Story of Building Pride by Marcin Rusek-Wolski

Vendor Data Management Team Leader for Sourcing & Procurement

The need to be involved in initiatives and projects for the LGBT+ community has grown within me for a long time. By observing the actions of others, I knew that I also had something to offer. It is not only work for the LGBT+ community, it is also doing something significant for yourself. I know that if we - the LGBT+ community - do not fight for our rights and for respect, there will not be many other people fighting for these rights either.

From the very beginning, I felt that JLL is a place where I could openly talk about myself and my family. A friendly atmosphere of acceptance.

It's been almost 4 years since I joined JLL. The atmosphere at JLL, one of the most ethical corporations in the world, encouraged me to come out. For me, being out at work makes me more confident. By speaking openly about my life partner in the office environment, I feel that I have him close to me - emotionally. There was a relative short period of time when I was not out, while working for my former employer. It made me feel like I was not being true to myself, or even worse, not being true to my life partner. I felt as if I was dividing my life into two different worlds. It was hard not saying anything about the most important person in my life.

Building Pride community in Poland

That was the trigger which helped me decide to work for a better place for LGBT+ community, and for myself. I understood that if I wanted to be accepted, my personal goal should be to build a good atmosphere in the office for everyone: where no one has to wonder whether they can openly be out or tell their friends about their beloved person, family, plans for vacation, or weekend with them.

Thanks to reading a lot of literature on diversity in the workplace, I knew that there was and still is a lot to do in Poland, especially for LGBT+ people. I know that with my commitment and actions I can create a better and safer workplace, I can fight direct and indirect discrimination that is happening against LGBT+ people at work. I want to be actively involved in the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation because I know that I, and others, would feel and work better.

I want to contribute to the company in which I work by making sure that it offers support for LGBT+ people by providing understanding, broadening knowledge, and spreading information about LGBT+ initiatives and events. I want to support the company to organize training on different sexual orientations; to promote better understanding of regulations, laws; to increase awareness about problems that affect LGBT+ people in the workplace on a daily basis. I want my actions to motivate employees to fight against their own prejudices, so they can better understand the differences between stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination.

I want JLL to strongly contribute to providing equal treatment for LGBT+ people, and the best possible work atmosphere, as well as building a positive attitude towards people with different sexual orientation among the heteronormative section of employees.

As well as joining Building Pride UK, I decided to make a bigger step and organize LGBT+ events in my local Polish office. I decided to go one step further and set up a Polish employee network - Building Pride Poland. I hope that what I do motivates and encourages other people - from JLL and other companies - to take action, to take initiative, to create great things, a great future for everyone. This is my story.

I knew that LGBT+ employee networks existed in many corporations, including those operating in Poland. So when I joined JLL I saw how many diversity and inclusion initiatives and activities were organized, in particular for the LGBT+ community. I read about Building Pride operating in JLL Chicago and London, but I could not find anything for Poland – we did not yet have a network for the LGBT+ community, nor any LGBT+ activities and initiatives.

I learned all I could about the activities carried out by other networks – subscribing to newsletters, organising video calls with UK colleagues – and I quickly realised that I could start doing something about it. I knew nothing would change by itself, I had to act in person to gain buy-in. This wouldn’t be a new initiative for JLL, only for JLL Poland. I already had good activation ideas from other networks, so there was no need to reinvent the wheel. I reasoned that if certain activities worked well in Chicago and London, maybe they would also work in Poland. I was given the green light from the HR and Marketing departments, both of which fully support bottom-up LGBT+ initiatives.

From the scratch

I prepared the first mini-event in the company to mark International Day Against Homophobia IDAHOBIT (May 17) 2017. It was a small party only for my department. I baked muffins, printed posters and hung them in the office, which made it more visible. I brought various leaflets from the local Campaign Against Homophobia organization (I also work with local LGBT+ organizations, I know their activists - it pays off and provides a lot of knowledge). I informed my colleagues about IDAHOBIT, that there were still no equal rights for LGBT+ people in Poland, and that it was even worse in many places around the world. It was enough to draw attention to the problem, to raise awareness.

And when I began to regularly hang ads on our bulletin boards related to LGBT+ activities - an LGBT+ cinema festival, contest, sport events etc. – I saw people stopping, reading, talking.

LGBT+ initiatives at JLL Poland have been developing. In the following years we’ve had various events, information and invitations to participate sent to all employees in JLL Poland, as part of wider internal and external communications. We’ve printed and hung up posters, rainbow stickers (which many people stuck to their computers and workstations), ordered the delivery of rainbow cupcakes, and more. We’ve celebrated IDAHOBIT again and held a Coming Out Day event (October 11). It is all about working to increase the visibility of LGBT+ people, so that they are constantly present in our consciousness, not just occasionally.

Dream big

My dream is that someday, after waving a magic wand, suddenly all LGBT+ people will come out of the closet, be free. It would show that everyone can be themselves, speak loudly, hold their heads up high, be happy, open, and trusting. It would mean everyone allowed to say they had a friend who was gay, or lesbian, or trans etc. Society would see that it is not an ideology, it is not a single person, but many, many people: a colleague sitting at the desk or at lunch table next to you, a friend from the gym or a neighbour from the floor; they are a director or an accountant, a doctor or a team leader – like me – they are everywhere. It is important to create a working environment work that allows people to be themselves, to be out and proud; where no one is ignored and all employees support, understand and accept one another.

Every LGBT+ initiative at JLL is a success. The Polish JLL office took part for the first time in the production of a film for National Coming Out Day. Footage about "coming out of the closet" was assembled from clips of various JLL country offices. The production of the clip took a lot of work, but it gave a lot of pleasure and it was fun; even for a one-minute movie you need an idea, script, a camera, "actors" i.e. colleagues from around the office. The premiere of the film took place in a country-wide Townhall, where it was displayed on TV screens.

Currently, LGBT+ events in Poland take the form of initiatives with multi-level communication, educational articles, competitions, gadgets, and - in the last National Coming Out Day - a rainbow closet as the main prop.

I am proud that we received strong support from the management and leadership at JLL Poland. Along with the official information about the event, it’s so important to have the Chairman’s statement confirming his support.

I am still establishing a group of Building Pride Poland employees including LGBT+ people and their allies. After sending information about the team and the possibility of working on initiatives together, we currently have 6 people in the network. It is important that these are completely voluntary, bottom-up initiatives. I have a maxim that if you want something to change for the better, start by being the change you want to see; start acting and then people will follow you, because good actions bring people together and build a community. We are starting a new chapter for the LGBT+ community at JLL Poland.