Like millions of South Africans who grew up during the Apartheid years, I know what it feels like to be treated as a second class citizen in my own country.
Today, we can look back with pride at South Africa’s progress, but we must never forget the painful lessons of the past. Discrimination on any basis hurts people, it scars whole communities and, ultimately, it impoverishes us all.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people face discrimination, exclusion and violence in every country of the world. The United Nations Human Rights Office has documented widespread stigma, violence and discriminatory attitudes. Far too many LGBTI people are rejected by their own families, bullied at school, denied work opportunities, harassed, attacked and even, in some cases, killed, simply because of who they are or whom they love. Shockingly, in 76 countries same-sex love remains a criminal offence, exposing millions to the fear of arrest and imprisonment.
For anyone who believes, as I do, in the fundamental equal worth of every human life, these abuses are a moral outrage. My commitment to fighting homophobia and transphobia led me, in 2013, to accept an invitation from the United Nations Human Rights Office to become an Equality Champion in support of the UN Free & Equal campaign. The campaign is helping to change hearts and minds around the world by challenging negative stereotypes and promoting a message of equality, respect and inclusion.
This is a cause that should concern all of us. The costs of abuse levelled at LGBTI people fall first and foremost on the victims themselves. But it doesn’t end there. Family rejection and school bullying cause many LGBTI people to miss out on an education, while workplace discrimination limits employment opportunities. Violence, harassment and the prospect of arrest cause enormous stress and suffering and can take people out of productive employment altogether. For the individuals concerned, these are personal tragedies. For society at large, they amount to an enormous waste of human talent and creativity and, ultimately, of economic potential.
Research from a number of developing countries points to a link between, on the one hand, protection of the human rights of LGBTI people and, on the other, a country’s level of GDP growth and UN Human Development Index score. Breaking down the barriers that prevent LGBTI people from exercising their rights also frees up people to participate fully and productively in the economic life of their country – which is good for them, good for business and good for development.
Eliminating discrimination is never straightforward. We know from past and ongoing battles against racial discrimination and against gender inequality that it takes time and a collective effort. Governments have a key role to play – reforming discriminatory laws, putting in place the necessary legal protections and helping to lead an informed public debate. But business must play its part as well by adopting a more inclusive approach to attracting and retaining LGBTI talent. I welcome the contribution of Open For Business in raising awareness of the cost of homophobia and transphobia, and in making the case for both individual businesses and the business community as a whole to take responsibility for promoting LGBTI inclusion. We all have a role to play – whether as consumers or investors, employers or employees. I hope that this publication can convince many more people to do their part.
Discriminatory laws are also detrimental to business and economic development, threatening the stability that businesses desire, risking the safety of their employees, and jeopardizing productive economic relationships that can advance business interests all over the world.
In my role as Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, I engage with all sectors of society to protect and promote the universal human rights of all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI) persons.
While governments play a leading role in upholding and affirming the human rights of all persons regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, the private sector is increasingly becoming involved in championing values of equality and diversity – not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is good for business. Through its ever growing global reach, we believe business has a unique opportunity to play an expanding role to advance these efforts.
Nearly 80 countries criminalize consensual, adult same-sex activity, or use other laws to marginalize and persecute LGBTI persons. These laws targeting LGBTI persons attack their dignity, undermine their safety, and violate their human rights. In some cases, same-sex acts can be punished with the death penalty. Some political leaders are taking advantage of ignorance – ignorance that breeds intolerance and high levels of homophobia. Advancing intolerance to score political points also means distracting attention from other significant challenges, such as poverty, corruption or lack of access to healthcare. Governments that neglect or oppress sections of their population are failing to use the full potential of their citizens and hampering their own prosperity. These discriminatory laws, along with continued harassment and violence against the LGBTI community, are also detrimental to business and economic development, threatening the stability that businesses desire, risking the safety of their employees, and jeopardizing productive economic relationships that can advance business interests all over the world.
Studies have shown the economic costs of anti-LGBTI discrimination laws, and how LGBTI exclusion hampers development and progress. In too many countries, LGBTI people face societal and workplace discrimination that denies them equal access to education and health care and discourages them from pursuing, obtaining, or retaining good-paying jobs. Too often, LGBTI employees will turn down a transfer overseas to a country that is intolerant and hostile to the LGBTI community.
