When Fran Benjamin traveled to Italy last year to assess local companies' policies surrounding LGBT employees, he thought he might find himself in a country more forward-thinking than the U.S.
"We think of Western Europe as being progressive, accepting, with social policies in place," said the UCLA Anderson student. "But Italy — and Western Europe, to a certain extent, but Italy in particular — is a little behind the times." Indeed, no legislation exists in Italy to guarantee full equal rights for LGBT people, though employment discrimination was officially banned in the European Union in 2000.
Benjamin was in Italy with two other UCLA Anderson students as part of the school’s Applied Management Research (AMR) program. (All full-time UCLA Anderson students complete an AMR project in lieu of a master's thesis.) Together with two other students who traveled to India, the Anderson team was assigned to assess the status of LGBT policies in companies in those two countries and make recommendations on behalf of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that educates companies across the globe about LGBT rights in the workplace.
“This would give us a chance to prove out how we could work in those environments,” said Tony Talbot, the nonprofit’s chief financial officer, of the Anderson research project.
The amount of research necessary to make real recommendations was something the small nonprofit simply didn’t have the time for. "The idea that you could have the caliber of the M.B.A. team we had do the assessments and the recommendations … that's not something we would have had the ability or time to do. It was a great opportunity for us," said Talbot.
Each team spent a total of 10 days meeting with human resources representatives of influential companies such as Deloitte and Intuit, as well as local nonprofit organizations and individuals working on the ground for LGBT rights. After a series of in-depth interviews and field research, the two teams came back to the U.S. with a complex picture of the challenges facing both LGBT employees and the corporations in Italy and India that seek to support them.
See the complete story in Prospect, a magazine published by the Parker Career Management Center at UCLA Anderson.