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Off the Record: Where’s your pride?

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Most of you will have received our January issue of Human Resources, where we kicked off the year by highlighting companies that have done well in engaging LGBT employees.

LGBT, an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, has been a taboo and promising topic in Singapore over the past few years.

In researching the feature, and now, on the tail of its publication, I’ve received a lot of positive feedback. Those I worked with for the article have emailed back to excitedly share other companies’ LGBT staff coming forward to show their support, while I’ve met readers who are delighted that at last, the topic is being highlighted in the media.

This begs the question – and one that was nagging at me throughout writing the article – of why it’s taking so long for us as a society to accept the changing social dynamics of our country.

Here’s a bit of background: We meant to write this feature some time early last year, but many companies were hesitant to go on record discussing their LGBT resource groups or employees, even if they did have a stellar programme in place.

So, the fact the stars aligned and I had a much easier time speaking with companies and their LGBT representatives late last year, shows that maybe it’s time we took this discussion to the next level.

Granted, it is still a sticky topic in Singapore. Our values as a country have always been very conservative and, in many cases, that’s extended into the office as well.

But with more multi-nationals coming into Singapore, bringing with them new lifestyles, mindsets and cultures, it seems a little bit silly to me that there are still companies in Singapore that are not openly addressing diversity as a whole.

Even inside some companies I spoke to, there were still employees who felt they were not yet ready to come out, which I found really unfortunate.

Some of the LGBT employees I spoke to said it gets frustrating and stifling some times. Even answering something as innocent as “How was your weekend?” is daunting to answer, as some felt they could not talk about what they did for fear of someone recognising the bar they frequented as an establishment which supports LGBT.

As HR leaders, I ask you to take two minutes to put yourself in their shoes, and imagine how that must feel like day after day.

I have many LGBT friends, and I know that coming out is both a very personal but liberating experience for a lot of them. They have to manage the reactions of parents, siblings, ex-lovers, friends and colleagues.

But in an economy where companies are looking for employees to do more with less, creating an environment where people feel able to bring their whole self to work will do nothing but help them be more comfortable, happy and productive.

In fact, companies with diversity groups and programmes saw discretionary efforts jump 1.12 times, with employees’ intention to stay rising 1.19 times.

Isn’t that reason enough to start considering rewiring your engagement and diversity programmes? It’s about time we made sure there’s room for every single employee, regardless of race, language, sexual orientation and musical preference (yes, even Rebecca Black fans must be loved).

While I understand why it might be an issue many people still find hard to digest, I can only view this topic through my own beliefs that we should support and accept everyone for who they are.

I could not care less if you’re gay or vegan or occasionally prone to break out in song, and it would be nice if some companies started to feel the same about their staff.

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