Considered globally, LGBTI employees constitute a sizeable and dynamic workforce. In order to maintain a diverse talent pool, companies need to promote policies and work environments that enable them to recruit the best and brightest, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This means providing a workplace where LGBTI employees feel comfortable, safe and valued. Though we have seen some progress, too many LGBTI employees still face obstacles to being themselves and spend time and effort hiding their identity in the workplace. People are more productive when they bring their whole selves to work. A diverse, open workplace will increase creativity and spark innovation and new ideas. It is important for senior business leaders to prioritize non-discriminatory, inclusive policies and practices and that these policies are followed consistently throughout the company’s global operations.
In my travels, I have seen the positive steps that some multi-national corporations have taken to come together and develop a framework of guiding principles that encourage LGBTI-inclusive programs and policies. These are important steps toward creating a stronger workforce, building a better business and strengthening the community around you.
That is why publications such as this one by Open for Business are essential in detailing the business case for LGBTI inclusion; not only to advance this important conversation, but to generate meaningful action. Business leaders work with government leaders on many issues – the passage and implementation of non-discriminatory laws should be a part of those discussions. With data analysis showing that countries with greater levels of human rights for LGBTI persons also tend to have higher levels of economic development than countries with fewer rights, it is in the interest of all people, across every sector, to advance the legal rights of LGBTI persons and to push back on discrimination that encourages harassment and violence.
As Special Envoy, I recognize the unique responsibility governments have in pursuing change and equal protection for all. At the State Department, we advance these issues in a variety of ways, including through our diplomatic engagements, working with multilateral institutions and through the Global Equality Fund, a public-private partnership of governments, foundations and businesses supporting civil society organizations and activists on the ground working to advance the human rights of LGBTI persons. But now, more than ever, as our world is increasingly interconnected and interdependent – economically, socially and culturally – it is the responsibility of all of us – government, civil society and business to take a stand against discrimination and injustice. I stand ready to work with businesses as strong drivers of positive change, so that opportunity, prosperity and dignity are enjoyed by all.
The power of this economic case is that it gives a roadmap for companies and countries that want all of their workers and citizens to contribute fully.
Even in a field dominated by numbers and math, economists know that it all begins with people. Innovative products require somebody’s ideas and imagination. People work to produce goods and services that other human beings value. People buy the things and services they value and can afford. Both in firms and for larger national economies, these people whose economic contributions are central to growth include many LGBT people. How can we make sure that LGBT people can contribute fully to our national economies and businesses in all of these roles?
Economists increasingly see the goals of shared prosperity and a high standard of living as being tied to equity. In short, it’s not just about the size of the pie—how that pie is divided up might also influence how big it is. As this report demonstrates, a growing body of research shows that treating LGBT people fairly in that distribution can help make that pie bigger.
Public policies and corporate practices that reduce discrimination, harassment, and other forms of social stigma free up LGBT workers’ energy, increase their education, improve their health, and improve productivity-related factors. From this perspective, fairness is an investment in human capital. LGBT workers will be more productive when they can better use their skills, knowledge, and experience. When workers are more productive, companies can afford to pay them more, and the capacity of the whole economy grows.
A recent example from the World Bank shows how large that impact can be. I developed a model of the cost of stigma and discrimination against LGBT people in India that includes health disparities and workplace discrimination. In India, research suggests LGBT people experience workplace discrimination and are much more likely than the general population to be depressed, think about suicide, and to have HIV. My own estimates using that model suggest that just those two effects of excluding LGBT people lead to a loss of 0.1% to 1.4% of India’s GDP.
Countries might gain when they shift to greater equality and inclusion of LGBT people for other reasons, too. Protecting the rights of LGBT people demonstrates that a country is modern and open to diversity, both characteristics potentially valued by multinational companies, potential trading partners, and LGBT and non-LGBT tourists. Just as inclusion signals modernization, exclusion of LGBT people signals more traditional ways of doing business that might result in less foreign investment and tourism than would otherwise occur—another cost of homophobia and transphobia.
