Source: Diversity Inc
The Obama administration’s shift in policy to support LGBT rights globally is a significant human-rights victory that will have long-term repercussions for companies doing business abroad. It is particularly relevant in countries where LGBT people must remain closeted for fear of ostracism, prison or even death.
The announcement, which came yesterday in a speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Human Rights Day and a memorandum from President Barack Obama, sets the stage for a more specific series of U.S. actions for countries that do not move to create equality for LGBT people. Although her speech was short on details, she did say that the administration would use the “tools of American diplomacy,” including the promise of foreign aid, to encourage countries to be inclusive. She mentioned reporting LGBT abuses in the State Department report and a $3-million fund to work with LGBT organizations globally.
These may seem like small steps initially but they are the harbinger of a changing governmental attitude about LGBT rights that mirrors the inclusivity of several leading corporations. In the United States, several corporations on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list have led the way in establishing domestic-partner benefits and advocating for same-sex marriage and the end of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
Globally, a handful of companies, led by IBM, have been working to create a more inclusive workplace, especially in some Asian countries where being openly LGBT destroys not only careers but lives as well. The companies have done this by including orientation in mission statements and cultural-competence training, publicly stating their support for LGBT rights, and creating LGBT employee-resource groups wherever possible. IBM received DiversityInc’s award last month as the Top Company for Global Cultural Competence.
DiversityInc recently completed its 2011 Global Diversity survey of 17 countries in Europe, Asia and the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). The survey found that, overall, European countries were more inclusive for LGBT rights, and several have legalized same-sex marriage. Asian countries generally ignore LGBT issues culturally. The most egregious is Malaysia, in which “homosexuality” is against the law and cannot be mentioned.
This has presented significant challenges for companies doing business in Malaysia and other countries that do not recognize LGBT rights. As one of our survey respondents noted about Malaysia: “Malaysia still retains its colonial-era penal code criminalizing sodomy, and fundamentalist Islamic nations have a heavy influence on the nation’s laws, politics, cultural norms and societal attitudes, especially LGBT.” And another bluntly stated: “Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia. We cannot work on this topic.”
The companies we surveyed, most of which have their corporate headquarters in the United States, take more proactive approaches to LGBT inclusiveness in the European countries. For example, sexual orientation is mentioned in the local country’s diversity and inclusion strategy in 31 percent of the European countries, compared with 17 percent of the Asian countries and 22 percent of the BRIC countries. By contrast, it is included in 100 percent of the diversity policies of U.S. companies on The 2011 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list. And while 17 percent of the companies in the European countries have public relationships with LGBT organizations there, only 2 percent of the Asian and 10 percent of the BRIC countries do. Again, 100 percent of the DiversityInc Top 50 companies in the United States have public relations with LGBT organizations, such as GLSEN, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), PFLAG and the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
The key here is that progressive corporations usually lead the way in changing both governmental and societal perceptions of inequities. As the U.S. government shifts to a more activist position on LGBT rights, the timing is perfect for companies with global presences to be outspoken and directed in their efforts.
For more information on our global survey and our upcoming 2012 global survey, click here.
Here is media coverage of Clinton’s speech and responses from LGBT organizations:
U.S. to Aid Gay Rights Abroad, Obama and Clinton Say
The New York Times reporters in Geneva and Washington, D.C., provide firsthand reporting of the pro-LGBT-rights initiative announced yesterday by the Obama administration and the potential backlash.
Hillary Clinton calls on world not to discriminate against gays
In this Los Angeles Times article, Clinton is cited as linking gay rights to other social-equality issues, such as women’s rights, racial equality and religious freedom.
Hillary Clinton On Gay Rights Abroad: Secretary Of State Delivers Historic LGBT Speech In Geneva
The Huffington Post provides a full-length transcript and video of Clinton’s address in Geneva.
Sec. Clinton: LGBT Rights Are Human Rights
HRC President Joe Solmonese met with Clinton in Geneva prior to her speech. He shares his thoughts on the initiative.
NGLCC Co-Founders Attend Historic United Nations Speech by Secretary of State Clinton
The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce leaders provide their reactions to Clinton’s speech and global LGBT equality.
Hillary Clinton Attacks Anti-Gay Hate Crimes
The New Civil Rights Movement provides Clinton’s prepared remarks on LGBT rights from the conference in Geneva that celebrated International Human Rights Day.
The Arcus Foundation Announces Support of Global LGBT Initiatives Announced by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
The global foundation, which is aimed at advancing social justice, announces its support of global LGBT equality.
Corporations have made great progress over the past decade creating more-welcoming environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees. Today 85% of Fortune 500 companies have protective policies that address sexual orientation—up from 51% in 2000. Nonetheless, surveys show that many LGBT employees still view their sexual orientation as a hindrance on the job: Fully 48% of LGBT respondents report remaining “closeted” at work.
