by Selisse Berry
As we commemorate Pride month, it’s a great time to both celebrate our hard-won victories in advancing workplace equality and recommit to ensuring opportunity and inclusion for LGBT people both in the U.S. and around the world.
Last week, I traveled to Prague to deliver the keynote address for a regional workplace equality summit that Out & Equal co-organized. The event, entitled Pride Business Forum: Out & Equal in Central Eastern Europe, brought together business leaders from throughout the region to discuss strategies for advancing workplace diversity and inclusion in Central and Eastern Europe.
Our event couldn’t have taken place at a more important time. While many Czech LGBT people and allies consider the Czech workplace to be relatively tolerant, the fact is that 81 percent of Czech LGBT people are still in the closet at work – and that’s actually an improvement over a few years ago. And while more LGBT people are coming out at work in the Czech Republic, discrimination in the workplace is also on the rise – so clearly we have work to do!
Fortunately, more and more dedicated LGBT and ally leaders, corporations, and non-profit advocates committed to diversity and inclusion are stepping forward to ensure that LGBT employees have safe and inclusive places to work throughout the region.
As a designated speaker for the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Embassy in Prague set up meetings for me with universities, government officials and LGBT leaders to discuss LGBT issues in the region and around the world. I met with LGBT employee resource group leaders at IBM, AT&T and Vodafone in both Prague and Brno, in eastern Czech Republic. We discussed the challenges and opportunities facing LGBT people in the workplace in Eastern Europe and I shared some ideas and inspiration for creating more out and equal workplaces. I sat down with an LGBT student group from Charles University at the Embassy’s “American Center” and met with a Fulbright Scholar and Gender Studies professor at Masaryk University. And I discussed the challenges and opportunities facing LGBT people in the Czech Republic with both non-profit leaders and representatives from the government’s Department of Human Rights and Protection of Minorities. It was a very busy and productive week!
I’m so pleased that Out & Equal was able to partner with our friends at Pride Business Forum to provide a platform to bring together leaders from dozens of corporations and from more than half a dozen countries to discuss strategies and share best practices for advancing LGBT workplace equality in the region. We continue to receive enthusiastic feedback on the content of the event, and with more than 60 percent newcomers at this year’s Forum, we’re excited that our message is reaching new audiences as well.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the great work of former Out & Equal Fellow Czeslaw Walek, who is the Chairman of Prague Pride, and the entire Prague Pride organization. It was a pleasure to work with them in producing this year’s Pride Business Forum and we wish them great success in the marriage campaign that they’ve just launched in the Czech Republic!