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  • Writer's pictureDiego Tomasino

Zero Discriminatio: Utopia or Reality?

This article was originally written for SUMARSE PANAMÁ, in March 2022, with the title: "0 discrimination: the great opportunity for societies to build a fairer, more equitable and sustainable world"

A year and a half ago I published my first book “Come Out! Las empresas también tienen que salir del clóset”. At first glance, it is a book focused on how to build more diverse and inclusive organizations, incorporating some of the SDGs such as number 5 (Gender Equality) and 10 (Reduction of Inequalities). As I was writing it, I was pretty sure that my readers would mainly be the leaders of the companies that are shaping the future of Latin America.


However, some weeks after its publication, I received a message on Instagram that made me realize the impact of telling my story:


"Hi Diego. Sorry if I bother you. I wanted to know if I could ask you for some advice. My name is Pedro, I am 23 years old and I live in El Salvador. Well, I think it's unnecessary to tell you that I'm gay. But this is something I have struggled with all my life. I grew up with a lot of insecurities. That everything that was "like that" was a sin and God was going to punish me. My family became suspicious when I was 13 years old, and I always felt contempt from them, even though I denied my sexuality…”

Since that day, Pedro felt confident to text me sharing his fears and insecurities, but also his wishes and desires. In every word I could read his anxiety to leave the house he shared with his “parents”. This people only cared about destroying his self-esteem with insults and even blows, while they forced him to give almost all his salary to support them, because he had to. He needed to pay them for forgiveness, to say sorry for his "abomination." He had to pay them for being gay. Pay for being authentic. Pay for being human.


Pedro's case is not isolated. It is the reality of thousands of young people who are kicked out of their homes when they decide to come out of the closet and try to live their true lives. And this gets worse when we add to this reality the situation of poverty, or responsibilities that are added to fulfill gender stereotypes, such as women who cannot study because they have to take care of the home because it is their mandate. Pedro was the man of the house, and he was never going to be a "good man" enough if he continued down "that path." You can't imagine how many talks it took for Pedro to be able to say "IT´S ENOUGH" and leave one night hearing insults and threats at his back.


Discrimination and fear of diversity is so ingrained in our culture that it permeates all institutions. From the family to the universities, from religion to companies. What scares me the most is not “today", but the "future". These situations only perpetuate a generation of people that ends up holding back and consuming themselves in thoughts of “what would have happened if…?


I always celebrate when countries pass anti-discrimination legislation, or laws in favor of the LGBTQ+ community and women. However, although laws can mark a milestone and start the transformation, it is necessary a structural change in society to eliminate the fear.


And here the private sector becomes key.


Companies have become agents of change, so they have a moral obligation to cover situations of injustice in those countries where social rights have not yet arrived.

Now, the question we must ask ourselves is “How do we lighten that fear?”




EDUCATING SOCIETY

Having inclusion and anti-discrimination policies brings benefits both for the company and for its individuals:




And just to mention some of the economic benefits, businesses with DEI policies have 19% more revenue[1];; and generate 2.3 times more cash flow per employee during a period of 3 years[2]..



MAKING VISIBLE

Companies need to show that a possible future without discrimination and diversity is possible. For that they need to take courage and proudly announce when they truly live by the values ​​of inclusion.


Let's show women in C-level positions, let's support the hiring of trans people, let's talk to the communities of Indigenous People, let's expand our recruitment channels, let's think about the accessibility of people, let's make alliances with NGOs, let's lose the fear of saying "This has always been done like this" and break the status quo.


Today is the opportunity to do something different and with a real impact on people's lives.



TAKING ACTION

Creating spaces free of discrimination is an everyday task. That is why I conceptualized the "Inclusive Routine", based on 5 steps that can be added to every leader´s agenda:


1. Identify issues that may affect diverse talent.

2. Update policies and benefits.

3. Review diversity trainings, covering gender and sexual orientation issues.

4. Respect and guarantee the privacy of the personnel.

5. Empower new generations of diversity leadership.


This can be achieved if we work on people's self-awareness, through executive coaching techniques, and applying some techniques that strengthen the organizational culture, such as active listening and assertive communication.


I am convinced that if we manage to apply these three steps technique (EDUCATING SOCIETY-MAKING VISBLE-TAKING ACTION), we will be able to exponentially enhance the transformational change that the Latin American reality is crying out for.


It is not only the voice of Pedro who shouts out "IT’S ENOUGH!", it is the voice of all the people who seek to be authentic and who fight for a future with opportunities of all shapes and colors.




Obs. The names and cities were adapted to protect the identity of the people mentioned.

[1] Harvard Business Review (2018). How and Where Diversity Drives Financial Performance. (online) https://hbr.org/2018/01/how-and-where-diversity-drives-financial-performance.Fecha de consulta: 02/02/2020 [2] Deloitte 2015. High-Impact Talent Management (online) https://www2.deloitte. com/us/en/pages/human-capital/topics/bersin-hr-news-events.html Fecha de consul- ta: 12/04/2020

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