Cristina Săracu is involved in consulting and volunteering projects, in both organisational and educational areas. In 2022 she founded Incluziune pe Bune [Inclusion for Real] – an NGO involved in promoting inclusion through concrete, coherent and impactful actions and projects. In this interview we go deeper into the topics of LGBTQIA+ inclusion in Romanian workplaces and pick her brain on the practical steps organisations can take towards implementing cohesive and applied strategies.
This interview was first published in Diversity Management in Romanian Organisations, 2nd edition, June 2023, Bucharest.
Cristina, why do you do the things you do? What brings meaning to your life and your
I’d like for future generations to not have to go through the same hardships as too many of
us before. For this to happen, we need to make it happen. I feel most purposeful when I get
to see real change, real progress, and I can see it being helpful for someone in the
Challenges we ‘sweep under the rug’ or avoid addressing don’t just fade away. Along with
the dialogue / discourse, we need concrete action to turn our daily approach into an
We hardly even talk about the LGBTQIA+ Community within organisations or in our society.
The topic is still seen as ‘taboo’. There is still a lot of misinformation going around. This
breeds the ground for frequent discrimination, from offensive jokes or otherwise aggressive
discourse to even acts of violence. This, in turn, perpetuates injustice and a lot of hurt.
Within the organisational environment, this translates into inequality and sometimes even
abuse, or other forms of discrimination.
I decided to come out after many years of witnessing how hard it can get for members in
the community to find their peace. I have seen kids be emotionally abused by their
caretakers, violence within families and workplaces, and many people who still preach all
kinds of falsehoods about us.
My take is that change begins when we open the grounds for an honest conversation,
backed up by respect for all life, by arguments, patience and especially by the openness and
curiosity of learning about the other, Historically, homosexuality has been documented
since ancient times, but I still hear “We aren’t yet ready to talk about this” today. How are
we supposed to understand a community without talking to and about them?
On your personal website you mention you believe in the force of the questions that we
choose to say. What is a question that’s been important to you lately?
If I have to choose a single one, it would be: “Do we really grasp the real need for inclusion
within organisations and its immediate, quantifiable benefits?
My experience so far tells me we’re not quite there yet, and I say that from the viewpoint of
the communities who are still being continuously marginalised and overlooked.
You describe your professional history as a narrative of strategic vision through people
and about people. What have you learnt about yourself and about being human in the
I learn something new every day, I’m a very curious being and I think every encounter is an
opportunity to uncover a different perspective.
Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s never too late to find what is meaningful to you and
gives you purpose. And one more thing: there are a lot of ‘unknown’ hardcore allies of the
LGBTQIA+, not only in organisations, but also in society, and these are not the bystanders,
they are the people who get involved.
One last thing, a simple rule that comes very much in handy when you’re trying to get a
team to work effectively: “Treat others like you would like to be treated”.
Challenging our own beliefs can be extremely difficult. When it comes to LGBT+ inclusion,
is there something that you thought you knew and later changed your mind about?
Often, the discourse we hear from others about ourselves starts with “We tolerate”. But the
thing with tolerance is it goes somewhere along the lines of “Ok, you may sit with us, but…
that is because we allow you here, you are not our equal, we are only tolerating you here”.
When we talk about being a full-fledged citizen with equal rights, inclusion for real imposes
equal treatment irrespective of context.
How would you describe the current state of LGBT+ inclusion in Romanian workplaces,
and what are some of the challenges that individuals in the LGBT+ community face in the
Unfortunately, real inclusion is almost non-existent within organisations, except for a few
foreign companies that have begun implementing cohesive projects. In the context of
Romanian shareholding, however, discrimination is sadly a major issue. Within the vast
majority of organisations, it is a topic we are still refusing to bring up and discuss.
You have started Inclusion for Real to help companies on their journey towards being
more inclusive. What is your biggest challenge when discussing D&I with them and what
do you think is the least understood thing about this?
The toughest challenge is the “not now” mindset – “We want to do it, just not now, it’s not
the right time…”, but it hardly ever is ‘the right time’. Without giving it a shot, you can’t
know what’s possible and what not. If you don’t listen, there is no way to build even
minimal knowledge on the topic and this is, sadly, where we are currently situated.
Why is it important for an organisation that finds itself at the beginning of this journey to
understand bias in the workplace and the impact it has?
Support from top management is vital. Top management positions should be the quickest to
challenge their own biases and to understand what we can do to become inclusive. This
support coming from the level of top management helps inclusion become part of the core
strategy. It’s just as important to assign a person who can dedicate themselves to these
projects entirely. It is a full-time job, if you truly wish to notice a real transformation in the
area of organisational inclusion, and, much like any department, it also requires resource
allocation and budgeting.
For a company to be truly inclusive, it is not enough to make a statement regarding D&I, it
needs to take concrete actions. What are some of the policies and practices that
companies can put in place to support LGBT+ employees?
The first thing we should do is gather enough information about LGBTQIA+, in order to
understand what we are discussing and why.
Inclusive communication is a priority. Starting with the job application form or the interview
itself, the candidate should be allowed to inform us on the pronouns they use from the get
go: she/her, he/his, they/them, or any other pronouns or neo-pronouns. During the
interview, upon meeting the candidate, we shouldn’t assume what names they’d like to go
by, but rather ask them politely how they would like to be addressed to.
I wouldn’t generalise policies and practices. In my experience, a customised approach can
be of even greater help to the organisation adopting it. But in the context of coming up with
an inclusion strategy and plan, we should consider the identities, the domestic lives, or any
relevant detail of the community members.
What gives you hope when it comes to LGBT+ inclusion in the Romanian organisational
and societal landscape? Can you share any success stories or examples of companies in
Romania that have implemented effective LGBT+ inclusion policies and practices?
What really gives me hope are the allies I’ve met over time in organisations. They are the
ones making things happen, they ‘walk the talk. One of the first success stories I was happy
to be a part of was that of Adina Alionte, at Societe Generale Global Solution Centre
Romania. Adina has been building up for a few years now, and her results are tangible.
What has me marvelling at her approach is her uninterrupted journey of understanding
LGBTQIA+ related topics to the smallest details. And there are many other such
extraordinary people, who have voluntarily taken on a project coordination role like this.
There are nearly no organisations holding a dedicated D&I paid role in Romania, and by
‘organisations’, I refer to companies holding hundreds or thousands of employees in
Romania. Isn’t it important enough to budget a job role for D&I?
What role do you see Romanian companies playing in promoting LGBT+ inclusion and
acceptance in society, and what steps can they take to be leaders in this area?
Knowledge breeds acceptance and concrete, continuous action breeds change – practically,
a new behaviour emerges inclusion.
Companies and any other organisation (NGOs, universities, Public Administration, etc.) hold
a crucial role in adopting inclusive approaches, whenever the latter become ingrained in the
organisational culture and in their strategic approach. Whenever discrimination of any kind
is unacceptable in the workplace, society changes. Most of our behaviours are directly
influenced by the environments we spend most time in.
It is essential to address the LGBTQIA+ topic, on an organisational level and to find concrete
solutions, so we can then track the progress and continue the process. When there’s a will
there’s a way.