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Inclusion with borders. 7 ways to tackle inequality. 

Global companies care about the few while the rest is left on their own.

Earlier this month our CEO, Martin Kmiecik, spent a weekend in Poland filming a story with BBC about the LGBT-Free zones in Poland. Since the government passed legislation back in December 2019, a third of Poland has declared itself to be an official “LGBT-free” zone as local municipalities sign a pledge adopting resolutions against “LGBT propaganda”

Although Martin have lived in the UK for over a decade, he says he could not and will not be silenced when he goes back to Poland to visit his family even though where they live is now also an LGBT-Free zone!

Going back home is like going back to the closet and never feels right - Martin added. And he can now be prosecuted or discriminated against just because of my sexuality. Now, more than ever Martin feels like he must do something about it and support the activists who are working for LGBTQ+ rights in his home country.  

Protest

On March 1st, together with the BBC crew, Martin have joined activists from Poland on a protest against Archbishop Marek Jerdraszewski who warned of “rainbow plague” amid LGBT tensions in Poland.

The day started very peacefully with around 40 activists participating in a legal protest close to the church where he hosted Sunday service. From the moment they arrived at the location, the atmosphere was very tense, an extensive number of police officers were securing the building; no person who looked like an  LGBTQ activist was allowed to join the service inside the church, even if they are believers in God. To add more, there was a group of around 30-40 men who suspiciously gathered near the protesters - it was tense.

Suddenly, towards the end of the protest, police got the whole group of protesters into lockdown and asked everyone to show their IDs. No one was allowed to leave until everyone's details were recorded by the police - 3 of the officers surrounded Martin (see picture at the top) and right there pulled up all his details from the system - it was scary. What was even scarier and extremely depressing is that when he approached people to answer a couple of questions for the story he is covering with BBC, Martin and the LGBTQ community have been called "paedophiles, sick people, and criminals"- it is a never-ending story. A few people suggested LGBTQ individuals should just "leave the country" if they want to practise the "LGBT ideology".

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Meet Bart. Polish LGBTQ Activist. 

After the crew managed to leave the protest, Martin have had the pleasure to meet and speak with one of the activists, Bart Staszewszki, who has recently launched a campaign featuring areas in Poland where the law has been adopted by local governing bodies. Martin was shocked by some of the stories Bart shared with him. Despite many conversations with companies and government bodies around Poland, Bart and other activists received no support!

You can support Bart by donating to his NGO - link here.

What was very disappointing to hear is that many of the companies whom Bart and others chatted to are included in the Stonewall (UK) 100 Top Employer List or have been awarded European Diversity Awards! The questions Martin asks: are these companies actually inclusive?! Is it UK only where the employees receive training about LGBTQ inclusion?! How come the companies and/or individuals are being nominated or awarded for their work in the LGBTQ area if we see so much discrimination around the world?! Does inclusivity have a border?

This is not to say we should not have Equality Indexes or Diversity Awards - we need the positive PR to show we are inclusive to attract (and retain) our talent. However, looking at the situation in other countries is depressing, worrying, and very disappointing. But we are not giving up!

Calling all global companies to make the change today!


Martin have volunteered with Pride in London for 5 years, collaborated with Amsterdam Pride, Madrid Pride, New York City Pride and many other ones to ensure we can celebrate the achievements and continue the fight for LGBTQ rights. Martin is an ally to other minorities; he have delivered countless workshops, training sessions focused on diversity and inclusion and many more are scheduled to take place. Unfortunately, when he looks at his diary for 2020 these are mainly in Western Europe and North America. It's time to get to places where the support is needed now more than ever before! He invites you to do the same! 

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Invite to JOIN the conversation and take action today!

We are very much aware that change will not happen overnight but we must take actions now. We cannot wait another year or five to get this going. Companies in Poland and across Eastern Europe already stand by what they believe in, Ikea is a great example - read here. It is great to see Ikea standing up to it but there are also examples of companies who faced criticism and very quickly backed down. Example of Volvo (pic below) - read more about it here. Intel also made quite a difficult decision to move their conference to a different country because of the LGBT-Free Zones- read about it here.


Now it is YOUR turn to make the change! Awards and high places on Equality Indexes are great PR but we, the LGBTQ community (and allies), need you to act now and stand by our side, especially in places where our very existence is being threatened today!

What can you do?