Richard Florida’s well-known work on the creative class fits into this strategic modernization approach. He has studied the relationship between tolerance of homosexuality and various economic measures. In his framework, tolerance of openly LGBT people send a signal to all skilled and creative workers—not just those who are LGBT—that a country is receptive to new ideas and to the entry of creative workers.
Of course, there’s a chicken-and-egg problem here when thinking about these links. Countries might be more likely to give LGBT people rights when their economies have grown beyond a subsistence level and political attention turns to greater individual autonomy and human rights.
Either way, though, clearly economic development, corporate performance, and human rights for LGBT people go hand in hand. The positive correlation between LGBT inclusion and economic outcomes at the macroeconomic level is strong. Our recent study shows that emerging economies that protect more rights for LGBT people through decriminalization of homosexuality, nondiscrimination laws, and recognition of LGBT families have higher GDP per capita, even after controlling for other influences on a country’s economic output. Each additional right is associated with a 3% increase in GDP per capita for those countries.
Some people are skeptical about this economic case for LGBT rights: “Human rights are universal and indivisible,” they might argue, “They are not for sale.” In my view, the profound moral force of that basic understanding is not undermined by identifying the costs of violating human rights.
But the economic argument for LGBT rights is a complement to the human rights argument—not a replacement for it. The approach identifies and quantifies the harms that result from the denial of human rights. Adding up those social and individual costs simply provides another angle from which to see the harms of human rights violations.
The power of this economic case is that it gives a roadmap for companies and countries that want all of their workers and citizens to contribute fully. Respecting the human rights of LGBT people will improve their lives tremendously, and we will all gain from their full inclusion in economic, social, and political life.
 Badgett, M.V. L. (2014), The economic cost of stigma and the exclusion of LGBT people: a case study of India
 USAID and The Williams Institute (2014), The Relationship between LGBT Inclusion and Economic Development: An Analysis of Emerging Economies
We need an environment where people are prepared to speak up and speak out and challenge the status quo: that is what is going to drive better performance.
For me, the notion of growth is key: growth for an individual, for a business, or indeed for an economy. That means growth which is driven by innovation, entrepreneurship and risk taking. And for this, we need an environment where people are prepared to speak up and speak out and challenge the status quo: that is what is going to drive better performance. The only way to grow sustainably is serial innovation – and, as the evidence in this report shows, the only way to serially innovate is to have diverse teams led in an inclusive way.
These areas of growth are all linked. If an economy grows, it naturally creates opportunities for businesses and for individuals. Growing businesses create more employment, progression and promotion opportunities. Through that come opportunities for individuals that are less financial or career oriented, such as work which is more stimulating and being stretched personally in day-to-day activities. This leads to improved performance, solving more complex problems – which mean having more fun, feeling a greater sense of self worth and being more productive. That is the aspiration: generating a dynamism and energy that creates a virtuous circle.
Individual’s have a greater ability to perform and grow, if they can be themselves in their work environment. That means they’re not spending energy covering; being fearful of discovery. It means they’re not worried about whispering in the corridors or what is going to impact their career prospects negatively. All that fear and anxiety is misplaced energy, and taking it away enables an employee to focus on being the best they can be in the role they occupy in the organization.
Our primary responsibilities, as a company, are to create and deliver a successful and sustainable business and to protect our employees. So operating across different geographies around the world, some of which may have anti-LGBT legislation, there are risks. For our employees, we need to understand the situation locally, and we have to have frameworks and protocols in place for a global business. Our employees, and other stakeholders we engage with, expect us to send a coherent and consistent message. It matters to us to have an authentic voice on these topics, and to collaborate with other organisations and NGO’s which share our passion on this agenda.
We’re not a Johnny-come-lately to the inclusion question. Inclusion is in our DNA because we had courageous leadership from the early days.
IBM has a really long history of non-discrimination going back to Thomas Watson Snr. And Thomas Watson Jnr., who were CEOs of IBM. They ‘got it’ right back in 1953, when Watson Jnr. wrote a policy letter making it clear that there would be no discrimination in the company. Back then, the words were about race and creed; then they were about gender – because that was the focal point at the time.
