In our final interview of the blog series ‘Words of Pride‘, AVOW’s co-founders, Orietta Mendez and Robert Wildner, share valuable insights, and thoughts on what it means to lead and celebrate a diverse workplace and how inclusion leads to the success of a healthy work environment.


What role do Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) of the LGBTQ+ community play at AVOW?

At AVOW, a diverse and inclusive workforce is necessary to drive innovation, foster creativity, and guide business strategies. Therefore, we believe in creating an open, supportive and inclusive environment for all our employees that allows and encourages them to bring their authentic selves to work. 

Our core belief revolves around the principle that equal opportunities embraced with dignity and respect for all are what makes us a trustworthy, globally diverse organization. Hence, our mission is to build a culture of inclusion, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. 

LGBTQ+ inclusion at AVOW is of prime importance. We are committed to fostering an environment in which people feel respected, valued, and involved and facilitating an environment that ensures the participation of all employees from the LGBTQ+ community. 

Why is an LGBTQ+ community at work important?

Sometimes the work environment is one of the only safe environments LGBTQ+ employees have for various reasons. This is why employers should let employees know their workplace welcomes diversity and inclusion at all levels, no matter how small their organization is.

Our leadership team strongly emphasizes diversity and inclusion – not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the best thing for our people. It’s crucial for engaging our workforce and equally important for recruiting the next best person out there.

How do you manage the topics of D&I of the LGBTQ+ community within your recruitment process and your company culture?

Hiring individuals from different backgrounds to maintain diversity isn’t sustainable without a culture of inclusion that sincerely welcomes all individuals for who they are and encourages everyone to succeed at work. This is why we have set great importance on establishing and living by a set of values that reinforce this type of culture. Being ‘out’ at work is a choice. Many people won’t feel safe or comfortable outing themselves at work, so design your programs to include people, whether they are ‘out’ or not.

From the talent acquisition perspective, we pride ourselves on being an equal opportunity employer and leading by example in terms of running our recruitment processes in an open, welcoming, and fair manner. 

On the inclusion front, we take it as a core responsibility to create a safe space for all employees, which means being vigilant against discrimination regardless of how subtle it may be. In addition, we are engaged in creating and nurturing a culture where people are respected, appreciated, and included.

How are you enabling awareness about Pride Month at AVOW?

We dedicate the month of June to celebrate PRIDE to acknowledge and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and their journey so far. 

The three pillars of our activities are:

  • Raising awareness by keeping Pride present daily (from office decoration to our topics of conversation).
  • Highlighting and sharing team member stories.
  • Connecting with other organizations and individuals with similar views to create a D&I network of support and best practices.

Words of Pride

What is your biggest piece of advice for getting started with D&I?

Firstly, don’t try to boil the ocean. Secondly, start somewhere! 

This work is enormous and can become overwhelming if you try to tackle everything at once. Instead, create a list of all the things you want to tackle and start with one or two. For instance, use more inclusive language, or create an experience-sharing group. Every step can help build an environment that is more inclusive and welcoming to underrepresented groups. Finally, ask for help from those who have done this in other organizations. Katee says she is always open to a conversation if it will help to move this work along in a company.


How do you think other people can make an impact this month to support their colleagues and the community in general?

Here are just a few ideas to get started:

  1. Read up on terminology so you can talk about the issues confidently
  2. Celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month or other awareness days and campaigns to show support
  3. Call out offensive, negative or abusive language and ‘banter’ when you hear it
  4. Set up an LGBTQ+ staff network group (or LGBTQ+ & Allies/ Friends group)
  5. Open up space to talk – you could mention LGBTQ+ issues you’ve seen in the media and get some real conversations started
  6. Work with your HR department to make sure their policies and procedures cover diversity, inclusion, rights, and protections for LGBTQ+ employees
  7. March, sponsor or volunteer at your local Pride as an organization.

How can companies create inclusive environments for LGBTQ+ employees?

Awareness and education are always good places to start. 

From our side, we launched #WordsOfPride which aims to create an open door educating our employees and followers about all things LGBTQ+ through the stories and experiences of our team members who are part of this community. This blog series is meant to raise awareness about what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community and dispel some myths about the community that still exists.

Do you have any advice for people in leadership positions to encourage them to brace D&I at their companies? 

Every employer’s mission should be to maintain a workplace that embraces diversity and provides an environment of respect, trust, collaboration, and cooperation for all employees.

Following a motto of “Inclusion without Exception” and addressing unconscious biases will help create an environment of inclusion where everyone feels that they belong. 

Showing solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community for Pride Month is a positive step toward inclusion. But true LGBTQ+ inclusion must go further than a branding exercise. We strongly encourage all small and big companies who adopt the rainbow for June to closely examine their internal hiring processes and policies to ensure they genuinely support the LGBTQ+ community.