Capgemini employee resource group OUTfront promotes inclusivity and tolerance across the company and society, and at its heart are “Allies”
Krystianne Avedian, chief relationship officer at Capgemini’s Accelerated Solutions Environment, started OUTfront at Capgemini in 2007, after not finding a platform for those looking to connect around the discussion of LGBT+.
“I was searching for my tribe and my community, and I couldn’t find them. But this is the great thing about Capgemini’s entrepreneurial atmosphere – when I realized nothing formal existed, I set up OUTfront with a few of my colleagues.”
Since then, OUTfront has grown into a worldwide group, with chapters in 20 of the 50 countries that Capgemini operates across. “Our goal is to enable our colleagues to show up and be their 100% full selves every day,” says Krystianne.
Education and guidance
On a practical level, OUTfront offers an advisory and educational role for colleagues in Capgemini. “People come to us and say they want to transition, but don’t know how to approach that conversation with HR or their manager,” she says.
“We also educate the wider Capgemini community about what it means to be LGBT+. What does it mean to fit into one of these letters? What does a day in the life look like?”
These conversations help people understand the challenges of being LGBT+ in the workplace. “One of the trickiest things about being gay or LGBT+ is that you’re constantly ‘coming out,’” explains Krystianne. “With every new client or new meeting, you’re trying to work out whether it’s safe to say that you’re different.”
Friends and allies
This is where OUTfront’s “Allies” can make a big impact. An Ally is someone who represents and advocates for the LGBT+ community, and Krystianne highlights their importance to the cause.
“Allies are our hidden superpower. They exist at all levels within Capgemini, from the global executive team downwards. They are critical in understanding local needs, elevating those needs to the business, and translating this to our workforce and clients.”
For Krystianne, that’s just what employee resource groups such as OUTfront are able to achieve.
“Capgemini has 270,000 employees around the world. This is a huge audience that we can speak to and leverage to create change.”
A sense of duty
Karianne Munch-Ellingsen, a service designer, recently became a diversity and inclusion champion at Capgemini Invent in Norway, and she explains what being an Ally involves.
“On a practical level, I’m helping out with preparation for Pride this year. But, more broadly, I’m working to put these issues on the agenda in a structured way, from recruitment to how we talk about these things internally and externally.”
According to Karianne, her motivation to become an Ally comes from a sense of duty. “It’s a responsibility for us as human beings to care about our colleagues, no matter what their race, gender, or identification. I want to help the LGBT+ community have a voice.”
As Krystianne explains, tolerance is still a real issue for the LGBT+ community. “It’s not safe to be ‘out’ in some of the countries we operate in,” she says. “That’s why at Capgemini we have an employment clause that protects our colleagues in every region.”
This point also resonates for Karianne. “It would be easy to think that these battles have been won,” she says, “But we have to fight for acceptance. In Norway, there’s a well-known poem by Ole Peter Arnulf Øverland, saying that you must not permit the injustice that does not affect you – and I try and follow this.”
A call for Allies
And that’s why she encourages everyone across Capgemini to consider becoming an Ally. “It’s through education and learning that we become more open-minded,” she says. “Even if you aren’t sure about all the definitions or issues, I would urge you to get involved. It’s enormously rewarding.”
“I would like to think we can promote social change through OUTfront, so that future generations can enjoy more tolerance,” concludes Krystianne. “We’re continuing the work of pioneers such as Stonewall by planting the seeds for tomorrow, and the tomorrow after tomorrow.”