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IE Out & Allies Club hosts the 13th LGBT @ Work Conference


IE Out & Allies Club celebrated the 13th annual edition of the LGBT @ Work Conference, gathering 11 renowned speakers from 10 nationalities to discuss LGBT rights for professionals.

IE Out & Allies Club held the 13th LGBT@Work conference Thursday, with a line-up of 11 speakers from 10 nationalities, sharing their stories of inclusiveness and diversity in the workplace.

The student-led conference, which is now one of the university’s signature events and the third largest of its kind in the world, took place at the Casa de America in Madrid and featured speakers like Sodexo Global Projects Director Miren Garay, Trevor Project Head of Corporate Development Muneer Panjwani, DTCC’s Head of Diverse Talent Management Keisha Bell , Vice President Public Affairs at Gilead Sciences Alex Kalomparis, SAP’s Latin American Customer Experience chief Gian Venturini Reis and other role models in the LGBT community.

LGBT@Work boasted some 330 attendees—up from last year’s 250—and combined the resources of 16 different organizations, including IE Campus Life, Gilead, SAP, Uber, IE Foundation,Google, IBM, Salesforce and Amazon.

Organizers said they will seek a larger venue for next year given its growing popularity.

IE University President Santiago Iñiguez applauded the transformative power of the student-led initiative as an agent of change.

“This shows not only the values present in our community but around the world. Despite the threats that we see time to time–populism, communism– most of our conquests are irreversible, and this is because of you and because of your commitment to human rights and equal rights,” Iñiguez said.

The emotional highlight of the evening came when IE Business School Dean Martin Boehm presented to Kike Sarasola Founder and President of the Room Mate Group the first ever LGBT@Work Lifetime Achievement Award.

“I recommend we should begin to be straight forward: I’m gay, I’m lesbian. We have to make ourselves known and visible to the community. We have to go over the barriers and be very proud of who we are,” Sarasola said, before choking up as he added, “Receiving this prize is an honor, and I want to dedicate it to my family here that are in the front row. To my husband Carlos and my two kids, Enrique and Aitana. You are my life.”

We have to go over the barriers and be very proud of who we are.

The speakers urged the enthusiastic audience—which often erupted in applause—to be agents of change in the workplace. They discussed the lag in lesbian employees that come out in the workplace 25%, compared to the LGBT community’s overall 39%. They pushed for compassionate leadership to build inclusive teams. They placed LGBT rights within a context of social movements for greater respect and recognition, like MeToo and BlackLivesMatter.

But ultimately, they talked about how crucial it is for employees to feel safe at work.

“We are living in an untrustworthy society, but we encounter that the trust of the employees towards their organisation has gone up, so they expect the organisation to take a stand on social issues. And they definitely should,” said Alex Kalomparis. “We need to create a culture inside of our walls that celebrates success and change and diversity.”

Every year companies create fresh job titles focused on the growing trend toward diversity and inclusion in the work place. New businesses sprout up dedicated to capitalizing on the LGBT community. And many companies choose to use Gay Pride Week as an important branding opportunity.

For many, it is only natural that IE Business School’s students, with its core values of diversity and entrepreneurship, pioneered a forum to address the competitive advantage incorporating LGBT talent can give an organization.

“The current emphasis in the business community on diversity and inclusion initiatives aligns with IE’s core value of diversity,” said Ellis Lanaux, President of IE Out and Allies Club and chair of the sponsorship committee, which raised a record €24,000 for this year’s event.

For the first time ever, IE set up a U.S. version of LGBT@Work in New York to mark the 50th anniversary of the day patrons of New York’s Stonewall Inn Gay Bar fought back against a police raid, launching what is today known as gay rights.

“I think the mission of LGBT@Work, to increase the ability of LGBT+ individuals to be out in the workplace, fits with IE’s mission and culture and gives the business school a way to differentiate itself as a destination school for LGBT+ talent,” Lanaux said.

I think the mission of LGBT@Work, to increase the ability of LGBT+ individuals to be out in the workplace, fits with IE’s mission and culture.

Meanwhile, Madrid is ramping up to celebrate Europe’s largest Pride Week extravaganza this week. Rainbow flags will flutter along the city’s main thoroughfares, promising festivities for all and social acceptance for the LGBT+ community. The IE Foundation is a founding member of Madrid’s largest LGBT business network REDI, which marches in the parade.

