Christopher worked hard for his career. As a gay man from the Philippines, an emerging market in Asia, he had to fight various gatekeepers to get to a top position in a global law firm. He often subconsciously wondered why he was the only one at the office with his background. And he didn’t want to be the last one.
-Meeting other people in my industry, I would be the only Asian, or the only person from a developing country, or the only LGBT person in the room. I was missing something, someone who looked like me or lived his or her life like me, Christopher remembers.
Over time, Christopher started thinking more broadly about diversity in the workforce, including gender equality. It was around this time that he applied to the 2017 Swedish Institute Management Programme (SIMP) Asia.
-When I entered the programme, I quickly realised I was the odd man out. All other participants were social entrepreneurs or worked for an NGO whereas I wanted to bring more advocacy into my corporate world. I wanted to make sure I would not be the last person from an underrepresented group to enter that sphere.
Christopher had made some efforts to increase inclusion at his job prior to joining SIMP but felt he didn’t know how to verbalize his ideas well enough to make himself understood and listened to by management.
-Through the programme, I learned how to synch my goals with corporate objectives. Learning the vocabulary, frameworks and methodologies equipped and empowered me to be an agent of change in the workplace and for my community. When I came back, I was no longer talking about why sustainable and ethical leadership is a nice thing to do but also how promoting diverse talents is strategically good for business in the long term. Once I was able to marry these causes that I was passionate about with the organization’s bottom line, I felt unstoppable.
Since the programme, Christopher has successfully implemented a network at his job that works for inclusion. He has also managed to enter the world of advocacy by sitting as a board member at two non-profit organisations that work for a mixed workforce.
-I was able to build a network of LGBT+ at my law firm, and what I am doing for the non-profits now is basically an extension of that work. And I don’t think I would have done that had it not been for the SI programme. It increased my drive.
Still, one of the biggest gifts that Christopher got from the programme came in the form of new friendships.
-My best experiences from the programme were almost all from casual conversations with other participants from Asia and Northern Europe – outside the lectures and learning situations. I’ve maintained and developed those relationships. I was voted most likely to disappear from the network after the programme, but I ended up becoming Chairperson of the Sweden Alumni Network Philippines, working closely with the Swedish Embassy in Manila. Our group is made up of amazing individuals so to me it just felt natural to stay engaged in the network as much as I could.