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Are workplaces really becoming more LGBT inclusive?

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Led by tech giants Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple, nearly half of the 851 US-based firms across all industries that participated in a diversity index by Human Rights Campaign Foundation achieved perfect scores.

The study, known as the Corporate Equality Index evaluated whether companies prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, offer domestic partner benefits and provide equal health coverage for transgender individuals, among other metrics.

The tech industry passed the study with flying colors, with 21 companies scoring full marks.

But gay rights’ activists say the on-the-job realities aren’t so rosy and the existence of inclusion policies hasn’t translated to many openly LGBT people reaching the highest rungs of the corporate ladder.

Apple CEO Tim Cook remains the only openly gay CEO among the Fortune 500 list of US companies.

Tech companies have typically been considered to be more inclusive since they are relatively younger, making it easier to introduce LGBT-inclusive policies.

In 1993, Microsoft became one of the first companies in the world to offer employee benefits to same-sex domestic partners.

In 2011, Google started offering benefits to cover transitioning and necessary gender reassignment surgical procedures for transgender Googlers.

However, it is difficult to gauge the success of these policies and initiatives.

“Until more companies start tracking workers who self identify as LGBT, we are not going to even know how many LGBT people were promoted or left the company. Often that’s a reflection of the company’s culture,”  Selisse Berry, CEO of Out & Equal, a nonprofit dedicated to equality in the workplace told The Wall Street Journal.

ALSO READ: 5 ideas to build an LGBT-friendly workplace in Singapore

Commenting on building a LGBT inclusive workplace in Hong Kong, Lucy Munro, head of HR, Asia Pacific and Middle East at Hogan Lovells said most LGBT staff are still wary about coming out.

“We hope that employers will be more open about LGBT issues and more people will feel comfortable to be open about their sexual orientation,”  she said.

Recognising the challenges that LGBT individuals face in the workplace in Asia, Hogan Lovells launched an internal LGBT Network in 2012 to discuss LGBT workplace issues and provide mentoring and sponsorship to LGBT lawyers in Asia.

“I think employers should continue to listen to staff when creating LGBT polices.  They should ask people about what they want to get a deeper understanding of the issues and take action,” said Munro.

Earlier this year Hogan Lovells hosted a high-profile panel discussion on the business, cultural and political issues affecting the LGBT community in Hong Kong featuring speakers such as lawmaker Regina Ip; Dr York Chow, chairperson of the equal opportunities commission; and Reggie Ho, co-founder and former chairman of Pink Alliance.

“It is through these events, we hope to enhance the conversation on LGBT rights. Employers who are wary about hiring LGBT workers are certainly missing out on a key talent pool,” added Munro.

ALSO READ: 10 best companies for LGBT inclusion in Hong Kong

Image: Shutterstock

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