Why is LGBT equality still such a burning issue in the workplace? In the United States at least, the vast majority of companies already support the rights of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. Some 93% of Fortune 500 corporations prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, while 75% of those corporations have non-discrimination policies relating to gender identity.
That said, it is important to remember that these companies operate in a global marketplace. And, to this day, 75 countries have laws criminalizing same-sex conduct. In eight countries, same-sex sexual conduct is punishable by death.
Many of the Fortune 500 corporations that prohibit discrimination are also members of the World Economic Forum, which “came out” at Davos this year with a series of discussions on LGBT issues. It was encouraging to see corporations such as Microsoft, EY and HSBC joining forces with industrial giants including General Electric, Dow Chemical and - yes - my company, Alcoa, collaborating in pursuit of a common goal. Participants went home agreeing to continue the conversation in countries all around the world using the tools outlined in the Center for Talent Innovation’s latest report, “Out in the World: Securing LGBT Rights in the Global Marketplace,” which was unveiled in Davos.
"I was admitted into a gay rehabilitation programme"
On a personal level, the events of the week were hugely gratifying.
As an adolescent gay man, I could not be open about my sexuality for fear of retribution from my church, family and friends. Living in a devout household governed by theocracy, I was admitted into a gay rehabilitation program at the first suspicion that I might be gay. The fear of being out in that environment caused me to keep my "secret" to myself for a long time.
In my early twenties, I made the difficult decision to live my life openly, despite knowing my decision could sever my relationship with my church, family and childhood friends. As I entered the workplace, I wasn’t just looking for a job, I was looking for acceptance. At my first job, at Goldman Sachs, I relished the opportunity to be part of that company's efforts to create an LGBT employee resource group. Throughout my career, I have made it my personal mission to advance equality.
At my current employer, Alcoa, I was one of the founding members of Employees at Alcoa for Gay and Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Equality. From a group of seven at its inception in 2007, we now have nearly 700 members spanning 14 countries. Today, I am honored to work for our 60,000 employees to advance global inclusion and diversity in the 30 countries we operate.
Our mission on behalf of employees from every sort of background is to create a more inclusive work environment where everyone can feel empowered to reach their full career potential without the fear of discrimination. We are proud to lend our experience and conviction to a global conversation that took a bold step forward last month.
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