“IE Foundation joined top corporations and institutions in creating the REDI Network, being IE at the forefront of academic institutions and connecting with the best companies engaged in equal rights for all,” said IE Foundation Managing Director Geoffroy Gerard. “Breaking barriers that talent suffer of any type of discrimination has been at the core of IE and IE Foundation’s support, enabling our student to impact and lead.”

On Sunday, some 25 IE professors, staff and students are expected to join the more than 400 other representatives of REDI to march in Madrid’s parade.

Check out some of the speakers from last years' LGBT@Work

Meet our event coordinators: Ellis and Felipe

Reflections from 5 generations of LGBT@Work Leaders

A story of how multiple generations of IE students built something so much bigger than any single vision could have imagined.

Every year for the last 13 years IE Business School has played host to the LGBT@Work conference. This piece has gathered the thoughts of some of the organizers who span 5 generations to weave together their reflections on how the conference, and consequently the LGBT+ community within IE University has grown over the last 5 years.

One of the most important achievements of the IE Out and Allies Club has been its ability to create a safe space and a strong sense of community and belonging – not only for its direct members but also for members of the wider LGBT+ business community too.

The tagline for World Pride Madrid in 2017 read: ‘No matter who you love, Madrid loves you.’ IE University and its unwavering support (especially during the years when it was neither easy nor popular to do so) has helped build LGBT@Work grow into the 3rd largest LGBT business school conference in the world. If IE Out and Allies had a tagline it would probably have earned: ‘No matter who you love, IE loves you’.

Its seems to have been this guiding principle to have a significant positive and overwhelmingly inclusive impact in our community which has led one generation of club leaders to the next to build on each other’s work (whether we knew it or not) to create the LGBT@Work the global juggernaut it is today.

For some of us we were the ones who first convinced the Madrid LGBT+ Business Community to be an important stakeholder in the project. For some it was our decision to move the conference to align with the Madrid Pride schedule, which geared the conference for growth. And for others we concentrated on growing the conference with the help of sponsors both here in Madrid and even globally, so much so we even out-grew the capacity of the venues available at the university.

The truth is that it seems to be a series of both big and small decisions from one generation to the next that has created a stronger and stronger foundation for all the impact LGBT@Work continues to have. Not only here in Madrid, but all over the world.

Story after story of both our reflections of the conferences and attendees reflections of the conference bring to light something very special about the power we have to positively impact someone else life by including them in a community. As much as LGBT@Work is a story of a group of students who banded together to try to make a positive change for the LGBT+ community, LGBT@Work is the also the story of the brave person who came to the conference and chose to tell their close colleague at work about their girlfriend for the first time.

LGBT@Work is the story of the young undergraduate student who found the confidence in the experience of others to tell his family he is a part of the LGBT community. And LGBT@Work is the story of the conservative organization who was inspired to create an employee resource group for their LGBT+ employees of their organization for the very first time. Truly, LGBT@Work is a collection of stories of far-reaching stories from a community of people who often find some inspiration in what used to be a little annual university conference.

Working on this conference has been one of the biggest undertaking of each of our years at IE, and we can all say beyond a shadow or a doubt that it has left a lasting imprint on us that each of us still feel today.

To all future LGBT@Work organizers, you’re in for the ride of your life – if your experience is anything like ours you’re in for one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of your life.

"It wasn’t about the impact this would have on me, it was about the impact we could have on others. Especially considering I had such a positive impact being out at work!"
"The move to align with Madrid Pride made it easier to align with the Madrid Business Community, and even more than that the group of people that live out the impact on a daily basis going to work every day."
"It (LGBT@Work) was one of the things at IE that made my experience so special."
"I worked on this conference for 3 years, and I had the unique opportunity to see just how much it’s grown. It went from a small conference in IE’s Aula Magna to a 300+ person event that needed to hosted off campus because it just got too big."
"As an ex-MBA student looking back at my years at IE and contributing to LGBT@Work one key insight stands out to me: putting all the things my professors taught me into practice with LGBT@Work was always going to be the most important undertaking of my education."
"I attended this conference as a participant last year, and I just wanted to make others feel what I felt last year."
"The most outstanding thing that came out of surveying and speaking to our members at the beginning of the year was that they wanted to find and be a part of organizations that meaningfully supported diversity and inclusion. They did not want to go back into the closet at the end of the year. So it became our mission to work with a strong community of organizations to truly pursue this."