This was before the Civil Rights Act in the US. IBM had equal pay for equal work for women before the US government mandated it. We had women Vice Presidents in the 1940s. In the late 50s and early 60s, when two states – North Carolina and Kentucky – still had separate toilets and drinking facilities for blacks and whites, IBM declared that it was not going into those states until the laws changed. And they helped to get the law changed because those states were interested in IBM building manufacturing plants there. The company did that because one of the IBM original values was respect for the individual. So how could we live our corporate values if we didn’t take a stand on that?
Today we have three values: dedication to every client’s success; innovation that matters for IBM and for the world; trust and personal responsibility in all relationships. Diversity falls into all of them. Dedication to every client’s success: our clients are diverse all over the world – their cultures, genders, sexual orientation, age, race – everything is diverse. Innovation that matters for the company and the world: innovation comes from valuing diversity of thought and diversity of people. Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships ties back to that first value; respecting the individual.
One of my favorite quotes comes from one of our top IBM executives in 1984 when it was being discussed whether or not we should add sexual orientation to our non-discriminatory policy. He stopped the debate when he said, ‘We want everybody to be welcome to succeed here.’ Everybody voted unanimously for the addition. When you stop to think about it, it’s just that: enabling everybody, male or female, old or young, black or white, or whatever other attribute, to be welcome.
So we’re not a Johnny-come-lately to the diversity question. Inclusion is in our DNA because we had courageous leadership from the early days. It’s a company I’m very proud to be part of: it makes me a proud IBMer.
All of us, every corporation that does business in a global way today is concerned about the safety of our employees in places where they might be at risk for various reasons. That’s our first obligation to our employees. For example, women in business are still not welcome in some of the countries that are also hard for LGBT people. Or they are marginalized, like others of different cultures or different colors are often not included unless they are in a workplace that values diversity – and values human rights in the broadest sense.
If countries and cities want to have economic development, they have to rise to a level of tolerance that enables them to have the kind of diverse dialogue that creates innovation. We can have a dialogue about corporate and business development in a country, including with corporations that have strong non-discriminatory policies. That’s why our corporate brands coming together as Open For Business is so important: we have a collective courage as corporates to have open dialogues that can become stepping stones – and will help us open the aperture on tolerance.
As the world and business changes, new Millennial talent is coming in, and they want different things from before: they want a vibrant workplace that is open and diverse.
As the world and business changes, new Millennial talent is coming in, and they want different things from before: they want a vibrant workplace that is open and diverse. Businesses need to recognize this, or they will never be able to attract, retain and develop, the right talent. They will lose out to businesses that are bolder, that welcome diverse communities, and show them they understand where they are coming from.
At Linklaters we need to attract the best talent, and the best talent is looking for dynamic and diverse environments. The best talent will have a gender, an ethnicity, a sexual orientation, a disability or not – and understanding this is important. The best talent is not just about what school you went to, it is about how you experience life and what you bring to the firm – because our business is made up of people.
Inclusion is a topic that often gets less attention than diversity. But diversity needs to exist in an environment where people are included, valued, recognized and understood. To me, it is about being able to be yourself 100% wherever that is. For some minority groups – and for the less visible aspects of diversity – that is a lot more challenging.
That is why all aspects of health and well-being is something we are really big on. It is about more than resilience and stress: it is about how you experience life and how that has an impact on the job that you do. It is really the interaction that happens everyday with my line manager, with my team, those people I spend my time with, that determine how I actually feel working in a business.
You hear people say, ‘I don’t care if you’re black, white, polka-dot, gay, straight, as long as you do the job.’ But there is enough research to prove that people do care about those things – which is why we do training on unconscious bias all across the firm: we want to make sure our decisions are as free from bias as possible.
We recently launched an Allies Network to make sure that colleagues who are extremely supportive of LGB&T rights have ways of being able to show it, that aren’t tokenistic. We are highlighting ways in which they can be actively inclusive – as opposed to just passively non-discriminatory.
If I am in a place where I feel recognized I am going to be much more loyal to the company I work for, to have a much more positive outlook to being in that environment. If you get that right as a business, you have people who perform better because they spend their emotional, creative, mental energy on things other than worrying about whether who they are, fundamentally, will prove to be a problem for them, or a challenge to their progression.
Since economic performance is one of the key measures of success of any government, we hope this will be an impetus for countries to further embrace diversity.
