Meet Out & Equal’s New Thought-Partner

Research, across the board, shows that inclusion and belonging are key to advancing business strategies, driving brand loyalty, and attracting and retaining talent. Simply put: inclusion and belonging are smart business practices.

This is why our partnership with Windō the innovative platform for accessing, reviewing and comparing organizations’ sustainability data (environmental impact, DEI and employee well-being), matters now more than ever.

In our conversation with Ken Janssens (he/him), Co-Founder and Head of Social Impact for Windō, he discusses his career journey, the value of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), and how companies with a clear purpose that go beyond profit margins are more attractive to talent, especially Gen Z.

How did you come to partner with Out & Equal and what initially drew you in?

Well, my story with Out & Equal began at my first Workplace Summit 10 years ago in San Francisco. I still remember the moment vividly – coming up the escalators in the convention centre and seeing three thousand other ERG leaders all under one roof. I was in absolute awe. Like so many others experiencing their first Out & Equal Workplace Summit, it was a life-changing moment that equipped me with the tools and inspiration to create positive change back in the workplace. Then, two years after joining the Board of Directors in 2016, I served for three and a half years as board chair.

Even after stepping down from the Board two years ago, I’ve maintained a close relationship with the Out & Equal team. And so, when we created Windō, I knew that LGBTQ+ DEI data was going to be a big piece. So, as we brought our platform to market, Out & Equal was the natural partner for us. Our extensive DEI data complements Out & Equal’s expertise in fostering workplaces of belonging.

Speaking of DEI, how did you come to realize that you wanted your work to be driven by the mission of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

I reached a point in my career where I realized it was time to give back. When I arrived in Brazil as a head of technology for Latin America at a major financial institution, I realized soon, in an office of 1000 employees, that I was the only openly LGBTQ employee.

A few weeks passed, and I thought if I don’t do anything, no one else will.

So, I launched the organization’s first Latin America LGBTQ+ ERG. This led to similar ERGs being created in Argentina, Mexico, Chile, and Colombia. That was really the start of my journey of being focused on DEI, leading me to join the board of Out & Equal and eventually to co-found Windō where our mission is helping talent find the right employer for them.

And this is where the data and transparency are especially important. Representation and recognition matter, and one cannot over-emphasize the importance of out, visible senior leaders in a company.

Many LGBTQ+ individuals have the privilege of choosing whether to disclose their identity in the Workplace or not. While working in the corporate world, I would often speak to LGBTQ+ executives, peers of mine, and reflect on how easily one can forget their own initial struggles and lose sight of the need to give back to rising LGBTQ+ talent in the workplace, and that needs to be activated.

Allyn Shaw (he/him), current Out & Equal Board Chair, put it well. I distinctly remember him saying, “diverse executives should not pull the ladder up behind themselves.” And I think it’s such an important point. And that applies to all diverse groups, LGBTQ+ included.

There have been a lot of pushbacks on DEI, especially as of late. What is your response to this pushback?

It is a very vocal, well-organized, but small minority. At Windō, we are constantly monitoring the data of the 500 of the largest companies in the world and can clearly see that companies are continuing their DEI journey. They’re not only continuing, but they also making progress, and many are sticking with targets. It is a difficult environment, but companies will get through this.

Any company that wants to win the war for talent has no choice but to be very transparent. You may have come across a phrase, “what gets measured gets done.” At Windō, we firmly believe what gets reported gets done. When companies publicly share their targets and progress, it allows the entire organization to rally around the effort.

Ultimately, a company should represent the communities they serve. At a very basic level, it leads to better problem-solving. If you put people all from the same background in the same room, you will get “Groupthink,” where everyone is thinking similarly. Having different opinions and points of view leads to better problem-solving and ensures no blind spots are overlooked. Diversity not only matters; diversity works.

For Gen Z people who are just starting to enter the workforce, and LGBTQ+ individuals in particular, what advice do you have for them when they are looking for employment or seeking out organizations?

Do not compromise on being out, not for a single day. Life is too short to work for a company where you’re not sure if you can be out and accepted. I spent the first three years being in the closet at work, and I do not want a single person to have to do that in 2024.

Do your homework and find the right employer. Windō is a great platform to do that.

Lastly, how do you define the “Business of belonging?”

It’s when you know that you wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. For me, that was JPMorgan Chase for 25 years. I was allowed to bring my full self to work, thrive, and rise through the ranks.

I think that’s ultimately what belonging is about, that you literally don’t want to work anywhere else.