Out & Equal’s global work is a key growth area in our organization. And as the largest country in Latin America and one of the world’s largest economies, Brazil is a key player on the global stage and a strategic focus market for Out & Equal. We’re planning our third annual Brazil Forum there in November, and we’ve built strong relationships with many of the leaders in LGBTQ workplace inclusion in Brazil.
Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to São Paulo with our Senior Director of Global Initiatives Steve Roth to meet with many of those leaders and connect with many more companies, non-governmental organizations and individuals on the front lines of LGBTQ equality in Brazil.
What I saw and heard was inspiring.
While the workplace diversity and inclusion journey is newer in Brazil than in the United States, I felt an infectious passion, energy and commitment there to this work. I saw companies taking a stand for LGBTQ workplace inclusion even when their competitors were not. I heard LGBTQ ERG leaders talk about the importance of intersectionality – both learning from groups that paved the way for them and reaching out to give a helping hand to others who still lack equal representation in the Brazilian workplace. And I spoke with brave individuals like Bruno at Brazil’s largest bank, Banco Itaú, who have made the decision to come out and serve as role models for other LGBTQ and ally employees, even when they didn’t “need” to do it for themselves.
I also learned that Brazil, having weathered several years of political and economic turmoil, is seeing a rising religious evangelical movement and increasingly popular nationalist political figures that threaten the gains the LGBTQ community has made in recent years. This comes at a time when violent deaths of LGBTQ people in Brazil have hit an all-time high, with 445 deaths in 2017.
I returned home tremendously energized and inspired by the amazing LGBTQ inclusion work that is already blossoming in Brazil. But I’m also keenly aware that Out & Equal’s work there – and that of our partners and colleagues – is more urgent and important than ever.
As we gear up for our third annual Out & Equal Brazil Forum taking place on November 28 and 29, we will be building on all the insights that we gained and relationships that we strengthened during this last week in São Paulo. Working together, I know the business community and civil society can lead the way to advance LGBTQ workplace inclusion just like we’ve done together in the U.S. and other places around the world.