This morning I woke up at 5 a.m. to speak at the OECD GLOBE Annual Meeting. GLOBE is the thriving LGBTQ+ employee organization of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an intergovernmental economic organization with 37 member countries based in Paris. The topic of the speech was “Why join your LGBTQ+ employee resource group in 2021?”
Besides the fact that I was born in Clinique de La Muette, in the Paris neighborhood of “La Muette” where the OECD headquarters stands, I was delighted to participate because the question of the need for Employee Resource Groups is not only valid for multilateral organizations but also for companies. In 2017, Deloitte, a New York-based financial advisory firm, made the global headlines by announcing that it is phasing out its diversity groups in favor of “inclusion councils”. Their argument being that ERGs are “superficial safe spaces” in which diversity and inclusion are celebrated through the lens of food, fun, and festivities.
In the aftermath of the Stonewall 50th celebration, younger people in large corporations in urban areas may also feel that with changing attitudes and greater equality in benefits, there is no need for them to join their ERG. They can often now be open about who they are at work without risking the rejection of their heterosexual or cisgender peers.
Indeed, when I became President of World Bank GLOBE in 2010 the focus was almost exclusively on benefits and having a social space for mostly closeted staff members. As an example, we still did not obtain visa for our same-sex partners to join us in the United States (something Secretary of State Hillary Clinton only fixed years later). Think about it: 11 years ago, LGBTQ+ employees of International Organizations based in the US were still forced to choose between their families and their career.
Today in many countries, there are laws that protect us from discrimination and most benefits in the workplace are equal (even though trans-related and fertility benefits are lagging behind). Yet, at Out Leadership, we believe that LGBTQ+ employee resource groups continue to be a condition sine-qua-non to workplace equality as well as a key instrument for organizations to connect organizations with their LGBTQ+ stakeholders whether they are clients or beneficiaries.
I articulated my speech in favor of ERGs around three themes:
While I argued that ERGs continue to be key in multilateral organizations to ensure we are not “merely guests of the majority” in our respective organizations – a thought I had articulated when I left the United Nations exactly a year ago (see Why I Left the U.N. LGBTI Team to Join Out Leadership), I also think ERGs must be implemented properly. The response to Deloitte’s criticism of the ERG model is to think about allyship, budgets and recognition – all topics we will address in a subsequent piece on “building a successful ERG”.
For now it is 7 a.m. and I am going back to bed….