1

Training

Introduce compulsory diversity and inclusion training for all employees, everywhere. LGBTQ rights are under threat in many countries but we must not forget about other strands of diversity which we should talk about: women rights, BAME, disabilities (physical and mental), mental health and wellbeing, faith, immigration - these should all be included in the leadership development, HR programmes and all employees on managerial position training! We don't think there is a need for me to outline the benefits of having diverse and inclusive teams!?

2

Stay Strong

Stand by what you believe in! We all have nicely written policies but we question if we follow them especially in countries where perhaps homosexuality isn't as welcome as it is in the Western world. We hear stories about people being deployed to other countries and suddenly they've gone back to the closet or changed the way they act 'because it wasn't acceptable' in the country they have been deployed to. This is not the way forward. We must equally support our employees across the world no matter where they are. The same when you launch a marketing campaign - do not stop even if you receive a backlash from a small number of people. We need you to think about the wider society who will most certainly support you.

3

Collaborate

We are aware in some of the Central and Eastern European countries there isn't as much ethnically diverse workforce as in big metropolitan areas, however, we must not forget that people still try to exist and they wish to live their lives the same way. If the company you work for has a high or low number of members in your Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) - get them to collaborate with each other. Learning about our differences can help us be more understanding, vigilant and most importantly better allies! We all have similar struggles and sharing these with others will only bring more benefits and collaborations.

4

Be Visible

Introduce role model training, be a role model yourself and most importantly push for fully inclusive marketing campaigns to be launched in all countries you operate. There is never enough of that and we need to see people like us in the workplace, society and in marketing campaigns. The more exposure we get the more conversations will happen and it will be 'normalised'. Sharing our stories, showing that we are human beings, and presenting positive attitudes can only help our voices be heard - us speaking out will most likely bring more positives than negatives but we need more people to do that. In London, there are many inclusion related events happening every night. People can meet with other likeminded people, see themselves in others, and most importantly be themselves in those spaces. We need more of these in countries where it isn't safe to be LGBTQ - there isn't enough of it!

5

Stand up to hate! Become an ally

Whatever you gender or gender identity is, whether you are white, black, Asian, gay, lesbian, bi, trans or straight, have a religion or not, have a disability or not - it is your responsibility to be the ally and point out when someone is using discriminatory language or when you see microaggressions towards someone else. Be the change, don't stand by it. In the words of our role models, Lady Phyll: 'Your pain is my pain and my pain should be yours'. We need to learn to empathise with others.

6

Check your privilege!

Many of us take it for granted and don’t realise how much of an advantaged position they have in the world. Whether it's at work or in personal life, we should be consciously checking what our privilege is; sometimes it's good to give up your space or even open doors for others who don't have the same privilege as us. To understand what privilege is we invite you to watch the amazing TED Talk by Eugenie Cheng.

7

Take the Lead

Join us and hundreds of others who are speaking out and fighting for equal rights across Europe and the globe. If you are proud and comfortable in your own skin, use your privilege to help others who need support and motivation, especially when they are oppressed by governments and right-wing groups.

In Poland, the below companies have a substantial presence and could use it to show support to LGBTQ equality. If you work for one of these companies or know someone who does, ask why they choose to focus all their diversity and inclusion efforts in places where it is relatively easier and more comfortable to do so (like London or New York). Encourage them to step outside of the comfort zone and to take actions in places like Poland where their voice, support and allyship is desperately needed

AIG, Allen & Overy, Accenture, Accor Hotels, Amazon, Aon, Audi, Aviva Insurance, Baker McKenzie, BCG, BMW, BNP Parabais, BNY Mellon, BP, CBRE, Cisco, City Bank, Clifford Chance, Costa Coffee, CMS, Coca Cola Company, Credit Suisse, Deloitte, Dentons, Diageo, DLA Piper, EY, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Google, HSBC, IBM, J.P Morgan, Kimberly Clark, Kingfisher, KPMG, LinkedIn, Linklaters, LOT Polish Airlines, Marriott, McDonald's, Microsoft, MTV, Netflix, Procter and Gamble, PwC, Refinitivi, Saatchi & Saatchi, Santander, SAS Institute, Shell, Societe Generale, Sony, Starbucks, Royal Bank of Scotland, Telefonica, Uber, UBS, Unilever, Volvo, White and Case


If you don't know where to start, get in touch with me - we need you, your workforce needs you!

You can contact Martin 

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