Pride at work is an important conversation to keep at the forefront of diversity and inclusion policies as we have seen with the recently revised equal employment law in the United States. This demonstrates the importance of the ongoing dialogue in eliminating inequalities as employees in the US cannot be fired based on their sexual orientation.
“It’s just absurd to me that this is news of today’s day and age; the fact that companies could fire employees for being gay. It’s just absurd,” stated Peter Sargant, a leading diversity and inclusion expert from the corporate space who is now leading the non-profit organisation Community Business. “For me, Pride is always a little bit of a battle between the need to really demonstrate and call out inequalities and the need to celebrate and recognise the people who went forth before us and actually fought for the rights we have today”.
While people such as Sargant himself have found courage over time to move from observing Pride parades and similar demonstrations to being at the frontline leading them, it was only possible with the creation of safe spaces. He acknowledged that he has the great privilege here in Asia to be able to stand forward to facilitate more inclusive scenarios for local communities. He also explained how collaboration internally and externally, even if with competitors, was crucial in establishing the advocacy bodies that can protect more members of the LGBT community these days.
“Because nobody had challenged and asked that question, the insurers still had those exclusions in there”, shares Sargant about one of his achievements in his contribution to elimination of non-inclusive insurance coverages, in particular towards people with AIDS. He however acknowledges that smaller companies may experience more challenges with less leverage to influence the surrounding supply chain of their businesses, to which he suggests for them to model a collaborative approach similar to how bigger companies resulted in achieving changes.
“International approach with localised flavours”
Sargant shares how it is common and natural that local companies operating only in a few local markets may not feel the need to subscribe to more internationally implemented diversity and inclusion policies as it may not relate to their workforce as much, “companies should look at their diversity and inclusion training and ensure that it is appropriate for the markets they’re operating in”.
He stresses the importance of maintaining a more open and international outlook considering that accommodating a more diverse workforce is likely to bring about international expectations. “There is the opportunity for us to collaborate with local companies to share that international experience. By that, I don’t mean to say this is how it’s done in the West, and this is how it should be done here. There absolutely has to be a local flavour and nuance, but what I do mean is that being able to share best practices and experiences on what has and hasn’t worked, and how you overcome those challenges”.
The work of equality requires many voices, and the emergence of powerful voices as a major force for LGBTQ+ rights has played a central role. Sargant believes the first step to becoming an effective ally is to voice out as an ally, “when you say you’re an ally, many people recognise that you’re suddenly a safe place to have this discussion with”. Drawing a parallel with racial inequality, he emphasises, “you have got to say that it’s unacceptable to me, you’ve got to reflect on what your position of privilege is and how you use that effectively”.
In communicating their commitment to inclusiveness, some organisations fear introducing stereotypes or expressions that may be offensive to a group of people. In such instances, “language can be a barrier to discussion because people get so held up on using the wrong term that they end up not having a conversation at all”. To highlight the importance of having a dialogue, Sargant shared his experience hosting a panel on disability where he was honest in saying “I might get some of the language wrong but I want to be a part of the dialogue and the solution, rather than not have a discussion”.
Sargant urges organisations to think about what an event like “bring your kids to work day” would look like to an LGBTQ+ family, “how can we encourage gay couples to participate? What issues could arise? How can organisations address these issues?”.
Sargant concluded the fireside chat with a simple advice, “don’t be afraid to ask for help”. He encourages organisations to be specific and open about their intentions, and urges them to reach out to professionals who can educate and better equip their diversity practitioners, HR professionals and campus recruitment executives, in developing a more inclusive environment.
This conversation took place in Lynk’s recent Pride webinar as part of Lynk’s diversity and inclusion focus for Pride Month. Read more about Lynk’s other Pride initiative here.
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