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Navigating LGBTQ+ Inclusion: The Importance of Checking D&I Policies in Job Applications

“Always check and ask about D&I policies before deciding to apply for a job. While workplaces are becoming more inclusive, there may still be challenges along the way.” Federica Trevisano, member of the HR team at VF Corporation, spoke to myGwork about the journey of LGBTQ+ inclusion from university to the workplace.


Please introduce yourself, the name of your organisation and the university you attended.

I'm Federica. I work at VF in the HR team, and I attended the Universitá degli Studi di Milano, where I received an MSc in Management of Human Resources. I started at VF as an HR Partner Intern, and after a year, I was hired in VF's People Service Team. 


When in university, were you out to your university friends and/or your teachers? If yes, how important was that for you?

During my university days, I first came out to a friend I connected with in the initial months. Interestingly, within our larger friend group, I didn't need to formally come out; we just naturally embraced each other. Pronouns and specifics were never a topic of discussion, which created a comfortable space for me to be myself without any pressure.

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As for professors, my experience was very positive. I was enrolled in an innovative international programme that prioritised diversity and inclusion. Professors always used the appropriate language, and the curriculum highlighted the importance of these values. 


Do you feel that your university prepares you for what is to come as a future professional and a member of the LGBTQ+ community?

At least at my university, I always felt like I was in a free space where everyone could express themselves without fear. Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community didn't make any difference compared to not being part of it - we were all equal. However, the constructive and preparatory focus that the university provided me prepared me for the possibility that there might not be such an open environment in a corporate setting, and I may have to struggle to build it. 


How optimistic are you about LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace?

I'm optimistic about LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace. However, I've observed instances of non-intended ignorance when it comes to using the right terminology, which could make people feel discriminated against. That's why every company must prioritise regular training on this topic, fostering understanding and awareness. 


Are you out in your new job? If yes, was that the case from the start? How did you first come out at work and to who?

I decided to apply at VF mainly because I attended a Webinar called "Grow Your LGBTQ+ Career" organised by myGwork, following the advice of my Thesis Supervisor. During the webinar, there were a few speakers from VF, and I can still remember the Icebreaker VP-GM's moving speech.

Therefore, I was confident about the inclusive environment VF fosters, and I had confirmation of this during the initial interview with my first team. Back then, I felt so comfortable that when they asked me about my future aspirations, I openly shared that I'd love to specialise in Diversity and Inclusion HR practices, specifying that I am part of the community.  


In your opinion, how connected is coming out while at university to being out in the workplace?

In my opinion, they are two entirely different things. While coming out at university can instil courage, it's not taken for granted that in the workplace, people feel confident enough to openly discuss their personal lives without fearing potential repercussions. While university coming out experiences can provide a foundation of strength, it's essential for the work environment to be welcoming, enabling everyone to truly be themselves. 


Before applying for a job, do you check their diversity and inclusion policies? 

Absolutely, for me the companies I consider must have effective diversity and inclusion policies. Checking their approach to creating an inclusive environment is a key factor in my decision-making process before applying. I believe it's a strong indicator of the company's values and organisational culture. 


Are there any LGBTQ+ networks within your organisation? If yes, are you an active member? 

We have various Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), but I have been an active member of VF Pride ERG since day one. Our VF Pride Employee Resource Group aims to increase awareness of important LGBTQ+ topics to further VF's commitment to creating an inclusive culture where associates can be their authentic selves. We even had a VF truck this year at the Milan Pride parade. Also, the brands are really active in organising D&I events. For example, The North Face celebrated Pride Month with a Pride hike, during which I had the opportunity to deliver a speech representing our ERG. 


Are you excited to switch from a student to a professional? Has your organisation made it easy for you?

Before joining VF, I was a working student with a background in a completely different field – I used to work as a flight attendant. Shifting my career path felt like a fresh beginning since I had never been exposed to the office environment. My previous job involved interacting with different people every day, so transitioning to an office setting where you always collaborate with the same team was a bit daunting.

I was worried about the change, but VF made it surprisingly smooth. They provided great support, making the shift feel natural. And now, I'm enjoying this opportunity to connect deeply and establish meaningful relationships with my colleagues regularly. 


From your experience so far, do you have any advice to share with students before they go into the workplace?

The advice I can give is to always check and ask about D&I policies before deciding to apply for a job. While workplaces are becoming more inclusive, there may still be challenges along the way. It's a good idea to research a company's diversity and inclusion policies before starting and try to gauge how supportive they are of their LGBTQ+ employees. Additionally, connecting with fellow LGBTQ+ colleagues or joining employee resource groups can provide a sense of belonging and a space to discuss concerns or questions.

Remember, your unique experiences and perspectives are valuable assets. Don't be afraid to speak up and advocate for your needs. Your authenticity and willingness to contribute will play a significant role in fostering an inclusive environment for yourself and others. 

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