Cristian Sebastian Lovisa, an Environmental Consultant at ERM who identifies as being part of the LGBTQ+ community since his teens, shares his experiences on how he found acceptance within the working environment, whilst still maintaining his authenticity and holding true to his own values.
Every year, ERM celebrates Pride and this year’s theme is ‘Authentically me’. I wanted to share my story on how I have found acceptance within the workplace whilst still holding true to my own values and being ‘authentically me’. I am relatively new to the company but have settled in quickly, mainly due to my amazing colleagues and ERM’s clear inclusion policies. I identify as a gay man, since I accepted myself as such in my teens.
Consulting as a profession brings us closer to companies from different industrial sectors and it’s vital to be able to form working relationships based on safety, trust and integrity. I have always worked with a range of people who have different ideas, principles and ideologies to myself. Over time, I have learnt how to react in the moment so that I can deal with the situation and move on. For example, on occasion I have heard negative comments against the LGBTQ+ community in conversation with others. Sometimes, people are using language in a discriminatory way without realizing it, for example, “oh, don’t be so gay”. This type of expression, can cause a negative psychosocial impact, low self-esteem and a decrease in self-confidence. This can also lead to a drop in performance at work.
When I have encountered these types of behaviors, I have learned that I have two options:
- I can be quiet and let the moment pass without saying anything. This typically makes me feel sad and alone, even after sharing the feeling with my closest family and friends.
- I can communicate with the individual and explain that their words and/or attitudes have impacts. Part of what motivates me here is the desire to change future situation for my fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Standing up for inclusion is not always comfortable. To stop the discomfort, in a very polite and politically correct way, I comment that I do not consider the behavior cordial or appropriate, and then continue with the specific work-related topic that we were discussing.
Speaking up hasn’t always been easy - belonging to ERM’s PRIDE ERG has given me the confidence to be authentically me. My colleagues and clients know the authentic version of myself, as well as an environmental professional, and the value and respect I receive continues to build me up.
Sharing with other members of PRIDE also allowed me to discover that my colleagues (and ERM in general) share the same sensitivity and empathy with the LGBTQ+ community. I find it remarkable and highly valuable to know that I am in a safe place where I can be myself, where I can give my opinion and consider what we need as a community to have increasingly diverse and inclusive work environments.
Cristian Sebastian Lovisa is an Environmental Consultant at ERM based in Argentina, Buenos Aires, South America.