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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Navigating Complex Queer Issues with Human Answers

A collective message from Egon Zehnder as we celebrate Pride

Navigating identity can often feel like being trapped in a maze, with unexpected twists and turns that challenge our understanding of who we are. Delving deep into self-awareness requires inner work, which can be tough. However, revealing our full selves to the external world can be even more overwhelming.

As members of the LGBTQ+ community, this can be especially challenging, particularly in the professional world. At times, our sense of pride and fulfillment may be overshadowed by insecurities and lingering questions: Will revealing this aspect of my identity be seen as unprofessional? How will others view me? Does coming out at work really matter? Will I be judged?

Embracing our full selves requires a generous dose of courage. Only then can we unleash our full potential, becoming our most engaged, fulfilled and motivated selves. As a result, we deliver our best to help our organizations thrive. And while inner work is important, organizations and allies also play a crucial role in shaping environments where authenticity has space to shine.

Achieving that ideal isn’t always straightforward. Along the way, we may encounter various complex queer questions that prompt reflection. As we celebrate Pride, Egon Zehnder wants to share a collective message from our colleagues across the globe on how to approach these questions with human answers. Our hope is to inspire other leaders and organizations on their own inclusion journeys. So we posed the question:

How can individuals and organizations navigate complex Queer questions with human answers?

The sentiments echoed by our colleagues revealed a simple, yet powerful message: approaching others with genuine curiosity and empathy surpasses everything else. By connecting as humans and being vulnerable and open, we create spaces where people feel heard and valued. Simply giving someone space to set their own boundaries and truly listening to them holds immense power. This approach paves the way for vulnerability, authenticity, and the difficult conversations that are essential to hold in the workplace. These human answers serve as guiding lights as organizations and individuals commit to navigating complex queer questions to create an inclusive, safe, and productive space for all.

Read on for the testimonials shared by our colleagues: 

"The queer community is rapidly evolving to become more inclusive, with changing terms and a growing demand for progress. This transformation is happening so quickly that even well-intentioned individuals may struggle to keep up with the changes. While finding common ground might sound complex in this context, I personally believe that by embracing empathy and openness, we can bridge the gaps that separate us. When we approach conversations with a genuine desire to understand and connect, we create a space where every voice can be heard and valued. By setting aside our biases and beliefs, we open ourselves up to new perspectives and experiences that can enrich our lives and deepen our understanding."

Rodolfo Pelitz, São Paulo

"The key to addressing these often complex and nuanced questions is to approach them with curiosity, respect and compassion. How wonderful it is that we are all different and view the world from different perspectives. How exciting it is to learn from different perspectives to improve and expand our own view and understanding of the world and how people can live together in harmony. While some queer questions may be new to me, and sometimes even feel a bit uncomfortable, I try to approach them with an open mind and a curiosity to learn. It has given me so much joy to see how the world has evolved in providing space for different perspectives on life – even though I realize that there are still many places where huge progress is still required. Addressing this with curiosity and empathy will drive us forward!"

Ingrid van den Maegdenbergh, Amsterdam

"Colleagues often ask about what they can or cannot say to candidates who they might know are LGBTQ+, usually out of fear of saying the wrong thing. They may steer the conversation away from the topic and, as a result, miss an important moment to connect and demonstrate care for the person in front of them. My advice: Step through your fear, embrace your curiosity and focus on the human in front of you. Ask open-ended questions about their life, what shapes them, what is important to them, creating a space for them to share what they feel comfortable about. By doing so, you let them define the boundaries while signaling that we are a Firm where everyone can share their story, and this matters. At Egon Zehnder, we are at our best when we help people tell their stories. By holding back out of fear of a particular topic, we risk missing the most important chapters and moments in those human stories."

Charlie Beasley, London

“Gender identity and expression are not just LGBTQI terms; gender weaves itself into the world we create and live in through the stories that are retold. As we navigate these questions that shape complex issues and their solutions for the communities in the workplace, both within and beyond Egon Zehnder, mindful recalibrating and holding ourselves accountable through vulnerable openness can drive impact and nurture authenticity.”

Yerramraju Behara, Gurgaon

"When I started my journey at Egon Zehnder almost five years ago, I entered the interview process with the intention of being my true, authentic self. I was determined not to hide any parts of who I was just to get a job. I casually shared about my husband—we were married for a year at the time, so I was excited to shout that from the rooftops. I talked about my charity work as a local drag queen, and I showed my skillset as a strong IT technician. For the first time, I felt like I was not hiding in the shadows the pieces of me that made me the fun, exuberant person that I am. Throughout my time at Egon Zehnder, I have not had to hide any part of who I am. I have been able to share my drag persona with several offices and even had the chance to host a companywide drag bingo. My home office in Dallas even asked me to host our holiday party as my drag persona and it truly was so much fun. The best thing about being a part of Egon Zehnder is that I can be my authentic self without fear. I have been embraced by colleagues across the Firm. It has been proven time and time again that you can accomplish so much more when you are not burdened by hiding who you are. Allowing me to be me was the best human answer to what can sometimes be a complex queer question: How do I show my authentic queer self?"

Colby Braley, Dallas

“When we are in the midst of complex queer questions, I am of the opinion that it is very often helpful to focus on the human part rather than the answer part. Engaging with the other person authentically and openly, giving them space to be themselves, respecting their identity and simply listening can be most of the answer.

Samantha Dunkel, Cologne

“In a world painted with dreams of vibrant rainbows, the idea of pronouns can be both powerful and divisive. I initially embraced the gentle and neutral pronoun ‘they,’ to address everyone aiming to bridge gaps across a wide array of genders and sexualities. However, I soon realized the complexity of binary language. A voice guided me toward ‘he/him,’ reminding me that even colorful landscapes hold hidden depths. Understanding requires patience and an open heart. The path to inclusivity is far from straight; it twists, turns, and reveals unexpected vistas. As I navigate this intricate tapestry of human expression, I remain committed to understanding, knowing the work is ongoing."

Aditya Gupta, Gurgaon

“In my experience, navigating complex questions around LGBT+ issues and inclusion can only be done through a ‘human’ viewpoint. Everyone’s experience is unique. It’s only when we are comfortable fully sharing ourselves with friends, colleagues and clients that we face into potentially difficult conversations. My advice is to be open with your questions and remember that you don’t have to claim to be an expert in order to have a conversation!”

Ross Macrae, London

"As members of the LGBTQ+ community, our lived experiences empower us to create judgment-free spaces where individuals can genuinely be themselves. By openly sharing my own fears and questions, I've deepened my connections with clients and candidates, fostering trust and understanding. Approaching complex issues with honesty and empathy allows us to build meaningful relationships and address these challenges authentically. This human-centered approach bridges gaps and promotes a culture of inclusivity and respect, and we're all the better for it."

Dale McDermott, London

"When I think about navigating the complex issues of the queer universe, a famous saying comes to mind: ‘A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.’ It's undeniable that the sea has never been smooth when we consider the experiences of the queer community. The only way to build pathways and human responses is by always thinking holistically, considering, and striving to understand each individual's context. Opening oneself with curiosity to the new is not always comfortable—after all, it's scary to navigate into the unknown. But this is the only way to increasingly humanize our approach, access each person's authenticity, and bring our whole selves into every context."

Millena Siqueira, São Paulo


As leadership advisors at Egon Zehnder, we recognize our responsibility to guide and inspire other organizations, leaders, and everyone in the workplace on the journey toward inclusivity. While each path is unique, our greatest strength lies in our collective power and our ability to deeply connect with one another while embracing our differences. Learn more about our commitment to celebrating, supporting, and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community

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