As you know, Out & Equal’s efforts to advance LGBT workplace equality know no geographical bounds. During a recent trip to Portugal, I had the opportunity to meet more than 20 business, academic, government, and NGO leaders to discuss LGBT workplace equality issues. It was an important reminder what an important resource our organization’s 20 years of experience can be as groups and businesses take new steps to promote welcoming workplaces around the world. Below are some highlights and reflections from my recent trip to Portugal with our Director of Global Initiatives, Steve Roth.

  • Greg Macris, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon, spoke with me about the Lisbon1embassy’s efforts to engage with and support the LGBT community in Portugal. It was fascinating to hear him and his team describe some of the challenges and opportunities facing the LGBT community in Portugal, from lack of awareness and visibility on one side to progressive laws and a more accepting younger generation on the other. 
  • One of the themes from my discussion with Portuguese LGBT researchers & professors was the need to more fully mainstream the LGBT community into the broader culture in Portugal. Again, a lack of visibility emerged as an ongoing challenge. Sadly, they informed me that in Portugal, the workplace tends to be one of the last places where people come out of the closet. In response, I noted the importance of have “out” role models in the business community. We also discussed the potential for collaboration with other groups and leaders across movements and demographics, to achieve strength through solidarity.
  • We had a fruitful meeting with a dozen local LGBT business and community leaders to discuss the potential intersections of business and civil society to advance LGBT equality in Portugal. I shared insights on the best ways to bring together the interests of small businesses with major corporations and LGBT ERGs to collectively advance LGBT equality in Portugal.
  • I was honored to meet with Portugal’s Secretary for Equality and Citizenship, Catarina Marcelino, and the Vice President of the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality, Carlos Duarte. Secretary Marcelino coauthored the proposal to create the National Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, as well as a law to provide protection from discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The roundtable culminated in a thoughtful discussion on how the community can work together to combat discrimination and raise visibility for LGBT people in Portugal.

The many meetings, roundtables, and events of the past several days underscored both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the LGBT community in Portugal. They also provided an excellent opportunity to share the learnings that Out & Equal has amassed over more that 20 years advancing workplace equality in the U.S. and around the world, and to build relationships that will help to advance workplace equality in Portugal in the months and years to come.