Our recent visit to Florida coincided with the Beach Pride Festival celebrations in Fort Lauderdale and gave us the opportunity to travel to Miami to meet Francisca Phillips, Engagement Diversity & Inclusion Manager for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. We were also fortunate enough to meet members of her team, Carlos and Ingrid, who gave us some fantastic insights into their roles and program responsibilities within the company. They have a complex task to manage working in a company with over 70,000 employees from more than 120 different nationalities.
In 2016, after careful consideration and consultation about available program options, the company chose to encourage a collection of ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) such as YoPro (Young Professionals), RCL NOW (Network Of Women) and Anchored In Pride (LGBTI+) for example. The adoption and funding of these groups ensures connections among employees via a wide range of interests, simultaneously allowing them to be their ‘authentic selves’. Employees decide which ‘seed groups’ are best for them and make valuable, voluntary contributions, while each group becomes an integral component of the Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion Program for the company as a whole. Francisca pointed us to the RCCL website which clearly explains the ‘ABCs of ERGs’ and concludes by saying,
‘The prize is an increasingly engaged collection of highly diverse employees more securely woven into the RCL tapestry.’
As our interest was the LGBTI+ community we were able to have a more focused discussion about that specific area. The team enthusiastically outlined a wide range of strategies they knew were being employed by the company, both on land and at sea. For instance, Pride flags are flown on all ships during June to celebrate Pride month. The company has partnered with Pridelines, a not for profit support group for youth at risk in the South Florida area. Ships’ Officers are now expected to have regular conversations with their crew members and teams, opening up communications around LGBTI+ issues. The next step will be to develop the ‘Coming Out Guide’.
“It is important to have strong support structures for all employees and to reach out to the community. We want to build a sense of belonging to enhance work-life effectiveness. We want our employees to feel more like they are part of a family, not just co-workers.”
The team is also currently working on the ‘Trans Guide’ which aims to consider what the company can improve upon to make seamless interactions with Trans guests and employees. The Trans Guide will assist officers to have open conversations about a very private matter.
“It is really about holding the hand of managers to help with the Trans process for employees. The Trans Guide will become policy, helping HR Managers on ships to know better how to engage with Trans employees and guests.”
We couldn’t help ourselves asking Francisca’s very handsome team member Carlos about his favourite gay icon.
CARLOS, WHO IS YOUR GAY ICON AND IF THAT PERSON WAS ONBOARD A SHIP WHAT WOULD YOU HOPE THEY WOULD EXPERIENCE?
“Ru Paul comes to mind immediately. I hope Ru would experience candour and joy from crew members where all the entertainment staff, crew and officers, give everything, as they always do, to everyone. In short, offering stellar customer service regardless. I don’t think some people should feel more special or less special. Our mission, ‘Free To Be Me’ is so important and we want even our celebrity guests to acknowledge that.”
“I hope Ru Paul would feel the connection between crew members. Authenticity is the key.”
In both policy and practice Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines is making significant progress in ensuring their LGBTI+ guests and employees are indeed ‘Free To Be Me’ and they are bridging the gap through well considered and developed programs and support structures. In 2017, RCCL was named by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) as the Best Place To Work for LGBTQ Equality after scoring a perfect 100 on their Corporate Equality Index. In October the same year, RCL became the first and only cruise line to be designated ‘Gay Travel Approved’ by GayTravel.com. In January 2019 Forbes recognised RCCL as one of America’s Best Employers For Diversity.
As Carlos assured us,
“This is who we are.”