An exciting and significant development is about to take place in Hong Kong’s business arena. Hong Kong-based Community Business, an NGO that works, in their words, ‘to lead, inspire and support businesses to improve their positive impact on people and communities’ (check them out at their website at: http://www.communitybusiness.org ), is launching a project to improve Hong Kong’s workplace policies for LGBT employees. This year they will produce a guide for employers that focuses on creating inclusive workplace environments for LGBT employees in Hong Kong. The guide is the first step in a process which could lead to a published index of the companies showing best practice in this regard. The aim, of course, is to show every business what they need to emulate and thereby raise standards across the city.
The background to all this lies partly in the extensive research carried out last year by the Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (TCJM), a grouping of some of Hong Kong’s LGBT organisations, into the extent of commitment to diversity in Hong Kong businesses. Aside from the financial industry, which leads the way here, the results were dire. Up to now, almost all international companies doing business in Hong Kong have paid only lip service to diversity policies, at best repeating the commitment to diversity published on their international websites but not implementing the policies, at worst declaring no policies at all. Local Hong Kong companies uniformly ignore the issue.
While this was research was going on, Community Business had simultaneously decided to extend the focus of its work to the area of sexual-orientation and gender identity. They were already pioneers in the discussion of diversity and in getting issues onto the corporate agenda, so viewed this initiative as furthering this work. They took advice from human rights and LGBT organisations elsewhere, including Out & Equal and Human Rights Campaign Foundation in the US, and decided to adopt the tactic successfully used in both the US and Europe of stimulating competition amongst businesses to bring in better diversity policies. Naming and praising in the media has been found in several other countries to be a great way of persuading businesses of the need to do better. They have secured funding for the project from two really big names, IBM and Goldman Sachs, both of which lead the way in Hong Kong in the diversity policies they have adopted to cover their own employees.
Why does this matter? Two main reasons: the first, that almost all of those currently employed in Hong Kong suffer from the lack of good diversity policies. Lacking are, amongst other things, same-sex spousal rights and discrimination-free working conditions. There is much to improve in this area which will affect everyone; the second, that where business leads the way in Hong Kong, Government will follow. The next target of the LGBT community here is a bill to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. If business believes that diversity is a good thing, it will help sway Government thinking here.
Those who wish to contribute something concrete that will actually improve Hong Kong, might take five minutes to complete the anonymous survey shown below:
STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT – ANONYMOUS ONLINE SURVEY
TARGET AUDIENCE: LGBT Employees and Their Workplace Allies in Hong Kong
Express your views on what companies in Hong Kong can do to create inclusive workplaces for LGBT employees by completing Community Business’ anonymous survey online. The survey may be completed in English or Chinese. Deadline Friday 26 February 2010.