Our research suggests that many are hiding needlessly and that “out” workers may stand a better chance than closeted workers of being promoted (although there are still relatively few openly gay senior executives). This appears to be the case largely because closeted workers suffer anxiety about how colleagues and managers might judge them and expend enormous effort concealing their orientation, which leaves them less energy for actual work. Further, LGBT workers who feel forced to lie about their identity and relationships typically don’t engage in collegial banter about such things as weekend activities—banter that forges important workplace bonds. Some 42% of closeted employees said they felt isolated at work, versus only 24% of openly LGBT employees. These factors may explain why 52% of all closeted employees, but just 36% of out employees, believe their careers have stalled. The disparity is greatest among midlevel employees, with 70% of closeted middle managers reporting that they feel stalled, versus 51% of openly LGBT middle managers.
Todd Sears has experienced both scenarios. By the time he graduated from Duke, everyone—his family, fraternity brothers, and classmates—knew that he was gay. But during his first week at a New York investment bank, he heard his boss call a team member a “faggot” and decided to keep his orientation a secret. Leading a double life took a toll. “It created a lot of stress and exhaustion,” Sears says. “There are so many things you can’t say or that you have to lie about, and you’re constantly on guard.” He quit after a year to take a job at a boutique investment firm—where he had come out during the interview process. His new employer turned his orientation into an advantage: Sears was a crucial asset when the firm pitched its services, successfully, to a gay-oriented media company. He later went to work at Merrill Lynch, where he founded the first team on Wall Street to focus on financial planning for the LGBT community.
Attitudes toward sexual orientation remain a complicated issue, and personal prejudices are still strong: According to a recent survey, 48% of heterosexual Americans oppose gay marriage, and 52% of straight men think LGBT workers should “keep their lifestyle choices to themselves.” For talent managers, however, creating a climate that’s hospitable to all workers should be a key goal—for worker morale, to boost retention, and because there are larger business issues involved. Recent estimates put LGBT buying power at more than $700 billion in the U.S. alone. Employers who are known for progressive attitudes toward this demographic have a better chance of winning its loyalty and its business.
HBR Reprint F1107C
Sylvia Ann Hewlett is an economist and the founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy; Karen Sumberg is a senior vice president there.
7 m ESTIMATED NUMBER OF LGBT EMPLOYEES IN THE U.S. PRIVATE SECTOR
73% HOW MUCH LIKELIER CLOSETED LGBTS WHO FEEL ISOLATED AT WORK ARE THAN “OUT” WORKERS TO LEAVE THEIR JOB WITHIN THREE YEARS
59% SHARE OF FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES THAT OFFER DOMESTIC PARTNER BENEFITS
29 NUMBER OF STATES IN WHICH WORKERS CAN BE FIRED FOR BEING GAY
Anuj Chopra, 07.01.11, 06:00 PM EDT
Gay workers are forced to hide their sexuality. But there is a better way.
In her decade-long career, Neha Dixit has learned how to hide herself well. If an inquisitive colleague asks, marriage and kids are not for her–not after her recent divorce. It’s not like she’s not dating anyone, but she will only refer to her lover with a gender-neutral pronoun. If she can squelch all her natural tomboy instincts and “not look lesbian” at work, she will be just fine.
“If I have short hair, wear only shirts and trousers to work and have no boyfriend, there will be gossip about me,” says Neha, 32, who requested that her real name not be revealed. “When I go to work, I leave a part of myself back at home.”
Neha is a Mumbai-based executive with one of India’s largest telecom companies exploiting new-fangled business opportunities in a rapidly accelerating market. But within the company, conservative mindsets prevail. Homosexuality, she has gleaned from conversations with several colleagues, is considered a mental derangement or a sex-crazed lifestyle imported from Western shores. Coming out in such an environment would be professional hara-kiri. Her sexuality could be a major stumbling block in her career advancement. “I will not be judged by my work alone.” She also risks becoming an office joke; it could start off a trail of gossip and innuendo and her every friendly overture to female colleagues could be viewed with suspicion. Even worse, she fears her sexuality could be used as a weapon by some to blackmail or manipulate her.
The fear of being discovered is almost pathological. But Neha can’t afford to be totally reticent about her private life either. “I could be labelled a snob or a stuck up, affecting the professional relationship with my team members.”
She is forced to become a shape shifter, constantly editing and censoring herself amid pressures to fit within heterosexual norms. “I laugh the loudest when someone cracks a gay joke in the office,” she says. “When colleagues talk about their weekends and heterosexual escapades, I cook up my own stories.”
For Neha, and many others like her, the imaginary glass ceiling almost seems like an unbreachable barrier. A pervasive culture of silence has long bedevilled efforts to create workplace equality for employees who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT). For decades, they have waged a lonely battle for acceptance and visibility.
LGBT Best Practice Forum: Corporate Culture
This Best Practice Forum will focus on the subject of corporate culture. Through expert advice, best practice sharing and interactive exercises, participants will discuss what role senior management, corporate communications and training can play in creating an open and supportive work environment for LGBT employees.
|Date||Tuesday 19 April 2011|
|Time||8.30am – 11.30am (Registration from 8.15am)|
Cheung Kong Centre, 2 Queen’s Road, Central, Hong Kong
|Registration Fee||HK $350
HK $280 (Community Business and DIAN Members)
|Guest Speaker||Mark Kaplan
President, MGK Consulting LLC
Mark has worked since 1991 with more than a dozen large companies in the U.S., Europe and Asia to assist them in creating and developing LGB(T) inclusion initiatives.
