Earlier in the year:
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.
Like millions of Americans, I was terribly saddened to learn of the recent suicides of several teenagers across our country after being bullied because they were gay or because people thought they were gay. Children are particularly vulnerable to the hurt caused by discrimination and prejudice and we have lost many young people over the years to suicide. These most recent deaths are a reminder that all Americans have to work harder to overcome bigotry and hatred.
I have a message for all the young people out there who are being bullied, or who feel alone and find it hard to imagine a better future: First of all, hang in there and ask for help. Your life is so important to your family, your friends, and to your country. And there is so much waiting for you, both personally and professionally there are so many opportunities for you to develop your talents and make your contributions.
And these opportunities will only increase. Because the story of America is the story of people coming together to tear down barriers, stand up for rights, and insist on equality, not only for themselves but for all people. And in the process, they create a community of support and solidarity that endures. Just think of the progress made by women just during my lifetime by women, or ethnic, racial and religious minorities over the course of our history and by gays and lesbians, many of whom are now free to live their lives openly and proudly. Here at the State Department, I am grateful every day for the work of our LGBT employees who are serving the United States as foreign service officers and civil servants here and around the world. It wasn’t long ago that these men and women would not have been able to serve openly, but today they can because it has gotten better. And it will get better for you.
So take heart, and have hope, and please remember that your life is valuable, and that you are not alone. Many people are standing with you and sending you their thoughts, their prayers and their strength. Count me among them.
Take care of yourself.