With the announcement of the Inaugural Hong Kong LGBT Workplace Inclusion Awards, bc magazine spoke with Fern Ngai about the awards and the Hong Kong LGBT Workplace Inclusion Index.
The LBGT index… can you explain what it is?
The Hong Kong LGBT Workplace Inclusion Index is the first and only benchmark in Asia on corporate policies and practices for creating inclusive workplaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees. A pioneering initiative by Community Business, the index will for the first time enable companies in Hong Kong to benchmark, drive progress and promote their efforts on LGBT inclusion. The Hong Kong LGBT Workplace Inclusion Index is based on the recommendations in Community Business’ leading publication: Creating Inclusive Workplaces for LGBT Employees in Hong Kong – A Resource Guide for Employers, designed to drive the adoption and promotion of best practice for LGBT workplace inclusion.
The Index is intended to be run on a regular basis, giving companies time to address existing challenges and take steps to drive real progress in their organisations in Hong Kong. Drawing on global best practice and validated from a Hong Kong perspective, the Index is structured around the following 8 categories:
1) Equal Opportunity Policies
2) Diversity Training
3) Diversity Strucutre
5) Corporate Culture
6) Market Positioning
8) Community and Advocacy
The Index is designed to be simple and straightforward to complete and is supported by clear Guidance Notes. To ensure the credibility of the assessment several questions require Supporting Information in the form of further information or evidence.
As a part of the Index, companies are also invited to submit nominations for the following 3 awards and will receive additional points for doing so:
LGBT Network of the Year Award
LGBT Inclusion Champion of the Year Award
LGBT Executive Sponsor of the Year Award
In addition, companies are encouraged to nominate an LGBT initiative for: LGBT Community Impact of the Year Award sponsored by Goldman Sachs. The Index is open for submissions from 12 November 2014 to 27 February 2015. All questions in the Index and awards refer to the period 1 January 2014 – 31 December 2014.
What are you hoping to achieve through the index?
We hope the Index can:
- Provide a driver and catalyst for the adoption of best practice with regard to LGBT workplace inclusion in Hong Kong.
- Provide companies with a credible and robust tool by which to assess and communicate their progress on LGBT workplace inclusion in Hong Kong.
- Recognise and acknowledge those companies that are leading the way.
The index has been running for a few months now, what has the feedback been? The take-up with local companies?
We now have 36 companies confirmed participating in the Index. When we initially consider conducting an Index roughly 5 years ago, only 2 companies showed an interest in participating. While Hong Kong still has a way to go towards full workplace inclusion, this progress demonstrates the rapid pace of change and commitment from the business community towards creating inclusive workplaces for the LGBT community in Hong Kong.
For progress to made, it is critical that local companies also participate in the Index. We recently partnered with the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to hold an LGBT workshop to introduce the importance of creating inclusive workplaces and why this is critical for businesses in Hong Kong.
How can smaller firms participate?
All companies in Hong Kong, regardless of size or industry, are encouraged to participate. There are different levels of engagement depending on the abilities and interests of each participant. Companies can choose to join our Basic, Professional or Leadership engagement package. These packages offer a range of benefits and services tailored to the needs of the business community in Hong Kong.
First of all, the submission itself is a good exercise for companies to review their footprint so far and consolidate the information. It’s also a good way to engage key stakeholders in the organisation to ensure joint commitment to the LGBT inclusion efforts. For those smaller firms that you referred to, which have not yet focused their resources on or solidified their plan with regard to LGBT inclusion, it’s a good opportunity to do so.
Some companies may hesitate to participate only because that they worry about not having done enough and may score poorly and hence look bad. This will not happen as the Index is not competitive in nature. It is a benchmark for every company by which they may assess where they are in terms of LGBT inclusion by comparing with other companies in HK, communicate their progress and learn from best practice. Individual company scores will not be published and will only be shared with the respective company. We will only announce the top 10 companies with highest weighting on each assessment criteria. It’s important for companies to get into the Index so they have the baseline to plan their roadmap for the years to come.
Some of them may not get on board immediately but the participation of their peers in similar size or same industry will open the door for them and for us too. But for those who can see the first mover advantage and want to grab the opportunity of being the pioneer or leader in their respective domains, we look forward to seeing them on board.
More information can be found online at: www.communitybusiness.org/hklgbtindex/participate
As individuals, what should people be aware of in their own workplace inter-actions?
