Will the LGBT Workplace Index be successful in promoting diverse and inclusive workplaces?

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Amanda Sheppard explains the importance of the recently launched LGBT Workplace Index in Hong Kong
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Hailed as a litmus test for other Asian markets, the LGBT Workplace Index recently launched in Hong Kong. Designed to assess the establishment of an inclusive workplace, the survey is supposed to stand as a marker of society at large, so this asks the important question – just how would such an Index work?

The Index was just launched by Community Business, an NGO dedicated to the promotion of corporate social responsibility. According to radio host and LGBT activist Brian Leung, it serves as ‘a great opportunity for LGBTI professionals and allies to get together to drive LGBTI inclusion forward in Asia’. The Index is based upon a consideration of several factors including an examination of corporate culture, advocacy, diversity structure and equal opportunity policies, amongst others. According to Community Business CEO Fern Ngai, a consideration of these factors could benefit ‘not only LGBTI, but in general a workplace environment that embraces diversity.’

Companies are invited to submit entries until February of 2015, and awards like LGBT Network of the year, LGBT Inclusion Champion of the Year, and LGBT Executive Sponsor of the Year will be given to businesses with the highest marks. The Index will be re-evaluated every two years, allowing companies the opportunity to address existing challenges and prejudices in the workplace. Hopefully, things can turn around with an updated assessment of business practices.

Hong Kong has certainly made headway in challenging discrimination in the workplace. The Code of Practice Against Discrimination in Employment on the Ground of Sexual Orientation, introduced by the government, now has over 90 signatory organisations. One need only look at the recent successes of the Gay Pride parade and Pink Dot Festival for further examples of recent community triumphs. With these successes in mind though, more needs to be done. By acknowledging the change currently in the air, others are encouraged to follow suit. Take for instance, the Hong Kong Gay and Lesbian Attorneys Network, recently created to promote a more tolerant and inclusive workplace for legal professionals.

Though there has been headway, more has to be done. An LGBT Climate Study conducted between 2011 and 2012 found that a shocking 71 percent of gay employees were not open about their sexual identity in their current working environments. This only serves to demonstrate the dire need for the LGBT Workplace Index, which not only allows for the praising of companies at the forefront of the fight for inclusion, but also provides institutions with the means to identify points for progress. This is a sentiment reiterated by many, including LGBTI activist Bess Hepworth who says, ‘it’s about time that Asia and HK especially had something tangible to benchmark and hold companies accountable to’.

Crucial to its success, however, is the ability to incorporate corporations both large and small. Leung is hopeful that the campaign, ‘will not only reach out to global corporations, but also more mid-sized, smaller local Chinese businesses as well’. Without any anti-discrimination measures protecting the LGBTI community, changes in the workplace might even be a better solution. It addresses discrimination head-on and internally within a business, which is really where the core of the problems begin.

LGBT Index communitybusiness.org/hklgbtindex.

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