How to foster inclusion through support for the LGBTQIA+ community?
Celebrating the International Pride Month and Pride Day on June 24th at HEC Paris is an opportunity to look back at all that have been achieved over the academic year to move toward more inclusiveness whether on campus, in the workplace and more generally in society. Discover how HEC students, professors and staff members have committed to the LGBTQIA+ community (also known as QUILTBAG+) in 2023 under our “think-teach-act" motto.
Auteur/Author of this article: Frédéric Voirin
With classes wrapping up and most students leaving after the graduation ceremony, we preempted our pride march and held it a month earlier, on May 6th! By living on campus full-time and forming a rich community of over 130 nationalities and as many social and cultural backgrounds, students have the opportunity to celebrate, experience, and enhance the values of diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the academic year. Both faculty and staff strongly encourage this engagement, as we see it as part of the endeavor of excellence, essential qualities for future leaders and responsible global citizens.
How to be a good ally
Yentl YANG, president of the LGBTQ+ MBA Club, Yasmine GUEMMAZ, president of HEC for Equality and Nolwenn TATON, HEC transgender president of IN&OUT and all students involved in DEI projects are proud of their achievements. After having organized various awareness events in 2022/23 on Campus, Yentl YANG explains that “during this amazing month the LGBTQIA+ community at HEC will definitely celebrate, but we’ve engaged ourselves as students during the whole year. We appreciate the uniqueness in each of us. And in the next phase of our path, we can use our influence, as future leaders, to make the society more comfortable and joyful for everyone”.
“We can use our influence, as future leaders, to make the society more comfortable and joyful for everyone." (Yentl YANG, president of the HEC LGBTQIA+ MBA Club)
At HEC Paris, we are fortunate to have 5 student-led clubs engaged on matters of diversity: 2 focusing on the women empowerment (HEC Women in Leadership Club, HEC Women in Business) and 3 dedicated to gender-related topics (HEC for Equality, HEC MBA LGBTQIA+ Club and the first historic IN&OUT Club, established in 1999 as one of the first-ever LGBT student club in France and still actively engaged at HEC). This results in an active community leading workshops, conferences or other festive events, on and off-campus, all year long.
The HEC Paris LGBTQIA+ Community was highly active in 2023. One notable achievement was the production of a new guide by IN&OUT, aiming at addressing gender-related inquiries and providing advice on how to be a good ally to the LGBTQIA+ people. Although there is significant public support for the queer community, a considerable number of individuals are afraid to come out publicly because they fear homophobia and transphobia. This fear is particularly strong in France. Indeed, two 2021 studies by YouGov found that 42% of French people would not react positively if a close relative came out as homosexual/bisexual. At 54%, the figure is even higher for transgender/non-binary people coming out. With these numbers, France is the least inclusive country in the study compared to other European industrialized nations.
In the current landscape, this guide serves as an invaluable resource, offering ways to support queer people in their daily lives, from practical insights on how to deal with outings, making your language more inclusive to how to react to homophobic or discriminatory behaviors.The IN&OUT HEC Students explained their project: “We believe that HEC Paris is a great place to spread diversity and inclusiveness because people come from all over the world to study here and then go back to many different countries to work. Therefore, we hope that this guide can help you to become great allies to queer people in both your personal and professional lives”
In an interview of December 2022 about student life at HEC Paris, Nolwenn TATON underscored the significant emphasis placed on “prevention on campus on issues of homophobia, transphobia, and the fight against discrimination in general". She continues "We work with the BDE (student council) and the administration to organize conferences and workshops. We also have a “watchdog” role: students can come to us when they witness violence. Our aim is to make sure that everything runs smoothly on campus for everyone. The association is also setting up a mentoring program so that LGBT students coming out of school can exchange ideas with LGBT people already integrated into the working world.”
To ensure widespread awareness within all student populations, our MBA second LGBT Club orchestrated a momentous HEC Pride Parade on Campus on May 6th at the end of the biggest MBA event in Europe: the HEC Paris MBAT (international sport tournament with over 1500 participants).
Inclusiveness at work
With the goal of preparing our students for their future careers, where they will interact with individuals from diverse social and economic backgrounds, including people of color, LGBTQIA+ staff members, individuals with disabilities, and those with various religious beliefs, HEC Prof. Matteo Winkler, professor of international law and human rights and co-chair of the HEC Diversity Committee runs the HEC DiversiTalks and Diversity@Work conferences.
Launched in 2017, these panels invite professionals from HEC corporate partners (L’Oréal, LVMH, Kering, Mazars, CapGemini, Bain, EY, Accor, among others), Alumni and Human resources experts. They come to share their experiences, current data, actual trends and best practices with HEC Students to help them become inclusive leaders, to maximize the awareness about LGBTQIA+ staff members and how to be authentic at work. These events empower HEC students to express their identities, address doubts, and set expectations before entering their future working environments. They foster a sense of belonging, aligning personal and professional lives, and enabling students to thrive authentically in their careers.