Our mission at LinkedIn is to connect the world’s professionals and make them more productive and successful. Our long-term vision is to create economic opportunity for the world’s professionals, and inclusion and diversity are key to making this happen.
We believe that a diverse workforce has a multitude of benefits for a business and for the individuals. So anything that we can do to encourage diversity for our own team, our clients and our members around the globe is entirely in line with what we’re looking to accomplish. If you consider diversity specifically in terms of LGB&T rights, that’s why we’re part of Open for Business.
We believe it helps people build longer lasting, more authentic and trusting relationships with colleagues when they can be open about who they are at work. If there’s a lack of transparency, or you don’t feel comfortable being your authentic self, it prohibits you from building and maintaining open and trusting professional relationships. My personal view – having been through the process of coming out – is that being comfortable with those around you heightens emotional intelligence. It can help you become a more inclusive and compassionate leader, so the impact is not just on your own productivity but also on the productivity of those around you.
People who work in organisations that support a diverse workforce have a high level of openness and transparency and are more productive as a result. Those individuals are more confident speaking up, they’re more confident taking intelligent risks, less afraid of repercussions and more willing to change the status quo.
Most people now recognize that there are business benefits to diversity across the board. As Open For Business shows, there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate this. The conversation needs to move on from there and ask: how do we further encourage it? There’s a natural flow that scales up from the individual level to economic performance at a national level. If companies are more productive and profitable, that leads to greater economic performance and output at a country level. Since economic performance is one of the key measures of success of any government, we hope this will be an impetus for countries to further embrace diversity.
Diversity and inclusion has been an essential part of helping the company open up to the wider world.
When LGBT equality was being debated in the U.S., we spoke clearly and candidly about where we stood on the issue. Our friends, colleagues and partners who are part of our lives all deserve the same treatment, as a matter of human decency. It was central to what we believe to be right and to our commitment to diversity.
MasterCard may have started in the U.S., but our business today is in 210 countries and more than half our revenue is driven outside North America.
We need to have the courage to say what we believe and we’re prepared to have that conversation globally. That requires us to recognize that in many parts of the world this is a tough topic; progress will come at different paces in different places. We need to be smart and locally relevant, while understanding that what matters is to keep making progress.
One of the areas we’re most proud of at MasterCard is the power of our employee affinity networks, including our LGBT resource group, PRIDE. They started in the U.S. and are now also in the UK, gradually expanding to other markets. We aim to do a great job of making sure that our people feel comfortable and welcome to join PRIDE, to talk about LGBT issues and to self-identify if they so choose, in many more places around the world than they do today.
But, it’s not only about what we say publicly. It’s how we treat each other as friends and colleagues. Even in those places where the situation is hard for LGBT people, we can help to create a safer community for our own teams. Building a safer place for these issues globally is hugely important and a way for us to play a leading role.
That’s why we joined Open For Business. We believe that diversity is not a nice-tohave, it is a business essential that includes creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for our LGBT colleagues.
This is also about performance and competitiveness. Without a diverse leadership team and a diverse workforce, without an environment where people feel comfortable embracing and celebrating differences, you cannot be competitive and you cannot make the richest and most nuanced decisions.
Historically, our culture was more inwardfocused. But we’ve found it’s become a strategic imperative to be much more outside-in in our thinking; much more open to the world. That means exposure to thought leadership at the highest levels and engagement in local conversations. Diversity and inclusion have been an essential part of helping the company open up to the wider world.
In the emerging markets, we’re part of the foundation to build a modern society; an agent that helps to power economic development in cities. So in our company, there’s an urgent business imperative and a social imperative for us to include more people worldwide in the financial system. With two billion people excluded from access to financial services around the world, we’ve made a commitment, working with the World Bank and the UN, to include 500 million of them. It’s a major part of our strategy. Achieving that will be very hard without robust civil societies to work with.
I’ve no doubt that there’s a correlation between strong civil societies and wellfunctioning institutions and places which embrace LGBT rights. So, I see advances in LGBT rights as a good sign of a strengthening civil society and economic progress
We need to be out there taking a clear position on this issue.
One of the things which struck me when I joined Thomson Reuters is that, by the nature of what we do, we are diverse. With a presence in one hundred countries, we’re so global in our reach. We’re providing information and news daily to so many different types of industries, corporations, governments. So the very nature of what we do involves bringing diversity of experience, skills and thought to the table.
