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Sold-Out Pride Business Forum 2024 Conference: Diversity and Inclusion Go Hand in Hand with a Culture of Belonging

The Pride Business Forum conference is an annual celebration of diversity and inclusion within Czech workplaces. This year's event was especially notable as the 14th edition took place in the prestigious Marriott Prague hotel, and for the first time ever, all tickets sold out days before the event. The audience was treated to a truly rich program featuring prominent speakers from the highest levels of management. The highlight of the conference was Kim Dabbs, a compelling speaker and author of the bestseller "You Belong Here." The event was expertly moderated by Zdravko Krstanov, Editor-in-Chief of

Networks of support bring well-being and growth

The theme of this year’s conference was “Networks of Support”. These networks have enabled the transformation of an initial gathering of enthusiasts from the international corporate environment into a platform boasting 96 member companies, with influence that now extends beyond the borders of the Czech Republic. 

During the conference, seven new companies joined the Pride Business Forum: Steelcase (as a Premium Member), Envista Holdings Corporation,, NN, Actum Digital, Flecto, and PRICEFX. The work environment, which fosters equal conditions for LGBTQ+ individuals, now encompasses 130,000 employees, making the platform, with a touch of exaggeration, the fifth largest city in the country. And its potential for further growth is huge, given how much of the audience was made up of first-time Pride Business Forum attendees.

We all belong to someone’s support network 

“Which of you is part of someone else’s support network?” Tereza Kadlecová, Executive Director of the Pride Business Forum Foundation, asked from the stage, prompting a sea of raised hands. “Those of you who didn’t raise your hands are underestimating yourselves. Just by being here, you are contributing to this support,” she added.

All proceeds from the conference admissions will be directed through an endowment fund to support selected LGBTQ+ nonprofit organizations. David Tišer, Director of Ara Art, an organization that bridges Roma and queer issues, was given the platform to introduce the attendees to intersectionality and multiple discrimination. LGBTQ+ Roma individuals face discrimination in mainstream society, within the queer community, and within the Roma minority. 

“While Romani people often find a safe place at home with their family, gay Romani people have nowhere to go. At home, they face excommunication and social control—for instance, in some families, LGBTQ+ Roma are not allowed to eat off the same plates as other relatives,” David Tišer explained to the astonished audience, who then bid him farewell with thunderous applause, full of sympathy and support.

Czech society shows limited support for LGBTQ+ individuals

Mutual support and networking are crucial not only in groups of society where multiple types of discrimination are intertwined. Many attendees likely had their own experiences, yet they were perhaps hearing the term “minority stress” for the first time. This social stigma is closely linked to LGBTQ+ identity. 

“Stigmatized individuals must develop their own coping strategies, which is why they experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicidality, substance abuse, eating disorders, and other health complications,” explained Michal Pitoňák from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Andrea Stašek from Masaryk University further elaborated, presenting alarming findings from the Queer Health Survey: 49% of respondents often feel judged for their identity; 43% do not feel supported by their families; and 29% conceal their identity in all situations

It’s no surprise, then, that 40% of queer individuals are at high risk for depression—in most cases, individuals under the age of 35. Their situation is exacerbated by the mindset of Czech society, which is generally blind to discrimination. As Petra Průšová from Kantar highlighted, 54% of Czechs believe that coming out does not bring any disadvantage.

What employers can do for LGBTQ+ employees

In our country, business remains the biggest ally of queer people. Companies counteract legal discrimination by establishing their own equitable employee benefits. Many companies go a step further by focusing on equality for queer employees, shifting from the term “employee benefits” to the more accurate “equal treatment”, as highlighted by Michaela Bauer, Member of the Board of Directors at ČSOB, during the Leaders Panel discussion.

Companies are also implementing inclusive policies to address issues such as the status of transgender employees and to mitigate microaggressions within the workplace. These principles are being integrated not only by new hires but also by HR departments and management teams. 