Now taking an off-campus perspective, our DEI-dedicated HEC alumni Club DiversitéS celebrates its second anniversary. In 2023, they organized a series of diversity events in London, Paris and online focusing on HR-related panels such as “how diversity improves the workplace”, Woke Washism in companies and the 2023-Diversity Fresco, which integrated QUILTBAG+ related topics. In addition, they plan hundreds of our students & staff members to take part in the Pride Parades globally on June 24th.
Finally on June 13th, 2023, HEC Prof. Matteo Winkler led a Masterclass of Capgemini's award winning OUTfront Network: “Pride in Progress: What’s next for LGBT+inclusion?”. This international panel from Capgemini, Stonewall and HEC Paris explored the progress made in LGBT+ inclusion thus far, explaining where we are going next, and what challenges lie ahead - sharing perspectives from the workplace, non-profit and academic viewpoints.
Research with impact
Turning to research, the HEC faculty consistently tackles pertinent subjects through their articles and highlighted in a special report named “Why Diversity Matters”. These scholarly contributions not only benefit corporate companies but also extend their value to organizations across diverse sectors, facilitating a transformation in management practices. By addressing these topics, HEC aims to provide valuable insights that can assist companies of any nature in revamping their management habits. These include subjects such as the effects of pay transparency, how to be an inclusive leader. But more specifically on LGBTQIA+ content, areas such as the economic consequences of micro-aggressions against discriminated people, sexist AI bias, how brands can fight gender stereotypes in ads or why antidiscrimination laws are not enough to ensure inclusiveness.
HEC Law Prof. Matteo Winkler leads specific research and publications on LBGTQIA+ questions for our school, while also expanding his field of expertise on global human rights. Focusing especially on the emancipation and legal fairness for same-sex couples and queer people to get married, have families and just being considered equal and their rights to not be discriminated because of their sexual orientations in agreement with the European Convention for Human Rights (art.8 on the protection of private life).
A decade ago, he provided valuable insights about sexual discrimination and explained what the risks are for companies or why promoting diversity matters for individuals and businesses and reduces the quiet quitting phenomenon, as detailled by HEC Associate Professor in Management and Human Resources Dr. Shaheena JANJUHA-JIVRAJ.
Prof.Winkler believes that the law gives a person power and is a tool for change. He produces research with impact because he feels for the topics he chooses. He also teaches Diversity and Inclusion in order to help students make business and society more inclusive. In the HEC Tomorrow is our Business Podcast “I’m the voice of the vulnerable”, we discussed with Matteo on gender issues and how populist discourse hinders diversity and Louis Doumier, an HEC Paris MBA graduate and founder of the LGBTQ+ Business Club in 2016, talks about his actions in normalizing LGBTQ topics.
Maximize awareness inside and outside the classroom
DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) is an integral element of our programs. In line with this commitment, our CEMS joint-degree program has adopted a new scientific direction in 2022 that aligns learning objectives with DEI principles. Seminars and some of the classes within the program were built to address diversity through case study analysis and in-depth reviews of theories allowing students to explore different perspectives and gain knowledge based on current facts & trends.
Through teaching, we also work with our students, faculty and corporate partners in the classroom. We were able to pilot and co-construct new courses and workshops around DEI, rethinking brainstorming sessions with students. A course session entitled “Building Bridges: Speaking the Language of LGBTQ+” took place in March 2023, led by Prof. Matteo WINKLER and HEC Chief Diversity Officer Marcelle LALIBERTE, assisted by the MBA LGBTQ+ President Yentl YANG.
All of them have helped HEC students navigate free speech, social identities and understand the narratives on how to build an inclusive LGBTQIA+ culture. These initiatives provided a concise yet comprehensive overview of their fight for equal rights in both Western countries and more recently in Africa. Students were given the opportunity to gain historical insights into the progress made in advancing LGBTQIA+ rights. Moreover, HEC Law Prof. Winkler shed light on a notable and widely publicized case, highlighting the specific challenges faced by the discriminated athlete, Caster Semenya.
“We are dedicated to combating inequality and fostering an environment of understanding and acceptance” (Marcelle Laliberté, HEC Chief Diversity Officer)
For its non-academic approach, HEC Paris prioritizes the soft-skills development of its students. Since 2019, the institution has implemented a set of prevention and safety measures and procedures to support victims of discriminatory behavior, harassment or sexual or sexist violence. For each intake, various mandatory prevention sessions led by the Student Life Department and an e-learning course empower students to recognize and be informed about the 25 specific discrimination criteria in France. Student club members undergo training to address sexism or sexual violence, providing a supportive environment during campus events and parties, through our “Guardian Angels”. Their presence on campus multiplies the safe contacts – in addition to the student bar crews that are also specifically trained to respond - if students are looking for peers to discuss and assist them. HEC Paris is committed to fostering a safe and inclusive atmosphere where all individuals can thrive and find support within the campus community.
