prevents LGBTI people from feeling completely safe persists nowadays. For example, according to the 2019 European Commission’s Eurobarometer of Discrimination, 91% of Spaniards believe that lesbians, gays and bisexual people should have equal legal rights, however only 63% feel comfortable when seeing them showing affection in public.
In the last couple of years, non-inclusive behaviors seem to have increased in line with global trends. According to ILGA Europe’s annual review about the situation of LGBTI people, “there has been an increase in the hate speech by some political leaders in Spain represented by Vox, the third party in parliamentary representation”. Concern is also expressed about the increase in attacks based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as per data offered by the different observatories against LGBT phobia.
At REDI, we focus mainly on the business environment. We know that there are still opportunities for developing concrete LGBTI D&I programs in many organizations and confronting non-inclusive day to day language –to note, 86% of LGBTI employees in Spain hear jokes, rumors or derogatory comments from their co-workers when working. In fact, only 38% of LGBTI employees are out of the closet at work, which is incredibly low compared to other European countries.
Do you believe the COVID-19 pandemic will impact diversity efforts by Spanish companies?
This is certainly a serious concern. Fortunately, even during this pandemic time, our member companies continue demanding REDI’s consultancy services and we even welcomed 9 new companies to our network last month.
We know that people in the LGBTI community are even more vulnerable in times of crisis, for example, they are more likely to be unemployed, or to have precarious jobs, as The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights affirmed last April. In addition, the confinement situation of these months has made it easier for companies to enter through video calls in our homes and has broken the barrier between personal and professional life that many LGBTI people maintained to protect themselves.
That is why we have launched concrete initiatives such as the creation of a Decalogue with best practices from our companies to promote employee’s inclusion during COVID-19 quarantine. We also have launched a Pride communication campaign called #enlaempresacomoencasa (‘in the company like at home’) showing those working places at home where professional life and personal life come together so that, when LGBTI employees return to their offices, companies don’t forget to make them feel as safe as at home.
Racism and inequalities are a huge topic in the US, is the current conversation impacting Spain?
As in any other country, there are many opportunities for social inclusion and eradication of racial discrimination in Spain, which might be even increasing: The report ‘Racism and xenophobia during the state of alarm in Spain’ prepared by the NGO Human Rights International Spain in collaboration with local institutions and associations has denounced that “Ethnic racial discrimination, institutional and structural racism, labor exploitation of African descents and other ethnic racial groups, […] have increased during the global pandemic caused by COVID-19”.
However, we have not seen the same level of conversation in Spain as in the US or other countries, surely due to a statistical matter, for example: although Spain is one of the biggest European entrances for immigrants from Africa, it is not a final destination so the African population in Spain is estimated at only 2.5%
You work closely with corporations, are they increasingly playing their role in supporting LGBTQ+ people?
Definitively. REDI currently has more than 85 member companies, more than 50 of which are large national and international corporations, leaders in their markets. Among our members, a multitude of sectors such as banking, law firms, technology companies, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, consultancies, etc. are represented.
Just a few years ago, it was unthinkable to speak about LGBTI diversity in many of these sectors, but companies’ recognition of the value that LGBTI diversity provides to the work environment, innovation and business is clearly increasing.
However, we still find highly ‘masculinized’ industry sectors such as construction or sports, for example, where this is still a big opportunity. There is still work to be done…
What is your organization and yourself going to focus on for the next 6 to 12 months?
Before the COVID-19 crisis, we were in a process of a huge growth, reshaping our strategy and services. Because of the slowdown in business activity, we had to undertake a series of adjustments to confront the situation of uncertainty, like any other organization.
It has been a period of enormous working intensity where we had to optimize resources and to prioritize the services offered to associates but, at the same time, ensure the same quality.
For example, we kept all our scheduled events and ad-hoc consultancy and trainings for companies, as well as public events planned for the second quarter of the year, by transforming them into digital. We also used new technologies to transform our ‘REDI to Learn’ training sessions into online webinars, also increasing their frequency and the number of participants.
We at REDI are optimistic since we believe that there has been great progress regarding LGBTI D&I visibility at the business level in Spain and we trust that it will continue to grow.
Óscar Muñoz is the co-founder and co-CEO of REDI, the Business Network for LGBTI Diversity and Inclusion in Spain. In addition, he has extensive experience in market research and business strategy and is the founder of the consulting firm mpátika *. He is an Agricultural Engineer, Master in International Trade, in European Communities and in Environmental Impact Assessment from the Polytechnic universities of Madrid, Berkeley, Bologna, Diplomatic School and Chamber of Commerce of Madrid. He has more than 18 years of experience as the Consumer Insights Manager at Procter & Gamble, where he led the actions that brought him to the first position in the EMIDIS ranking of companies with the best initiatives in LGBTI diversity. He is currently dedicated to consulting on LGBT diversity and inclusion and helping companies to be more empathetic and better connect with their diverse clients. He has collaborated with the Secretary of State for Equality of Spain and Portugal and with the Complutense University, being responsible for Research of the ADIM project (Advancing in LGBT + Diversity and Inclusion Management) and has published the most recent study on LGBTI diversity and inclusion in the context labor and academic in Spain. He has extensive experience as a speaker in forums and corporate events and is passionate about diversity in all aspects, giving talks on ‘feminism for men-equality for all ’in companies and classes in the Complutense University’s Master of Gender.