Nine ways to advance LGBT policy throughout global organizations

17 July 2019

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As firms expand rapidly in frontier markets, where LGBT+ inclusion is often not well-institutionalized, global D&I strategies are crucial.

Global companies have made great strides over the past decade in developing and adopting inclusive corporate values statements, personnel policies and codes of conduct regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people – particularly in US, Canadian, UK, and Australian business centers. But extending LGBT+-inclusive policies and practices beyond corporate hubs raises several legal, cultural and organizational challenges.

To that end, EY hosted a small think tank with organizations working on these issues, hoping to identify key challenges and practical solutions. Results from the meeting, summarized below, can be used by D&I leaders, HR professionals and allies as they navigate the challenges of implementing their organizations’ global LGBT+ vision and policies.

1. Conduct an opportunity and risk assessment and identify priorities

The first step should be to look beyond your corporate environment and understand relevant country, regional and cultural factors related to LGBT+ policy. NGO local rating systems can be an effective way to begin. Another good starting point is the UN’s LGBTI Standards of Conduct for Business.

2. Set policy globally, and implement locally

Starting with a global LGBT+ vision and policy is important, but implementation must be calibrated to local conditions. In areas where direct references to sexual orientation and gender identity in policy, codes of conduct or communications are not advised, it is possible to emphasize universal principles such as tolerance, equality and fairness, and the fact that harassment and discrimination are not permitted. For any situation, it’s imperative to obtain the guidance of local LGBT+ personnel to build support for initiatives and identify the right language, tone and approach.

3. Make a business case for diversity

LGBT+ equality and inclusion can be wrapped in a broader economic or business agenda that may be viewed as less personal and more value-neutral. With global companies constantly fighting a war for skilled employees, a welcoming, inclusive and supportive environment can be central to recruiting and retaining the best talent. Promoting equality and inclusion can also be portrayed as part of building an innovation culture and promoting economic competitiveness.

4. Engage LGBT+ advocates and allies at all levels of the organization

Active support for LGBT+ inclusion from global leadership and strong and visible LGBT+ role models play an important role in the implementation of global policy. Inclusive and out leaders and role models can be particularly powerful in many Asian cultures, given the high esteem they invest in seniority. But even in places where open discussion and advocacy of equality is not possible, subtle messaging and demonstrations of tolerance and inclusivity can be compelling.

5. Build strategies that support successful career growth

Progressing to senior management often involves taking challenging postings abroad. This raises many questions about mobility policy and practice. LGBT+ individuals should have the opportunity to learn about a new work location and voice their interests and concerns, and firms should be sensitive if a relocation might be challenging for LGBT+ employees and their families. At the same time, managers should not presume that an LGBT+ person does not want to go to a more challenging post.

Companies can be respectful of local cultures and inclusive — they are not mutually exclusive.

Karyn Twaronite

Ernst & Young LLP Partner and EY Global Diversity & Inclusiveness Officer

6. Create opportunities for reverse mentoring

Generational gaps exist around the world, and younger staff in many countries are often more open to LGBT+ issues, even in more traditional environments. This creates opportunities for reverse mentoring and educating senior management. In some geographies though, opportunities for reverse mentoring are limited due to a greater emphasis on seniority and hierarchical relationships.

7. Utilize social media and other technology, locally and globally

For people in locations without local resources, having access to global resources — conference calls, webinars and social media — is important. LGBT+-themed webcasts and video conferences that feature top-level executives can set an example for regional managers. Informal and confidential channels — such as hotlines and ally networks — can also be valuable. The overarching messages should be “join us in any way you can” and “we can reach out to you”.

8. Develop LGBT+ networks and unify globally

LGBT+ networks play many important roles. At the most basic level, networks help share news, information and leading practices. Networks help LGBT+ personnel who feel isolated to connect with peers, role models and allies. A global network brand also boosts visibility and strength. We renamed our network “Unity” across the globe to convey solidarity, strength and cohesiveness and added the “A” to LGBT+ to convey openness to allies.

9. Measure, solicit input and celebrate

While it is tempting to identify a long list of things to do with many possibilities, focusing on just a few enables people to clarify goals and work together to facilitate their initial success. Surveys are a great way to involve members in identifying goals and benchmarks, and generate fresh ideas. Regardless of the activities, celebrate the successes to show progress and attract others.

Source: Ey