In Thomson Reuters our diversity strategy is broad; it includes gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation and in the past few years there’s been a strong focus on the LGBT community. For us, it’s about creating an environment that allows everybody to be open – speak openly – about who they are and what they represent: we want to provide access to everyone.
At the same time, we need to be out there taking a clear position on this issue. As an organization, we have been bold in this space; we have played a very active role. In the US we supported the marriage equality act a year and a half ago and now it’s come through into legislation. On a global basis, we continue to have conversations with our partners around the globe about how to handle risks for the LGBT community.
A few years ago we began to explore the business case of diversity and inclusion. We know from research that we’ve done over the past few years that when people feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work – who they are and as they are – their engagement with the organization increases. We know that diversity positively impacts employee engagement and we have seen that when you have employee engagement, retention goes up as a result and similar results come up in recruitment: people want to work with companies that care about diversity and inclusion.
Then there’s the question of customer loyalty and the buying power of certain communities. We have done a lot of research on the buying power – and the decision making around buying power – of women on a global basis has increased and will continue to increase dramatically over the coming years. Now we are seeing the same thing with the LGBT community: the economic power of LGBT people is considerable and should not be ignored. This is a community of people who have the means to contribute to economic growth and the growth of cities, which are places which support a properly diverse and inclusive environment.
For any company, this issue leads to the question of how a management team can help to provide that diverse and inclusive environment in the workplace that allows people to be successful in their career. There is a real passion and commitment in Thomson Reuters to get this right. We want to be part of the dialog about the connection between diversity and the bottom line. That is what Open For Business is aiming to achieve, and why are involved: it is a way of bringing organizations together to make progress on inclusion around the world.
We truly believe diversity across all dimensions is important. For us, it’s part of our brand promise.
I have the role of Sponsor for our Global LGBT and Allies Network at Standard Chartered. As a global company, we operate in places which have a vast range of attitudes and approaches to LGBT inclusion and in some of them it is especially hard to create a safe and welcoming environment for members of the LGBT community.
That’s why I think putting our name to Open For Business is helpful: it’s important we support the coalition because it is about building the evidence base for inclusiveness.
At the moment, I’m working in the US where you might think would be an easy place to establish an inclusive environment and for people to be open about their sexual orientation at work. But I remember one instance when I had told my own story at a meeting in the bank and it prompted someone to come out to his colleagues and his boss, telling them he is gay. Everyone around him immediately and spontaneously supported him – and it’s made an enormous difference to him, it’s given him a massive new energy just knowing that he can bring his whole self to work. At the time, it really surprised me that even in New York somebody could feel that they hadn’t been able to do that; had felt they may not be welcome at work. Imagine if you were living in a country where your colleagues don’t support you or where the law doesn’t support you. For us as a bank, it may be more difficult in those circumstances – but we have to strive towards creating that environment where all individuals can have that experience, at least in their work place.
Places like the UK and the US have seen a dramatic improvement recently – it’s now mainstream to the extent that it’s common for television dramas to involve LGBT characters, so it is becoming normalised within the culture. But that change is not so evident in other parts of the world – and in some cases the situation is even going in reverse and it’s increasingly frightening for LGBT individuals.
Of course, we must be sensitive to, and respectful of, the jurisdictions we’re operating in, yet at the same time we also want to make sure that as an employer we are doing all we can to give employees a safe place to work. We’re a thoughtfully diverse organisation and an inclusive organisation. We truly believe diversity across all dimensions is important and we want that to be known about us internally and externally. For us, it’s part of our brand promise.
Standard Chartered has a history of not shying away from difficult issues. In war zones, at some points we have been the last bank to remain in place when others have left. We played a significant role in HIV education in the early days, and many people recognise that we put ourselves out there to change attitudes and build support for people with HIV. I think this is another difficult area for a lot of places to take on, but it is one Standard Chartered also wants to speak about.
Large, global firms can play a really important role in helping to frame public opinion. We’re often large employers in the countries where we operate and that gives us a voice. On a global stage, I think corporations have a social responsibility to stand up for what we believe is right.