Last Monday February 12th the GLBTA Affinity Network 2018 was kicked off with a launch event for the GLBTA (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Allies) Avio Aero hub and I was amazingly pleased to present it in my new role of GLBTA Hub Leader to all the attendees. In fact, I just started, last July 2017, my professional adventure in Avio Aero as the Supplier Quality Engineer Focal for the GE9X Program. Prior to joining Avio Aero, I completed the Operations Management Leadership Program (OMLP) across some GE Aviation’s sites in the UK. It was there, in Wales, that I joined for the very first time the GLBTA Aviation committee and played an important role in educating and setting up hubs in all the UK Aviation sites I worked at during OMLP.
Last Monday though, the event was broadcasted live from the Rivalta Auditorium and was aimed at introducing the GLBTA Affinity Network: shared LGBT statistics, showcased the 2018 roadmap, and informed employees on how to show support and create more inclusive work environments. And now, throughout this article, I’m happy to reach out for those about magazine readers who may not have ever heard about a GLBTA Avio Aero hub, but probably bumped into GLBTA topics published here.
Frequent questions from people who discover the hub for the first time use to be: why does GE have Affinity Networks? Surely homophobia, sexism, racism, and other prejudices are a thing of the past? Whilst Italy and many other parts of world are making great strides in eliminating and banning prejudice, there are still many global challenges and inequality. GE’s affinity network model has helped the company attract and develop diverse talent to tackle these global tough challenges. These teams are self-managed and propelled by the goodwill of employees, bringing tremendous value to GE and to the many communities around the world where GE’s employees live and operate.
The GLBTA Affinity Network promotes a space where everyone can show their support for LGBT employees and discuss issues important to this community through educational sessions, professional development events, recruiting, and many other activities – and that’s no exception in Avio Aero. The vision is to create an always more inclusive workplace where everyone is empowered to fully participate and grow their careers while helping GE businesses succeed. Our seminar at Rivalta, for instance, started with a small quiz on LGBT statistics in Italy. Some key national figures we shared are quite impressive and perhaps unknown to some readers: homosexuality was legalised in Italy in 1890; the Italian parliament invoked anti-discrimination laws (for employment only) in 2003; same-sex couples were recognized for the first time by law in 2016 (e.g. cohabitation or civil union); since 1947 LGB (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual) can serve openly in the Italian Army; since 2001 MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) can donate blood; and the same-sex couples adoption is not allowed by the Italian law. Remarkably, Italy is one of the leaders for LGBT rights across Europe, being one of the first countries to legalise homosexuality (for example: The United Kingdom fully decriminalised in 1982; Germany in 1969; Spain in 1979). Nevertheless, there is a long journey ahead to achieve acceptance, equality, and discrimination protection.
Looking at some statistics worldwide, homosexual behaviour is still illegal in 73 countries, including 8 countries sentencing the death penalty. And regarding the workplace, studies have shown roughly 48% of LGB colleagues remain “closeted” (keep their sexuality secret) and 83% of LGB colleagues are “covering” (make efforts to alter their identity such as appearance and behaviours to that of social ‘norms’). The reasons employees hide their sexual orientation are deeply personal and extremely complex, and they vary from person to person. Nonetheless, fear of damaging their career progression underlies that decision. GE is very clear that discrimination has no place inside GE, and employees will be evaluated solely on their performance. GE wants colleagues who bring their authentic-selves to work, to be happy, and to deliver results.
In 2018, the GLBTA Avio Aero hub is dedicated to growing the committee dream-team, holding more frequent events including soft-skills training, and expanding senior leaderships exposure. Above all, administering an environment of tolerance, candour, and wellness with a zero-tolerance policy to discrimination, LGBT related or other.
Perhaps one of the most important factors of the GLBTA Affinity Network is the ‘A’ – Allies. Allies are individuals who do not identify as LGBT whilst advocating that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons should experience full equality in the workplace. Additionally, they have the farsightedness to see social justice and fight for it in spite of unpopularity or social cost. Allies can show support through many different means: joining the GLBTA Network; attending GLBTA events; using inclusive language; challenging preconceptions, jokes, rumours, & biases; joining the GLBTA committee.
It should come as no surprise that more diverse and inclusive companies are achieving better results. The world is becoming increasingly global, competitive, and interconnected, where leadership teams are taking advantage to the many benefits of a diverse workforce. Attracting, developing, mentoring, sponsoring, and retaining the next generation of leaders is of up-most importance, especially to GE and Avio Aero.
Inclusion brings diversity. Diversity brings imagination to work.