When Jorge Guevara joined the American Express company, he didn’t think he would be talking about his sexuality, nor about his partner, after bad experiences he’d had with another company.
But for the last 10 ten years, he has worked as part of American Express’ internal network of LGBTQ+ collaborators and together they became the first contingent of a company to officially participate in the Pride march. Now, around 170,000 people and more than 120 companies take part in the march each year.
The work of this Tec graduate (who studied Systems Engineering at the Monterrey Campus) has led him to raise his voice and seek improvement in the quality of life inside and outside the walls of the company where he works as Vice President of Communications for Latin America.
In an interview for Tec Review, he told us that they have supported their employees during Covid-19. Some have been forced to come out of the closet to their families. Meanwhile, women have suffered domestic violence.
How did you end up at American Express?
It was after a bad experience involving diversity issues at another company. I thought I would never bring up that personal subject in a company again. But at the company, when I went through the recruiting process, I was able to register the person I later married in my life and medical insurance policies. I didn’t need to present any certificates or notarized letters, because the Domestic Partnership Law didn’t yet exist.
It was my leader who had the idea of promoting an LGBTQ + network called Pride, as the company already did this in other regions. I was able to come out of the closet to her. I started pursuing a work environment free of discrimination, with the same opportunities for everyone.
How did the decision in favor of the gay community help?
People couldn’t believe that American Express was taking part. Even the organizers of the march asked us if we had permission from the company. They made us give them a letter verifying that we were authorized to use the company name.
Now, buildings and corporations put up flags on Reforma, but back then it wasn’t like this. No one put up a sign of support for the community. The fact that the company dared to make this decision helped to bring these issues to the forefront.
Inclusion and diversity
Wasn’t there fear of criticism from the customers?
Yes, it was a point that made us think. But not to stop us or to think that we would lose customers. The company was looking for social change for its employees, which meant they also had to ensure that their employees had a good quality of life outside the walls of the company.
Mexico is still really macho, homophobic. There are a lot of hate crimes against the trans population. There’s still a lot of work to do.
There are always opinions against our posts whenever we share these issues on social media. But we’ve never had to defend ourselves as a company. There are also followers on social media who defend our position.
We work on issues of inclusion and diversity to remove stereotypes and redefine values. It is important for companies to understand that diversity and inclusion are not the same.
Diversity exists. What you must do as a company is recognize that your employees are diverse in terms of how they think, their culture, their socioeconomic and academic backgrounds, and their social orientation.
Inclusion is the work that we as a company have to do to make sure that all people have exactly the same opportunities, guaranteeing that they are treated exactly the same, starting from the selection process right up until they leave the company. Being a man shouldn’t mean you’ll earn more and being a woman shouldn’t mean you won’t get a promotion.
The pandemic has forced some people to come out of the closet
What were the steps you took on these issues during the pandemic?
Virtual platforms for emotional and psychological support are offered to all employees. In the case of the LGBT community, we observed people who were not out of the closet at home, who had to tell their families during the pandemic. Others have had to keep hiding. In the case of women, emotional and psychological support focused more on issues of gender violence.
Regarding physical wellbeing, we also give yoga classes. We send exercise and nutrition manuals from home.
What’s more, a statement was made in March that there would be no layoffs related to Covid-19 throughout the year. That is very important because people start to hear that this is happening in other places or that wages are being cut. Being a service company, we have taken away our employees’ anxiety so that they don’t have to worry about money because they’re already concerned about their health and families.
In no rush to stop working for home
Do you already have a plan to return to the office?
Since working from home began, a global group was created to plan the return, but we’re in no rush to do so. We’re planning how to do this and what measures we’ll need in the offices regarding social distancing and for taking temperatures. We’re nowhere near defining a return date.
In the case of Mexico, we’ll probably return in March or April 2021, although one group may return earlier for work reasons.