Inclusivity abroad— designing better relocation journeys for LGBTQ+ colleagues

If you’re an HR or Global Mobility specialist, you’ll know it’s a statistical certainty that many in your organisation will be LBGTQ+. In this edition of Reloverse, we examine how you can design fully inclusive relocation journeys for everyone in your corporate community, allowing them to live work and thrive around the world in safety.

Equality overseas

You’ll probably have an equality policy that protects and promotes the rights of LBGTQ+ people in your organisation. That may be a corporate standard and a global goal, but how can you apply it overseas where it’s not aligned with local customs or legislation? This may seem like a niche topic—but the scale of the issue is misunderstood, as are the risks of getting it wrong.

Is it important?

The number of LBGTQ+ people in your organisation may be larger than you think (and certainly bigger than any of us really knows). It’s estimated at least half of LGBTQ+ workers conceal their true selves for fear of discrimination—which includes being passed over for promotion or not considered for international assignments. Having an inclusive, positive plan will protect you from challenges and claims while enhancing your reputation as an employer of choice. For your teams, it means enabling them to succeed in safety with authenticity. It’s good for recruitment, retention and reputation.

Beating bias

Most of us recognise and reject unconscious bias, but we all do it, especially where we have gaps in our knowledge. Generalising or making assumptions about a community, a country or its customs influence our attitudes and are a shortcut our brains use to make decisions more quickly. It pays to be mindful that where homosexuality has been decriminalised, conservative societies may still be hostile—just as they are to public displays of heterosexual affection, including holding hands. Legal, societal and cultural attitudes are constantly changing, so up-to-date research is essential in place of assumptions or past personal experience. Having a relocation partner in-country with access to hard facts and resources can help you take more conscious, informed decisions.

Mind your language

Adopting inclusive words needn’t mean becoming excessively ‘woke’, tiptoeing around terminology, or losing clarity in the way you communicate. Biological sex, orientation and gender are different things with distinct definitions. They are not preferences, choices or anything linked to lifestyle. Sometimes simpler words are better. ‘They’ is interchangeable with ‘he/she’ in almost every context—and husbands and wives are spouses or partners, and mums and dads are parents the world over. Stating pronouns has become increasingly popular, especially across LinkedIn, and in an international context where first or given names are unfamiliar in your language, it’s great to acknowledge and respect someone’s gender identity from the get-go.


Many LGBTQ+ people have faced challenges navigating their lives. Things needn’t be the same in their relocation journey. By being direct and unambiguously inclusive throughout the talent acquisition process, you’ll instil confidence in a wider cross-section of candidates. Eliminating workplace discrimination and shining a light on unconscious bias in your current teams will also mean more of them raise their hands for roles overseas. This may mean you need a policy around local immigration processes—particularly supporting moves involving partners and family. Detailed destination guides are also useful to explain attitudes and legal frameworks locally, and signpost assignees to support, facilities and community links. Without specific policies, knowledge and guidance, LGBTQ+ corporate assignees are left to do much of the work themselves or avoid new opportunities to everyone’s detriment.

Becoming an active ally

A true commitment to inclusivity means a lot more than passive acceptance. An ally is someone who doesn’t experience discrimination because of their class, race, sexuality or gender identity, but actively seeks equity and equality for those who do. It doesn’t mean you being a lone champion of the cause or an expert in the field: simply that you ask questions with interest and respect or acknowledge when things are imperfect. By educating ourselves, listening to our colleagues and speaking up when something’s wrong, we bring about greater inclusivity, opportunity and change.

Julia Palmer, Santa Fe’s Chief Human Resource Officer, said “Fostering inclusivity leads to more innovative, engaged employees. That’s especially true when it comes to hiring and retaining the best talent for international assignments. Many managers pay a lot of attention to age, disability and race, but tend to think of gender issues in

terms of traditional male and female representation. Supporting our customers and clients with advice and practical help on LGBTQ+ relocation journeys is a specialism we’re particularly proud of”.

If you’re looking for a partner that truly understands the opportunities and challenges of inclusive international relocations, we would love to support you and your teams. Simply drop an email to and we’ll get back to you.

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