A Work Community Where Some People Have to Hide Parts of Their Identity Is Not Truly Inclusive

Still today, many LGBTQ+ people are afraid of discrimination or feel that they cannot be open about their identity at their workplace. Better leadership is needed in order to make sure that workplaces become more inclusive.


June is Pride month during which we celebrate human rights; everyone’s right to be openly and safely exactly who they are and to feel that they truly belong.

Aalto University Executive Education's (Aalto EE) mission is to build a better world through better leadership and to help our customer organizations to build more diverse and inclusive work communities through usage of researched information and education. This year, we are again happy to celebrate Pride.

At the same time, however, we are concerned about how many people who are part of either a sexual or gender minority continue to experience discrimination and dare not openly be themselves in working life.

Here are a couple of examples from Aalto EE’s home country Finland:

At the end of May 2022, the trade union for academic engineers and architects in Finland (TEK) published a survey showing that as many as 46% of students in the field of technology who are part of a sexual or gender minority are afraid that they will be discriminated against in working life. The difference between these students and other students was significant: only 12% of other respondents were afraid of discrimination.

Only 8% of Finnish LGBTQ+ people felt that they could be completely open about their gender or sexual identity at their workplace."

According to an EU-wide survey conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in 2019, only 8% of Finnish LGBTQ+ people felt that they could be completely open about their gender or sexual identity at their workplace. Fourteen percent of them said they had experienced discrimination at work or when applying for jobs because of their gender or sexual identity during the previous year.

These figures are very worrying.

Research shows that diversity – which can refer to demographic factors as well cognitive or value-based diversity – has many benefits for work communities and organizations. However, diversity without inclusion leads nowhere.

A work community, in which some people feel that they need to hide important parts of their identity and life and think about how open they dare to be with others, is not truly inclusive, let alone psychologically safe. Such an organization and community risks losing top talents who do not feel they are truly part of the community.

In an inclusive work community, everyone is allowed to be unique and feel accepted and safe."

In an inclusive work community, everyone is allowed to be unique and feel accepted and safe. In such a work community, every expert can excel and develop.

Aalto EE has educated leaders and experts for over 50 years and our work continues. Topics related to diversity, inclusion, and equity are integral part of our programs because we believe that at the core of each leader’s role is to understand the importance of these themes and how they can be implemented in practice.

During the following year, we commit to share more information about these topics in our programs, on our social media channels, and on our website.

At Aalto EE, one of our ground principles is that everyone should respect what their coworkers’ do, share information, and collaborate. We do not accept any type of discrimination in our work community, and we want to welcome people with all types of backgrounds, both into our work community and to study in our programs.

Happy Pride Month 2022!

What every leader can do to build a more inclusive work community?

  • Build trust and psychological safety. Make it clear and demonstrate through your own behavior that everyone in your team is allowed to express themselves freely and safely.
  • Learn to recognize and accept your own biases and identify discriminatory structures. You cannot control anything unless you are able to recognize and accept their existence.
  • Welcome all kinds of styles and sounds to your organization.
  • See the identity of diverse employees as a strength. Leverage their experience and knowledge to achieve your company’s core goals.
  • Ask, don't assume!