Open and supportive culture at UNHCR

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UNHCR actively supports diversity Pride Month annually

UNHCR actively supports diversity Pride Month annually

As an organisation that proudly celebrates and values diversity, UNHCR actively supports LGBTI equality in the workplace.

Women are actively encouraged to apply for roles with this humanitarian organisation because UNHCR recruits for a diverse workforce regardless of background, race, gender or s*xual orientation.

UNHCR employees - female, male and non-binary - operate in some 125 countries around the world, from major capitals to remote, difficult locations where field staff are directly helping the most vulnerable victims of displacement. Attaining a diverse workforce forms part of a wider aim to build UNHCR’s talent and strengthen their capacity to answer the urgent needs of refugees.

Pride Month provides a key opportunity for UNHCR to show its support for recruiting and supporting diverse talent.

UNHCR employee, Ilija Todorovic, is a Senior Regional Resettlement Officer and UN Globe Representative at UNHCR in Pretoria, South Africa. Ilija is one of the many UNHCR employees who greatly values the organisation’s commitment to embracing an open and diverse culture.

Working in an open and supportive culture

Ilija’s work involves assisting refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons who are as diverse as all the colours of the rainbow.

To be able to deliver the best protection and assistance, Ilija believes the work culture at UNHCR has to be just as diverse - which includes supporting LGBTI colleagues just as they would LGBTI clients and their families.

“This is even more important because we have colleagues working in countries that do not accept them, their lives, spouses/partners and families. That is why the workplace has to be a safe place where all our colleagues especially LGBTI staff like myself can find an open and supportive environment where we can be ourselves and not have to worry about our safety and even lives,” says Ilija.

Being yourself at work

Ilija is comfortable at work and believes UNHCR has come a long way in supporting the LGBTI community in the workplace.

“It all comes down to specific things I have experienced at UNHCR. Importantly, there is a new corporate management acceptance that discrimination in any form will not be tolerated, and that includes homophobia. I feel more and more welcomed in teams by managers around the world notwithstanding how LGBTI unfriendly that country may be,” says Ilija.

With new attitudes at a managerial level, employees are able to feel more comfortable and even empowered to be their full selves at work - with the confidence that they will be protected and supported.

“There are incredible colleagues at both the international and national level who are caring and compassionate and show and tell me how being LGBTI should not be an issue. If anything, there is genuine interest in who I am and the welfare of my family. As such, I am now more comfortable than ever after 23 years of being in UNHCR that I can finally be myself at work. No need to lie anymore,” says Ilija.

Challenging stereotypes and misconceptions at work

“Once LGBTI colleagues feel empowered to be themselves at work, they are the best to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions. The most common stereotype is that LGBTI colleagues are single and married to their jobs. It seems work balance is ok for all but not for LGBTI colleagues. My perception is that acceptance by some colleagues, and in certain operations, is more obtainable if they do not hear that you are married and/or have kids and want to spend time with them. Even amongst the most liberal colleagues, having and raising children can be quite taboo to talk about,” explains Ilija.

“LGBTI colleagues can confront these notions by being themselves and not being afraid to share stories about their diverse families with others. Just the simple action of placing a family photo on one’s desk is a positive step in building bridges between the divides that may separate us,” comments Ilija.

Career opportunities for all

One of UNHCR’s greatest asset is their workforce of highly experienced and committed professionals. They work with passionate, talented and creative individuals who want to use their skills for good.

With so many great roles and such an important job to do, UNHCR can offer a career that will truly make a difference. Take a look at these current vacancies.

Find out more

Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

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