The case for inclusion: Workplace Pride and PRINS

The topicality and relevance of PRINS 2017 included a case with particular ties to Leiden University: ‘LGBT rights in workplaces around the world’ from Workplace Pride, an Amsterdam-based non-profit focused on increasing the acceptance of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people in the workplace and in society.  Workplace Pride holds a special place in the Leiden University Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences: it is the endowing organisation of the Workplace Pride Chair for international LGBT workplace inclusion.

David Pollard, executive director of Workplace Pride, was contacted by Dr. Sarita Koendjbiharie to see if the organisation would have interest in presenting a case as part of PRINS. “The project hit all of the aspects we focus on: from our standpoint it is interesting to spread the importance of workplace inclusion and this group – young international people who will be working everywhere in the world – really fit our needs and vision. So the PRINS was a perfect opportunity for us.”

The business case for workplace inclusion

At the PRINS kick-off sessions, Mr. Pollard presented the compelling case for workplace inclusion.  “Even in the openly tolerant Netherlands, LGBT people are practically invisible in management positions,” he said. “If you cannot openly be yourself at work, it’s bad for you and your employer and ultimately bad for the economy.”

“We spend 35% of our total waking hours at work,” he continued. “And there is an estimated 30% loss of creativity and productivity if LGBTI people cannot be themselves at work. That’s 30% less productivity. That’s lost GDP. It’s very simple. There is a business case for inclusivity.”

Amongst the guest lecturers for the case were openly gay management and HR directors of such companies as Accenture, Shell, and ABN AMRO – professionals who could address the dicey differences in gender culture in the many countries in which their multinational organisations operate.

Importantly, the guest speakers included Prof. Kees Waaldijk  specialized in Comparative Sexual Orientation Law and Prof. Dr. Jojanneke van der Toorn who holds the endowed Workplace Pride Chair for international LGBT workplace inclusion.

Leiden University leading thought in LGBT inclusivity

The Endowed Workplace Pride Chair is the only such Chair in the world, which says something extraordinary about Leiden University. As the oldest university in the Netherlands it is also at the very forefront of theory and practice, at the cutting edge of contemporary gender and sexual orientation issues that have deep impact on society.   

“This is a very unique Chair, focused not just on diversity and inclusion which are broad themes, but very specifically focused on a particular group of people in a particular place – namely, the workplace,”  says  Prof. Dr. van der Toorn, who has held the Workplace Pride Chair since 1 January 2017.

With such a specific title, what is the important distinction between diversity and inclusiveness?  “When we talk about diversity we are talking about numbers – how many women, or people with a particular sexual preference or race or other group-based characteristic are in the workplace,” she says. “When we talk about inclusivity, it is whether all those people with diverse backgrounds feel safe, included, and like they belong. You can only get the benefit of diversity – different perspectives and insights – if you have inclusivity. It’s the secret to successful diversity management.”

Adding multidisciplinary breadth

Prof. Dr. Van der Toorn is a member of the Leiden University Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences – a new perspective for the student teams (UniQorn, The Bumblebees, NOTA, and The Chameleons) who had taken on the case. “In my guest lecture I came very much from a social psychological standpoint to try to give students the theoretical tools they could use in thinking about how one might practically go about reducing sexual and gender bias in an organisation,” she says. “For International Studies students this was a whole new approach, because they are used to thinking in terms of policy rather than psychology.”

Ultimately the teams’ solutions, presented during final pitches on 12 May 2017, ranged widely:  from apps to assess how progressive companies and regions are in terms of LGBT inclusivity; to creating academic networks valorising the latest research into inclusivity for the benefit of business; to fostering acceptance within organisations via social functions. Ultimately Team Bumblebees’ comprehensive sexual education (CSE) approach, in which through incentives, Workplace Pride’s  international partner organisations pay local NGOs to carry out CSE, was the winning pitch.

“Very good work,” said Mr. Pollard after the final pitches. “The Bumblebees will be invited to give their presentation to the Workplace Pride Board so we can see if we can actually implement this approach – that is how good I thought their advice was.” All the team reports will be shared with the Workplace Pride Board.

PRINS 2017: Connecting to the interest of students

All six consultancy cases in PRINS 2017 were created to challenge, inspire, motivate and ultimate create rapid professional/personal development in BA students; but they were also ‘curated’ in a sense, to match the expressed interests of the 3rd year International Studies students who put so much energy into creating solutions for organisations such as Workplace Pride. Daring to address what could be considered a sensitive issue in many workplace cultures indicates the relevance and strong connection to real-world issues that characterises PRINS.   

“I have to say that on some level, I am most proud that we have had this workplace inclusion case,” says Dr. Sarita Koendjbiharie. “Our students showed a strong interest in this topic, and simply having this case signifies that as a programme and a faculty, we feel it is important to co-create knowledge and connect the interests of the student to the greater world.”

Last Modified: 14-06-2017