As I look back at 2015 it’s hard to believe that it’s almost been a year since the World Economic Forum addressed LGBT inclusion issues on the Davos agenda.
So, how far have we come since then?
For starters, EY has released a report, building on the interest demonstrated at Davos. The study stresses how important it is for senior out executives to be visible in the various countries in which their organizations do business. This was also the subject of a webcast from the conference that I took part in along with Antonio Simoes, Chief Executive Officer, UK at HSBC Bank plc, and Sander van ‘t Noordende, Group CEO – Products, Accenture.
And since then, I’ve been reminded time and again of how important that discussion was. While talk from the top is necessary, in my experience it isn’t quite sufficient. Being out, being senior — and being seen to have succeeded nonetheless — is what makes a difference.
Changing the tone in Taiwan
A good example is a trip I made to Taiwan shortly after Davos. EY sponsored a panel discussion with many customers and clients about the idea that “Difference Matters” and exactly how it matters to the bottom line of business. We focused specifically on the benefits of LGBT inclusion and the challenges faced by LGBT talent. The panel was organized by Asia-Pacific Unity, part of EY’s 2,300-strong global employee network for LGBT professionals and their straight allies. I was joined on the panel by Paul Choi, a terrific senior out male executive from Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong.
Taking advantage of the general respect for seniority in Asia, we were able to talk openly about not only the business case for including talent filled with differences but also about the personal challenges we had in being closeted over the course of our careers, our experience in coming out and what allies can do to help LGBT talent achieve their full potential.
The Unity panel discussion had an unexpected dividend – although we had not anticipated any press coverage, we became the subject of a very positive article in Taiwan’s largest newspaper. Citing the panel itself as the newsworthy event, the United Daily News published a major piece about how and why the business community can and should create an inclusive environment in Taiwan.
Global voice, local stage
Critical to this success was a local presence with committed employees and supportive leadership. EY has long believed that LGBT employee networks are often most effective in places where there are significant cultural and legal challenges to a progressive diversity and inclusion agenda. This is an important part of our own global diversity strategy. And the positive external coverage of our panel in Taipei turned out to be a great example of how this approach can work.
My travels over that past year have made me aware on a daily basis of the unique opportunity large multinationals have to make a positive difference on LGBT inclusion where people live and work. We can use our global voice and economic reach to increase awareness of the economic business benefits of inclusion – on a local stage.
This will lead to growth for companies. Talent will be much more engaged, productive and innovative. Inclusively led, richly diverse workforces drive higher bottom lines, resulting in products and services being designed and imagined to meet previously unimagined needs. And the growth that accompanies LGBT inclusion is not just for companies – it is for countries, too. LGBT-owned businesses and multinationals with senior out executives create jobs and employ citizens.
I was immensely proud to have been a part of last year’s debate at the World Economic Forum and am looking forward to continuing the discussions on LGBT inclusion at Davos 2016. But there remains a huge amount of work to do — and I have every intention of continuing to be as visible as possible in that process.
This is part of a Agenda in Focus collection of views on LGBT rights.
Author: Beth Brooke-Marciniak, EY Global Vice Chair, Public Policy
Image: A general view of the financial district in Taipei City November 16, 2009. REUTERS/Nicky Loh