I was very lucky to have participated in last week’s LGBT panel debate at Davos, where we all agreed that LGBT diversity is becoming a barometer how progressive a company is – and the fact that such diversity makes being out in the corporate world a positive experience.
Moderated by CNN’s Richard Quest, the panel included E&Y’s Beth Brooke-Marciniak, HSBC’s Antonio Simoes, and me. During the discussion, Beth made a very good point when she stated that the C-suite has a focus on growth and talent, which means diversity is an important point that is being addressed today. She added that “If your workforce remains in the closet, 70 percent of those in the closet are likely to leave the company. It is clearly a business issue.”
Our panel debated the progress that companies are making. We agreed that things are improving and that we must continue to focus on this journey to help LGBT people around the world. We offered the following advice for new LGBT recruits joining the workforce: pick the right company, be out on day one and be a good employee. As Beth stated, people want to succeed by who they are. If they don’t bring their whole self to the workplace, we lose the value that they can bring. Companies can do a lot to support LGBT employees. To steal a quote from a transgender colleague, “the workplace must be a haven of inclusion everywhere”.
In addition, we were asked how to avoid certain labels when you are out at work. The answer is simple – you make sure you do a good job and your area of the business performs. You have to deliver on your role. Your difference matters. As Beth stated, “value your difference.” And, I would add, find a company that values that difference. There you can thrive.
At Accenture, where I work, inclusion and diversity are extremely important because we want everyone to be comfortable in our working environment. Only when people are comfortable in their workplace will they be able to get the best out of themselves. Like most businesses, we operate with a range of stakeholders including clients, alliance companies and shareholders—all of which are diverse. We have to reflect their diversity to maximize our relationship with these stakeholders, which is why we need to be a haven for inclusion. For companies looking to adopt a strong LGBT agenda—be it a consumer goods company or a hospitality company—you need to reflect the diversity of your customers to best serve them. A diverse workforce will serve you better if your employees are comfortable in the workplace.
LGBT diversity is a boardroom topic at many big businesses. Our panel discussed how it is more important than ever to be out there as a visible role model. People want and need open and authentic professional role models to provide guidance and help them see that it is possible to be both out in the workplace and successful. They also need to see these role models participating in and contributing to the LGBT community.
For example, my role model was my uncle and his partner. They ran an advertising agency together and showed me that you can be successful in business while being out. This made a significant impression on me, so to ‘pay it forward,’ I shared my story in front of 2,000 people at an event a few years ago. Feedback was very positive and supportive.
I hope we will see more senior executives sharing their own stories and being the role models we need to provide support and direction to newer members of the workforce.
You can see a full replay of our Davos panel here.
This article is published in collaboration with LinkedIn. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Author: Sander van ’t Noordende is Group Chief Executive of Products Operating Group at Accenture.
Image: A man holds a flag as he takes part in an annual Gay Pride Parade in Toronto. REUTERS/Mark Blinch.