As Violeta Luca, CEO of Vodafone Czech Republic, emphasized, the goal is not just to create an accepting work environment but to enable personal and professional growth. This growth benefits both the individual employees and the company as a whole. In essence, the aim is to ensure that no one feels like an outsider.

We need to feel like we truly belong

Kim Dabbs arrived at the Marriott Prague Hotel straight from the airport. As a Korean-born individual adopted in America and currently living in Munich, Germany, she understands the feeling of “not fitting in.” She captivated the conference room with her opening sentences, resonating with everyone who has ever experienced exclusion. Regardless of our gender, relational, or sexual diversity, each of us knows what it feels like to be excluded or not fit in. 

Such situations drain our energy as we focus solely on trying to belong. “The outside world continually tells us where we belong. The outside world defines our identity for us. In order for culture to be inclusive, instead of letting the outside world define who we are and where we belong, we need to start doing that for ourselves,” Kim Dabbs shared, speaking from the heart. She emphasized that diversity and inclusion cannot be done without belonging, without feeling like we have a place here and that we count – a theme reflected in her award-winning book, “You Belong Here.”

Repeated rituals, such as making coffee together in the morning, help build and reinforce a sense of security in the workplace. When asked by the audience, Kim Dabbs provided specific examples of measures she has implemented to foster belonging: “Instead of annual evaluations with the boss, we introduced ongoing expert coaching to eliminate the power bias. We also moved managers out of their private offices, where access required navigating through two secretaries, and placed them directly with their teams. Now, they all use the same kitchen, facilitating informal meetings and conversations.” In response to another question, Kim Dabbs emphasized that individuals with stigmatized identities should not have to teach others how to treat them. That responsibility lies with leaders and managers.

Inclusion isn’t always welcomed by company management

Can a shift towards greater respect and openness in company culture be achieved without the support of top management? The panelists unanimously agreed: no. 

“Change requires leadership and power. It cannot happen without the backing of the C level,” stated Eva Zanin, Global DEI Manager at Deutsche Telekom AG. Beata Borer, Executive Director and GBS Prague Site Lead at MSD Czech Republic, concurred: “When people see that the management is open-minded, they are much more likely to decide to go through the coming out process in the workplace. And the coming out of the leaders themselves is even more important”. 

However, support doesn’t always have to come solely from top management. “When I talk about leaders, I don’t just mean those in positions of power. I mean individuals whom others naturally follow,” clarified Javier Leonor, Global Inclusion and Diversity Senior Manager at Accenture.

Diversity and inclusion managers received awards

The conference continued the awards process that began on May 16th in the Prague Castle Ballroom, marking the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. The event culminated in the announcement of the LGBTQ+ Friendly Employer 2024 awards, honoring companies that actively promote equality and inclusion for their LGBTQ+ employees, thereby fostering better working conditions and contributing to overall business success and innovation.

This year saw an unprecedented number of entries winning these awards. In the SILVER category, the five awarded companies were: Accenture, Johnson & Johnson, MSD, Novartis, and SAP. There were even six winners in the BRONZE category: Clifford Chance, ČSOB, Deloitte, Honeywell, MONETA and WPP. Proud representatives of the awarded companies filled the podium to receive their diplomas and crystal trophies. During the acceptance speeches, many expressed gratitude towards other Pride Business Forum members, acknowledging the valuable lessons learned from them.

Vodafone claimed the top spot in the LGBTQ+ Friendly Employer 2024 awards for the seventh consecutive time. Over the past year, Vodafone has demonstrated a strong commitment to social change by initiating an open letter to Prime Minister Petr Fiala, advocating for marriage equality. Signed by over 100 companies, the letter underscored to politicians that equality is not only a moral imperative but also beneficial for business

“They say a pebble starts an avalanche. In our company, there are many such pebbles. Next time, we hope to see even more companies recognized for their commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said Richard Stonavský, Vice President of Regulation and External Relations, in his acceptance speech. 
Take a look at what the event looked like.