‘More and more staff are coming out’

Machismo, homophobia, overt violence: Discrimination against minorities is a big problem in Mexico too. How do you create a working environment in which everyone feels safe? Myriam Arroyo, HR coordinator for GIZ in Mexico has some answers.

Bild Arroyo©privat

Myriam Arroyo, HR Coordinator for GIZ in Mexico  
Mexico City

There is an urban-rural divide to discrimination in Mexico: Here in Mexico City where our GIZ office is located, people are generally open and liberal. In more rural areas, things often look different: Discrimination is a major problem, especially because a certain sense of male superiority (machismo) still remains firmly anchored in people’s minds. Sexual harassment is commonplace, and extreme violence against women widespread, even in public. Minorities, including members of groups such as the queer movement or people with disabilities, also suffer discrimination. For this reason, GIZ Mexico is a strong advocate of gender equality, tolerance and anti-discrimination.

This is not just part of our corporate philosophy. We want to set a good example and take a stand. On International Women’s Day in March, for example, we supported the nationwide strike by women. Our management team is made up of women (52 per cent) and men (48 per cent) in almost equal proportion. To protect our staff, we have introduced binding rules against sexual harassment and discrimination at the workplace and have specially trained dedicated advisors.

The inclusion of people with disabilities is also very important to us, hence the extensive campaign we organised to raise staff awareness. This included a dining-in-the-dark experience with visually impaired people, which many staff members found very moving. Thanks to this campaign, we were all able to develop a deeper sense of gratitude and empathy. 

We have just completed an in-depth process with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC) leading to our certification as an LGTB-friendly company. Our aim here is to show that we welcome all people and that everyone can feel safe at GIZ. As recently as the start of December, this led to HRC declaring GIZ Mexico the Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality. Our queer colleagues are also organising themselves within the company: As long ago as 2017, they founded the Rainbow Network, a place where they can engage in regular exchanges and provide each other with support. 

What else are we doing? We organise regular and very well attended events and discussions with artists from the queer community. Furthermore, we are also supporting a safe house – comparable to a women’s shelter – for people who have been rejected by their families owing to their sexual orientation. Our staff engage here privately, thus everyone is making a contribution.

We see that our efforts are working because more and more GIZ staff have found the courage to come out and feel valued in the process. That makes me unbelievably happy.