More than 70 countries criminalize consensual same-sex acts between adults, and LGBTQ+ individuals are often faced with significant discrimination, stigma, and violence. Recognizing that LGBTQ+ development professionals work in many of these countries and carry concerns about safety and security, Chemonics established an LGBTQ+ employee resource group (ERG), ChemPRIDE, which partners with the company’s security department to ensure that LGBTQ+ staff have the information they need to understand the risks of specific assignments overseas. From this experience, we found that establishing a strong partnership between the ERG and security department was crucial for minimizing the very real risks faced by LGBGTQ+ travelers.
If your organization doesn’t already have ERGs, consider starting with an LGBTQ+ ERG. Broadly, ERGs can build understanding around the experiences that various identity groups face within an organization. For example, ChemPRIDE works to create a welcoming , affirming, and empowering atmosphere for its global workforce so staff members can achieve their full potential. Ultimately, our ERG encourages employees to bring their authentic selves to work regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual characteristics. This work can include internal policy updates and changes.
As part of ChemPRIDE’s partnership with Chemonics’ security department, ChemPRIDE developed an LGBTQ+ sensitivity training for all security team members and continues to work on developing accessible travel resources. In turn, our security department made immediate changes to its practices as a result of this collaboration, such as updating an internal security risk assessment template to include risk assessments for LGBTQ+ staff, incorporating criminalization risk maps and other LGBTQ+ security information in security briefings, and conducting outreach and benchmarking efforts with other companies’ security staff to enhance our efforts.
From this work, ChemPRIDE learned several lessons about approaching safety and security advocacy for employees across the spectrum of gender, sexuality, and sexual characteristics.
Once you’ve established an ERG, consider establishing a safety and security officer position within it. ChemPRIDE has a multipronged governance structure with officers that lead each workstream, such as Outreach and Engagement, Global Workforce, Policies and Procedures, Marketing and Communications, and Professional Development. Our safety and security officer is the liaison between Chemonics’ security department, the ERG, and other stakeholders, ensuring that we cultivate better trust and understanding by engaging in an open and constructive dialogue around the risks associated with traveling around the world as an LGBTQ+ individual.
Determine if the ERG has existing subject matter expertise to provide an LGBTQ+ sensitivity training for the security team. Use the ERG to facilitate a training focused on establishing a common understanding of LGBTQ+ terms and experiences. Security staff are often a first touch point for staff members before they travel to higher-risk locations, and this training session enables them to use a lexicon that LGBTQ+ staff will recognize as inclusive and supportive of their experiences during pre-departure briefings and other interactions. Be sure your training session focuses on LGBTQ+ sensitivity and includes content that will inform LGBTQ+ employees’ security briefings, such as criminalization, stigma, and acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQ+ individuals worldwide. If your ERG does not have the expertise to facilitate these training, organizations such as Out & Equal and the Human Rights Campaign can serve as valuable resources.
Use your ERG to amplify the visibility of LGBTQ+ resources for travelers. While Chemonics’ security department is highly engaged in providing support to staff, the ERG can serve as a resource to vet guidance for LGBTQ+ travelers and can amplify those resources as appropriate. At Chemonics, employees access internal resources via our intranet. Having the ERG provide relevant resources on their landing page facilitates access to the materials without having to come out to the team providing them. Ideally, these resources should be readily available to all travelers, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or risk associated with their travel destination.
Engage your ERG members to build the capacity of your security team by practicing, role-playing, and re-training staff to provide effective security briefings with an LGBTQ+ perspective. For instance, ChemPRIDE participated in mock pre-departure briefings, in which an LGBTQ+ individual role plays a traveler, while the security team responds to questions about the risks of being out of the closet during the assignment. By doing so, ChemPRIDE created a learning space in which security staff receive feedback, engage with the LGBTQ+ employees and ERG members, and update resources and training as needed. Chemonics’ security department constantly reflects on the best ways to support all staff through continual learning and adaptation. Through this collaboration, we can provide responsive resources that meet the needs of our diverse population.
Your ERG is a great resource, so ensure that members have a platform to connect with one another — with the clear understanding that security incidents must be raised through the right channels. ERGs can generate great informal networks and friendships. These networks are useful for sharing experiences between LGBTQ+ travelers, therein strengthening their ability to recognize safety and security risks from a real perspective, while benefiting from aforementioned corporate resources. For instance, if an employee is being fielded to Colombia, the ERG could connect them with other LGBTQ colleagues who have spent time working in-country for informal recommendations or precautions. Your security team will reap the benefits of these informal conversations, as they become an avenue to collect real-time information from the ground. Creating an intentional partnership between your ERG and your company’s security team can help minimize risk for LGBTQ+ travelers, while generating a forum for greater inclusion, with the understanding that inclusive resources require continual improvement and input. ChemPRIDE’s top priority is its members’ safety — while ensuring our colleagues feel empowered to be themselves, care for themselves, and reach out and advocate for themselves. We hope ERGs at other companies, particularly in the development community, find these lessons helpful in their approach to LGBTQ+ sensitive safety and security.
On Tuesday, October 15 at 1:30 p.m., Chemonics will present on the safety and security of LGBTQ+ employees in the global context at the Out and Equal 2019 Workplace Summit in Washington, D.C. Presenters will include Global Safety and Security Director Christina Johnson, Recruitment Manager James Legerme, and Recruitment Manager and Outreach and Engagement Officer of ChemPRIDE Poulami Banerji. The panel will be moderated by Adrián González, Chemonics’s corporate diversity and inclusion manager and co-chair of ChemPRIDE. View the full summit agenda here.