DIVERSITY AS A KEY VALUE OF THE EXCELLENCE OF HEC PARIS
For the Dean of HEC Paris, Eloïc Peyrache, “diversity is a key driver of the excellence of the institution, which is multidimensional: from diversity of opinions to diversity of origins through gender and social diversities”. The professor of Economics explains that “selecting talents from more than 130 different nationalities and being close to gender parity on campus is a great achievement but it’s still not enough. We first need to ensure a strongly inclusive culture based on tolerance, human respect and well-being". Let’s discover how we try our best to reach this goal at HEC Paris.
Since 2017, our DiversiTALKS conferences are thought-provoking opportunities to learn and share on the matter. These events regularly include specific Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer-Intersex-Asexual-GenderFluid related topics, present role models to our students and help everyone be authentic in professional and private environments. In addition, we hold an annual Diversity@Work conference series where we tackle the topic of recruitment and retention in an ever changing society, with the support of our Career Department, students of the HEC LGBTQIA+ clubs like our MBA LGBTQ+ club, HEC for Equality and IN&OUT - created in 1999 and remains one of the oldest LGBT-student-led associations in France!
“Diversity is a key driver of the excellence of HEC Paris” (Eloic Peyrache, Dean of HEC Paris & Professor of Economics)
The HEC Diversity Committee plays a pivotal role in driving organizational changes that foster an inclusive environment and by driving changes in the organization, from our common Charter for the respect of the whole HEC community, included in the Student Internal Regulation, to HR measures for our faculty and staff members. Upon joining HEC Paris, students, employees, faculty, alumni, and school leaders collectively endorse these agreements, underscoring their commitment to upholding and embodying the institution's values. This unwavering support extends to both on-campus and off-campus environments, ensuring that these shared values consistently inspire their conduct and interactions. Respect for the ideas, beliefs, and expressions of every individual is fundamental, and the exercise of free speech is conducted with careful consideration of HEC Paris' guiding principles and in accordance with French laws. Gender identities and sexual orientations are fundamental components of this respectful approach. As a demonstration of this commitment, in 2020 HEC joined the inter-company initiative #StOpE to fight against sexism and sexual violence at work.
Marcelle Laliberté, co-chair of the HEC Paris Diversity Committee and since 2021 Chief Diversity Officer, is in charge of the strategic orientations towards Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for our school. She explains that “HEC Paris is dedicated to combating inequality and fostering an environment of understanding and acceptance. Our students like our faculty are committed to ongoing research to deepen our understanding of diversity. Let's celebrate our achievements, like our commonly shared Charter of respect of the whole HEC community which is fully accepted”. Laliberté also emphasizes that "now we recognize our challenges and will continue to foster a culture where everyone feels valued and free to express themselves.”
HEC Paris consistently strives to uphold its commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and advances the principles of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, guided by its "think-teach-act" motto. 2023 has proven to be yet another year of notable progress for all HEC stakeholders in this realm. Students have proactively created a guide on being effective allies to LGBTQIA+ individuals, while professors have contributed thought-provoking insights on fostering a more inclusive economy. Furthermore, the unwavering support from HEC staff members and dedicated alumni has been instrumental in driving these DEI initiatives forward. Together, HEC Paris remains steadfast in its pursuit of cultivating an inclusive and equitable environment for all members of its community.
"Together, HEC Paris remains steadfast in its pursuit of cultivating an inclusive and equitable environment for all members of its community." (Marcelle LALIBERTE, HEC Chief Diversity Officer)
Go further with our HEC Paris Resources
Patel enjoyed a good taste of this diversity at the October event co-hosted by students in the LQBTQIA+ Club, the Awareness, LGBTQIA+& Allies Club and DiversiTALKS. The exchange centered on current challenges to ethical corporate DE&I. Its focus: how companies benefit from a DE&I approach in the context of a polarized world and the global crises in environmental and health domains. The exchange also discussed the hidden risks for companies which refuse to integrate a DE&I approach within the workplace.
Californian student Lynn Chui (H23) believes improvements in DEI can also be implemented "on a corporate level, but there’s no simple fix-it approach. Each organization, culture and geography has its own struggles and bosses to convince, as Ryan Patel says "each one needs a specific toolkit, requiring a personalized approach". It’s challenging but he shared with us several practical options.”