It is essential that individuals understand their own bias and take active steps to mitigate it as they begin to foster more inclusive workplaces. Generally, bias is very natural. We all possess it, as it allows us to rapidly process the world around us and the hundreds of thousands of inputs that we are processing every second make decisions and function on a daily basis. Most of this is what we refer to as “unconscious.” For example, getting into your car everyday appears to be a relatively straightforward, non-event, but in reality it is a seamless, string of complex actions and decisions that we making every moment but has become so ingrained, that we barely notice it, making it an unconscious action.
Similar to the analogy of the car, every day we make assumptions and decisions at work, which allow us to move through the day fairly seamlessly and get ahead. However, some of these decisions and assumptions have a much more significant impact than we consciously realize. It is these subtle decisions that affect who gets considered for a promotion, who is included in a client meeting, and ultimately the degree to which an environment at work is inclusive of all individuals.
It’s important that individuals understand that bias is natural, so it’s not a question of whether or not one has them. Instead it’s a matter of making the unconscious, conscious by beginning to take active steps towards acknowledging bias and mitigating it in the workplace.
The terms ‘inclusion’ and ‘diversity’ are the current buzz words internationally, in practical terms what do they mean locally?
Diversity embraces, respects and values the differences between individuals, while inclusion focuses on creating an environment where all individuals can contribute regardless of their differences. Some of the diversity issues that are top of mind with many of the companies that we work with include gender, LGBT, and disability. However our research has begun to highlight many other dynamics of diversity that resonate more locally including language, education, overseas exposure and communication styles. Companies are working to create environments where individuals have equal access to opportunities and advancement mindful of these dynamics and mitigating any biases that may arise as a result.
Surely the sexuality of an employee is irrelevant to their job performance, why do you feel that employers should positively discriminate towards LBGT employees?Companies that create a workplace where individuals can bring their whole selves to work are good for business, period. Research from Stonewall in the UK shows that that concealing one’s sexual orientation at work can reduce productivity by 30%. In research conducted by Community Business (Hong Kong LGBT Climate Study 2011-12), we found that 71% of individuals have had to lie about their personal life at work as result of working in a non-LBGT inclusive workplace, resulting in 54% of respondents finding it difficult to build authentic relationships with colleagues and 53% reporting feeling exhausted, depressed or stressed having to pretend to be someone they are not. Additionally 51% of our survey respondents stated that they wasted energy at work worrying about what will happened when people find out about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Creating an LGBT inclusive workplace doesn’t just affect the estimated 5-10% of the working population that identifies as LGBT. It also has a positive impact on friends, allies, Gen Y/millennials, customers and other key stakeholders. Research shows an increase of 7%-16% in overall employee engagement scores in companies with LGBT inclusive workplaces. Our research has also shown that 63% of LGBT employees who are ‘out’ or ‘open’ in the workplace say they are able to build closer, more authentic relationships with colleagues.
Finally, creating inclusive workplaces allows companies to begin to position themselves not just as an employer of choice but also as businesses of choice within the LGBT community. In the U.S. the value of “pink money,” or the spending power of the LGBT population, is estimated to be worth US $835 billion dollars (2011). As the LGBT population in Asia becomes increasingly visible in the community, this is will be a key consumer demographic for companies seeking to gain an advantage in Asia’s ever competitive marketplace.
If an individual or a company wants to get more information / become involved / institute an inclusion/diversity programme what advice would you give them?
For those individuals or companies looking to learn more about the LGBT Workplace Inclusion Index for Hong Kong, I would suggest that they visit us online at: www.communitybusiness.org/hklgbtindex/index
For those companies seeking to learn more about starting their own their own Diversity and Inclusion programme, particularly in the area of LGBT inclusion, we suggest that companies refer to our LGBT Online Resource Guide www.communitybusiness.org/LGBT/index
If a company is looking at developing an LGBT inclusion strategy, or expanding its current programme, Community Business is keen to be involved. We would be very happy to explore how we can help and work together to achieve their goals. They can contact us to schedule a time to have a more in-depth discussion.
For more information about Diversity & Inclusion or to become a member of Community Business’ Diversity & Inclusion in Asia Network, please visit Community Business at www.communitybusiness.org
Who is Community Business?
Community Business is a not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to lead, inspire and support companies to have a positive impact on people and communities. Recognised as a thought leader in corporate responsibility in Asia, Community Business conducts research, facilitates networks and events, leads campaigns and provides consultancy and training. Its major areas of focus include: Community Investment, Diversity & Inclusion, Work- Life Balance and Corporate Responsibility Strategy. Founded in 2003 and based in Hong Kong, Community Business works with companies of all sizes and from diverse industries across Asia, harnessing the power of business to drive social change. For more information, www.communitybusiness.org.