(IM)PART Country Implementation

Private sector engagement for LGBTQI inclusion is nothing new to the LGBTQI movement; however, civil society organizations have always carried the language of human rights. While human rights should always be upheld, there is also a need to find strategic ways in which the values behind human rights can resonate with the workplaces being engaged.

(IM)PART: Advocating for LGBTQI Social and Economic Inclusion is built on the achievements, experiences, reflections and lessons learned during the implementation of Finance Inc. It aims to consolidate and expand on the achievements of, and integrate lessons and reflections from implementation of Finance Inc. It aims to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goal of leaving no one behind and increase social and economic inclusion of LGBTQI people and communities through engaging the Asian Development Bank and the private sector/businesses in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, the Philippines, and Thailand.

The project aimed for increased awareness on LGBTQI issues and contributed to increased diversity and inclusion as reflected in policies, practices, spaces, and activities in the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the private sector/businesses Babaylanes implemented the in-country components of (IM)PART in the Philippines.

Babaylanes also participated in regional activities related to (IM)PART as convened by APCOM, particularly in engaging the ADB for SOGIESC-inclusive policies during the updating of ADB’s safeguards policies

Through the IMPART project, the language shifted towards Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity (DE&I), a value that can serve as common ground for both civil society groups and businesses. Businesses began to value DE&I as studies, cases, and narratives of DE&I leading to business development and employee well-being were presented. This framework became the center of training and development of policies and programs for LGBTQI inclusion.

Engagements usually start with SOGIESC as a framework of understanding not just LGBTQI people, but everyone’s experiences along the lines of gender and sexuality. Given that everyone has SOGIESC, everyone’s day-to-day lives are affected by inequalities, and everyone has a stake in the fight for greater gender equality. Narratives of stigma and discrimination in the workplace, gathered through research, are brought out to clarify and break misconceptions about the community and gather empathy from potential champions of equality. Policy recommendations are then developed together with the employees themselves to make their respective workplaces safer for everyone. This ensures that the pedagogy does not lean on banking them with information but acts as moderators, allowing them to freely participate in the activities.

In one of the companies engaged, policy recommendations were developed together with the employees and individual contributors. These recommendations were then reported to the management, HR, and executives for approval after another session of SOGIESC and DE&I training. Another strategy employed to gain approval was to identify a facilitator or carrier of the key messages who the executives would listen to. Carriers of key messages, especially in lobbying activities, should be someone with qualities the audience values so that messages can resonate. For this event, one of the pioneers of the movement was chosen, who also happens to belong to the same age group and experiences, bridging the demands of the employees with the sensibilities of the executives. Fortunately, this was fruitful as the policy recommendations were approved, with even the CEO of the company participating in the DE&I research wherein his quote promoting DE&I is also featured.

In this research entitled, “An In-Depth Exploration of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policies, Programs, and their Impact on Employee Well-Being and Organizational Development in the Philippines,” Babaylanes examined the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices of four major companies in the Philippines. It showcased model DEI practices, highlighted their impact on employees and organizational success, uncovered challenges in implementing DEI policies, and provided recommendations for companies interested in implementing DEI.

During office visits as part of our data collection, an initiative called “pot-pot” was found, where employees can press a button whenever they encounter microaggressions. Microaggression is one of the common stigmatizing practices encountered in the workplace, but it is often unintended and a manifestation of unconscious bias. Through this initiative, instances of microaggressions can be confronted in a casual way.

The biggest challenge encountered in engaging the private sector is that companies and workplaces are very diverse, with different industries, sizes, structures, and cultures. With that, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and even the way DE&I is discussed should be adjusted to fit the realities of the particular company. Prior to engagement, there is a need to learn their particularities as well. Employee resource groups within these companies serve as mediators, helping understand the context of their respective workplaces and possible approaches which could and could not work.

Working together with these groups and other LGBTQI persons in the private sector has also been strategic even for us. During this project, we worked together with the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce in organizing the Inclusive Philippines Business Summit. This event gathered people from different industries and different sectors to build commitment towards making the workforce inclusive of everyone of different backgrounds

Even government institutions are starting to join us in this endeavor. We have engaged the Department of Labor and Employment – Institute of Labor Studies, wherein we had SOGIESC training, Safe Spaces act discussions, and training on LGBTQI research. We have also engaged other government institutions such as the Quezon City local government and the Philippine Statistics Authority – both who are committed to institutionalizing gender-fair practices in their work.

It is hoped that more workplaces will be more open to LGBTQI groups, as many other LGBTQI organizations carry diverse stories and narratives which also need to be heard. Furthermore, these companies should continue engaging LGBTQI communities so that more workplaces can jumpstart their DE&I programs, as there are costs to economic exclusion and businesses have more to gain than lose.