Published on Voices

Making the World Bank Group LGBTI friendly, one step at a time

The business case for greater diversity and inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) staff is now well documented, and the corporate world is making solid progress towards LGBTI equality at the workplace. The message is also slowly but surely sinking into international organizations such as the World Bank Group, for which diversity is also synonymous with greater productivity, collaboration, innovation and creativity. In particular, LGBTI-supportive policies are linked to less discrimination against LGBTI employees and more open corporate cultures. Less discrimination and more openness (or less concealment), in turn, are also linked to greater job commitment, improved workplace relationships, improved health outcomes (concealment of sexual orientation is associated with increased psychological distress) and increased productivity among LGBTI employees.

GLOBE, a resource group for LGBTI staff members at the World Bank, has been working for years now to document the necessity of greater diversity and inclusion. Gathering data on this issue since 2011 through a series of Workplace Climate Surveys, GLOBE has helped shed light on issues that had, to date, been largely overlooked by the institution. Concrete proposals to push this agenda forward have helped GLOBE become a partner in conversation with the Bank's staff, management and the Executive Board of Directors alike.

Within the  Bank, the conversation around the issues LGBTI staff encounter at the workplace has evolved tremendously over the past few years. Acknowledging today’s increasingly diverse workforce, the Bank is currently making important efforts in implementing policies aimed at creating safe and productive workplaces for all staff. The most recent case in point is the new Child Planning Benefit.

Recognizing that family models are changing, and to further strengthen the Bank’s employment value proposition, GLOBE and the Bank's human resources department have been collaborating to introduce a new Child Planning Benefit, This is available for all eligible staff, and provides financial assistance to staff who are planning to have a child either through legal adoption or birth/s through reproductive planning. The amount of the Child Planning Benefit is based on a percentage of a staff member's salary per their office salary plan, payable twice over a staff member's lifetime employment. In the U.S., this amount is currently around $5,000.  The Child Planning Benefit can be used by staff members to cover the costs of services such as surrogacy, adoption, artificial insemination, and purchase and storage of genetic material. Staff members will be able to retroactively claim against services from July 2016.

This policy demonstrates a clear commitment to leverage our diversity beyond race, gender or ethnicity. What we’ve learned in the process of negotiating this benefit is that the Bank can do a lot to go beyond “diversity by default”. The fact that we are more than 180 nationalities, speaking over 140 languages, doesn’t mean that our workplace is inclusive.

Until 2016, institutional support to the LGBTI agenda was extremely limited and so were efforts to respond to organizational issues relating to LGBTI staff. But the tone of the conversation tremendously improved over the past year, thanks in large part to the support of senior management to GLOBE’s advocacy. Following years of negotiation, the recognition of the role played by employee resource groups last November marks the beginning of a new era in our dialogue.

For GLOBE, the next big push will have to be on accountability, ensuring that managers across the institution are tooled and trained to respond to the many challenges LGBTI staff face in our offices around the world and that a zero tolerance policy on discrimination and harassment is finally strictly implemented for them and their teams (GLOBE has documented an increase in experiences of discrimination and homophobia since 2011). The Bank Group has a unique opportunity to lead the way as the most attractive international financial institutions to work in for all professionals, regardless of race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Let’s continue to work together towards this goal!


Caroline Vagneron

Senior Country Officer, Caribbean Country Management Unit, and Vice-President, GLOBE

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000