This event is designed for Business, HR and Diversity Managers and aims to help companies take specific action on one specific recommendation area of the Resource Guide.
To Register or Learn More
Please visit the event details page to sign up for this exciting event. Also, to find out more about the Best Practice Forum, the Campaign or the Resource Guide, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Suppose your job was to make sure that there were enough left-handed scissors to meet the demand. Would you make enough for everyone who was left-handed, or only for those people who publicly identified as left-handed?
Gary Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, might unwisely counsel you to go with the lower number. If you took his advice, not only would you sacrifice potential income, but a lot of left-handed people would go without proper scissors.
In his recently released study, “How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender?” Gates has announced that there are only 9 million Americans who fit those descriptions. He goes with the average number of people who have identified themselves in surveys as openly gay, lesbian or bisexual, and then adds people who have transitioned as transsexuals.
If you are in business, and believe Gates’ figures, you will sacrifice potential income, and fail to value the true diversity of your workforce. A recent study has shown that there are as many people in the closet at work as there are out at work. That’s true for society at large, too. And the number of transgender people who identify themselves as having transitioned as transsexuals is a fraction of the transgender community. Why Gates, who according to my friends, is an excellent demographer, would announce how many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people there are, based solely on the number who self-identify as gay, or who have transitioned as transsexual, baffles me.
In the same announcement, Gates says that 11 percent of the American population has same-sex attractions, and 8.2 percent of Americans have engaged in homosexual sex. But only 3.8 percent of us self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.
For many years, I’ve suggested that 5 percent to 10 percent of the population is homosexual, and a larger percentage is bisexual. About 1.5 percent of the population is transgender. I think I’m closer to the truth than Gary Gates, but no one can prove either of us wrong. Nevertheless, I think what Gates did was a bit irresponsible. Gay and lesbian people are homosexual even if they don’t self-identify. What Gates has actually given us is a number to gauge cultural acceptance of homosexuality. Sixty years from now, I suggest the numbers of self-identified gay, lesbian, and bisexual people will be much higher, maybe closer to his 11 percent who now claim same-sex attraction.
What disturbed me as much about Gates’ findings was his explanation of his findings. He wrote a piece in The Washington Post that said, “Back in the 1960s, pioneering gay activists found an obscure passage from a 1948 book written by prominent sex researcher Alfred Kinsey that read, ‘10 percent of the males are more or less exclusively homosexual… for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55.’ They used that quote to claim that 10 percent of the population was gay, even though Kinsey’s study was not designed to make a population-based estimate.”
Gates blames gay people for creating the 10 percent figure, as if it was a plot by homosexuals to deliberately deceive heterosexual Americans. But, he wasn’t there, he’s not a historian, and he’s not a sexologist. He’s a self-identified gay demographer who is besmirching the intentions of other gay people perhaps to make a case for his own credibility. As one of those gay educators from the early 1970s, I learned the 10 percent figure from heterosexual, certified sexuality educators, not gay activists. It’s a figure that appears in sexuality textbooks. When I was certified as a sexuality educator, it was a statistic used by the professionals who taught me the course. I wish Gates had stuck to what he knows, which is statistics, and not attempted to build his case by telling us that other gay people manipulated data to suit their own political needs. It’s offensive and inaccurate.
There are three components to my homosexuality. The first is my sexual orientation, which is my innate feeling of attraction. Gates says that 11 percent of the population acknowledges these feelings. I know of a rich, white CEO who is married with children, who would not acknowledge he makes regular trips to a gay bar out of state if you pulled out his teeth one at a time. He would be disinherited. So, I don’t trust the 11 percent figure. It’s way too low.
The second component of my homosexuality is my sexual behavior. This is what I do sexually, how often, and with whom. Gates says 8.2 percent of Americans acknowledge same-sex behaviors. Given the incredible prejudice against homosexuality in the black, Latino, Asian, Indian, Mormon, and Muslim communities, and among religious fundamentalists, I think more people have had gay sex than feel comfortable telling us.
The third component of my homosexuality is my identity. This is what I tell myself and others about my sexuality. It’s called “coming out” when you tell the truth. Gates says that only 3.6 percent of us are telling the truth. That doesn’t surprise me at all, but again, stick around. We’ll all see that number grow in our lifetimes.
Telling the world that only 3.8 percent of Americans are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender seems unsophisticated to me. I wish Gary Gates had said instead, “I’m a scientist. Given our research, at this time in history, 3.6 percent of Americans self-identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, 8.2 percent say they have had homosexual sex, and 11 percent tell us they have same-sex feelings. Additionally, 0.2 percent of the population have transitioned as transsexuals. I will let others interpret these statistics, with the caution that it is difficult to fully trust the accuracy of the data in a culture that does not value same-sex attraction.”