top of page

Leading the way on LGBTIQ people’s inclusion: the private sector experience

Leading the way on LBGT inclusion in the private sector

Yearly, there is a growing number of corporations showing their support for LGBTIQ people’s movement, suggesting for a community who has been for so long forced to hide in fear of violence and discrimination - a scenario that remains true in many parts of the world - that there is a move in the right direction, to more equality, visibility and respect to everyone regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics.

This move towards more support and inclusion can be seen also inside these corporations, with big companies such as Google and Dell having LGBTIQ leadership on their highest positions. This is not, however, the norm in most cases. The LGBTIQ community faces intersectional forms of discrimination beyond their diverse sexualities or genders, that form barriers on their way to the labour market. Even when able to overcome these barriers, LGBTIQ people are still subjected to discrimination in employment, a scenario that has been depend by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Although measures to address this situation should primarily be taken through public policies implemented by governments, the key role played by the private sector is undeniable. Corporations carry the responsibility to protect inclusion, including the rights of LGBTIQ persons, internally when developing policies that apply to their workplaces and supply chains, but also in the public sphere, as they are often strong actors and significant players working to achieve human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals.

In this session of the Queer Youth Dialogues, private sector representatives and young entrepreneurs engaged in a candid discussion about ways in which companies are leveraging their influence and advocacy to accelerate LGBTIQ equality and inclusion in the workplace and in the broader communities in which they operate. The discussion will focused on the needs for inclusive leadership, the value of queer owned businesses and generational shifts in consumer and labour market demands. The event also showcased concrete examples of initiatives aimed at furthering this agenda.

This event took place on Thursday, February 10th. You can view the recording of the panel discussion below.

Watch Panel:

Spanish Language Video to be live soon. Apologies for the technical error.

El video en español estará en vivo pronto. Disculpas por el error técnico.

You can download the transcript of the session here.


If you are interested in attending other sessions of The Queer Youth Dialogues, including sessions and opportunities not publicly advertised, you can sign up to our dedicated mailing list or join our Signal group.

Meet the panel

Moderator - Cody Freeman

Cody (all pronouns) is the Founder & Chief Executive Officer of The Global Center, an NGO that transforms the world through education for LGBTI+ youth globally. He is also a Lecturer at the Faculty of Learning Sciences & Education, Thammasat University in Thailand where they specialize in gender & sexuality studies, comparative & international education, democratic education, social movements, and sociology of education.

Panelist - Gurchaten Sandhu

Born to Panjabi Sikh working-class migrant parents in the UK, Gurchaten (Nanoo) Sandhu (he/they) is a Non-Discrimination Programme Officer at the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch.


Alongside their B.A. (HONS) in Economics and MSc in Development Economics, their passion for social justice has led him to focus his efforts on promoting the principle of non-discrimination in employment and occupation. Over the past 16 years, Gurchaten has built their expertise and knowledge on promoting social justice through quality, decent and inclusive work for all, in particular to enhance LGBTIQ+ rights at work and economic inclusion. They also find the time to volunteer as President for UN-GLOBE, the group representing LGBTIQ+ staff in the UN system. As its President, they work to ensure the voice and rights of LGBTIQ+ staff are represented in UN policies and procedures. They also serves as committee member of International Family Equality Day NGO, advising on non-discrimination based on family status in the world of work, a fellow of the Salzburg Global LGBT forum, a Sarbat LGBT Sikhs volunteer and a Board Advisor for We Create Space. Gurchaten is listed as the OUTStanding Executive LGBT Role Model for three consecutive years from 2018 to 2020, an Honouree of the Out & Equal’s 2021 Global LGBTQ Corporate Advocate Outie Award as well as the winner of the British LGBT Award for Exceptional Inclusion 2021.

Panelist - Mariana Bitterman

Mariana Bittermann (she/ her) is a German-Brazilian activist who has been involved in LGBTIQ* grassroot work for almost a decade now. She also frequently collaborates with city and state administrations for her various projects and she has worked for the Dortmund DiverseCity congress that connects corporations with civil society actors across the spectrum of marginalized identities. She is also a research assistant and master’s student of philosophy and political science focussing on LGBTIQ* rights and anti-democratic movements in Europe and Latin America.

Panelist - Gareth Whalley

Gareth describes himself as a human being with passions for language and beautiful design, and a personal purpose to make work life better for as many people as he can. He has spent 20 years in generalist and specialist HR leadership roles in a number of UK and multinational organizations. He joined The Coca-Cola Company in 2014, and moved to the Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team in 2019. Gareth is currently focused on inspiring a sense of inclusion, belonging and connection among the employees and other stakeholders of Coca-Cola worldwide. He’s principled and values-driven, a strong relationship builder, a safe space, a well-being advocate, and is determined to help people not take everything so seriously.

Panelist - Sarah Massey

Sarah Massey (she/ her) is freeQ's

co-founder. Sarah launched her first business, Massey Media LLC, in 2005 to serve the national civil rights movement with expert strategic communications. As a leader in LGBTQ+ and social justice organizing communities, Massey’s focus is advancing human rights. In her roles of organizing media events, protests, fundraisers, workshops, and LGBTQ+ dance parties at Mike Pence’s house, Massey is a master of implementing engaging events.

Panelist - Qiuyan Chen

Qiuyan Chen (she/ her), a Chinese LGBTQ+ rights activist, artist, social innovator and a member of the Global Advisory Committee at Equal Asia Foundation. She received "DIVA 2021 young entrepreneur award" and "London School of Economics foundership award 2021" for her social entrepreneurship journey of advocating an inclusive society. In 2019, she established Queer China UK, aiming to be a home and incubator for queer Chinese diaspora and allies. Her current work focuses on queer art, museum education, festival producing, LGBTQ+ tourism, community building and cross-cultural communication.

Panelist - Ryan Joseph Figueirdo

Ryan (he/ him) is the founder and Executive Director of Equal Asia Foundation – a regional LGBTIQ+ non-profit think-tank and innovations incubator based in Bangkok. Equal AF’s work is focused on future scoping and future-proofing around issues such as ageing, climate change, mental health, and financial citizenship for LGBTIQ+ communities in Asia.


Ryan has worked in the non-profit and management consulting space for over 18 years. At Equal AF, Ryan leads regional and national multi-specialisation initiatives that address some of the deep-seated inequities in the LGBTIQ+ movement. In 2018, Ryan was selected as one of the Human Rights Campaigns Global Innovators. In 2019, Thomson Reuters Foundation named him a Global Changemaker for his work. In 2020, he was recognised as a Global Change accelerator by the Resource Alliance. Ryan sits on a number of International LGBTIQ+ advisory and mentorship groups including AllOut


Ryan is a formerly displaced person and is now deputy chair of the women, gender and diversity working group of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network and a board director of the Forcibly Displaced People Network He is an alumnus of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and has trained in clinical trials at the London School of Tropical Medicine, and in population ageing at the University of Oxford.

bottom of page