Gender Inequality

Joe Biden calls for business to lead on LGBT rights

US Vice President Joe Biden

'The world is looking at you,' Biden tells top executives Image: REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

Arwen Armbrecht
Writer and social media producer, Freelance
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Gender Inequality

Vice President Joe Biden doesn't hold back when it comes to promoting and improving LGBT rights in the workplace. During the the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos, he met with numerous executives including Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder of apartment-sharing company Airbnb; Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of the Coca Cola Company; and Anthony Scaramucci, founder of hedge fund SkyBridge Capital.

"When it comes to LGBT rights in the workplace, the world is looking to you," Biden told them. "You have more impact than anything the federal government has done."

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The vice president was adamant that the conduct of senior management was core to advancing the LGBT agenda. "You can literally change the terms of the debate ... You actually put governments on notice," he said.

Biden also praised the progress already made. Only a few years ago, he pointed out, business leaders would have ignored homophobic remarks. "You would have all kept you mouths shut. We wouldn't have said anything. Today, name me a business meeting in the United States of America with someone who would do that."

That sentiment was echoed by Beth Brooke-Marciniak and Shamina Singh, speakers on the first ever LGBT panel at Davos.

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In many ways, for LGBT people relationships in the workplace can be as important as relationships with friends or family. As many as 62% of LGBT graduates born between 1980 and 2000 return to the closet when they start their first job, and 70% of those who keep their sexual orientation a secret at work are likely to leave their job within the first three years. According to an poll conducted by OUTstanding, a network for LGBT professionals, 85% of those surveyed said that non-inclusive workplaces are damaging to productivity.

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