HRC Takes on Workplace Equality in Latin America and Around the World

BUILDING BRIDGES
Despite reckless assertions to the contrary, building bridges — not walls — strengthens both our communities and our businesses. What happened yesterday in Chile is proof. At today’s Santiago launch of the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, dozens of major Chilean employers will join HRC and our partner Fundanción Iguales to celebrate the strength of a diverse workforce and to launch a groundbreaking initiative that will advance countless protections for LGBTQ workers.

This formal partnership — called HRC Equidad CL: Global Workplace Equality Programs — brings together HRC and Fundanción Iguales, the largest LGBTQ advocacy organization in Chile. Together, we will leverage the supportive business community that Iguales coordinates through Pride Connection Chile, a group of 30 major companies committed to LGBTQ-inclusion across the country. Similar to HRC Equidad MX, the effort will be anchored by an annual report due out in early 2019 designed to benchmark and advance LGBTQ-inclusive policies and practices in Chilean workplaces. 

This is about so much more than a report, though. These businesses and advocates are working together to create policies and benefits that will improve the lives of countless LGBTQ workers and also make their companies stronger. And like our work in the United States, this work didn’t happen overnight. It’s really the story of what happens when advocates in the public and private sector build lasting relationships and collaborate for the greater good.

Since the late 1990s, the HRC Foundation’s Workplace Equality program has built these kinds of connections with leading U.S. employers, including many multinational companies. These decades-long relationships have helped advance explicit protections covering millions of employees in the United States — and increasingly around the globe. Because of the CEI’s 2013 mandate for full global protections across all businesses, a full 15 million employees around the world have clear LGBT protections from their workplaces. In 2013, the HRC Foundation launched HRC Global and began connecting with advocates worldwide to find ways to partner on their efforts to advance equality in their own regions. It was clear early on that by partnering with LGBTQ advocates in Latin America, we could create new programs that would have make lasting change for LGBTQ workers.

In fact, key connections in Chile were made possible through HRC Global’s Innovative Advocacy Summit — bringing together established and emerging leaders to exchange practices and ideas for advancing LGBTQ equality. One of the advocates who joined us last year connected our CEI team with Chilean workplace advocates — and today’s launch is the fruit of that connection.

This is now our second formal partnership in Latin America.  Just last month in Mexico we launched the 2018 HRC Equidad MX Report — a benchmarking tool measuring the commitment of employers in Mexico to LGBTQ equality through their adoption of vital policies and practices. In the inaugural report, 32 major companies earned top marks, and other employers in Mexico are eager to follow suit. They’re inspired by companies like Pemex — one of the largest employers in Latin America and a top scorer on the report. Like other fair-minded employers, Pemex is doing this work for two reasons — it’s the right thing to do and they know their business is stronger when their employees can bring their full selves to work.

I’ve spent much of my career working to advance principles of fundamental fairness and equity on the job for all workers. Prior to HRC, I served in the Obama administration and we worked hard — in collaboration with the private sector — to arrive at win-win solutions. Our work extending nondiscrimination coverage to LGBTQ employees at federal contractors was one such solution.

We worked with organizations like HRC and employers who know that prioritizing diversity and inclusion fosters innovation and creativity and increases productivity. It comes as no surprise that many of the longtime top-ranked employers on HRC’s CEI — like Google, IBM, Procter & Gamble, and Sodexo — are partnering with our teams in Mexico and Chile.

The truth is few governments can advance equality if the private sector and advocates on the ground aren’t already leading the way. That’s what makes this work in Chile and Mexico so exciting. Working in-country to build relationships across movements, companies, and governments can bring immediate change to individual workers — but it can also inspire policy change over time.

We know plenty of people still face challenges, with no explicit protections in the United States or in so many places around the globe. That’s why it’s incumbent upon us to take the time to reach out, to find solutions, and to build the bridges that can make a lasting difference.

MARY BETH MAXWELL is senior vice president for Programs, Research and Training at the Human Rights Campaign.

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