20 March 2017

Celebrating our LGBTI community

By Brenton Hush, Chief Operating Officer of HSBC Australia

Encouraging diversity in the workplace is not just the right thing to do, it also makes for a more productive and successful business. Any employer that fails to celebrate the deep pool of talent within the LGBTI community risks damaging its bottom line.

Of course, this logic applies equally to gender diversity and cultural diversity in the workplace. Numerous studies highlight the improved performance of companies which reach into the widest possible range of candidates to build their workforce.

Everyone in a workplace should be able to fulfil their potential

Diversity is not just tokenism.

A 2013 study by the Williams Institute found that businesses with LGBTI-supportive policies are likely to be seen as better companies to buy from or work for, thereby increasing their customer base and pool of prospective employees.

And some research has actually found a positive relationship between the adoption of LGBTI-inclusive workplace policies and the sharemarket value of a company. For example, one study of 258 US companies in 2002-2006 found that the share prices of those with more progressive LGBTI non-discrimination policies outperformed equivalent firms. Other studies have found that sharemarket value is at the very least not penalised for supporting LGBTI workforce diversity and that a number of inclusive companies are also strong sharemarket performers, according to a 2016 European Commission report.

These type of findings tally with more general research on workplace diversity. McKinsey has found that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Companies in the bottom quartile in these dimensions are less likely to achieve above-average returns.

Beyond financial metrics, it's inarguable that business has a responsibility to help create a society, and a workplace, where everyone has a chance to fulfil their potential.

Progress has been made on LGBTI rights with around 20 countries, including Ireland, Portugal, New Zealand and the US, legalising same-sex marriage. More will undoubtedly follow.

But even in the Western world, LGBTI people still worry that revealing their sexuality at work will have negative consequences. LGBTI people who are not "out" at work can face considerable stress if they have to hide aspects of their personalities. This can undermine their self-confidence and their ability to progress within the business.

Just two years ago, only 51 per cent of LGBTI Australians identified as comfortable being 'completely out' at work in a survey by consulting group Out Now. This is one of the highest percentage rates in the world and means that almost half of all LGBTI Australians are not still comfortable declaring their sexuality at work.

Of that figure, 11 per cent are more likely to stay in their current role if they could be completely open at work, according to Out Now. If that 11 per cent were to feel more comfortable in their workplace, Australian companies could collectively save $285 million in recruitment costs to replace marginalised LGBTI employees.

Business needs to be a role model for society and continue to push for equality for the LGBTI community. Organisations are always more successful when staff members are confident, happy and respected.

HSBC is a long-standing supporter of the LGBTI community and has nine HSBC Pride employee network groups around the world, including one in Australia that is widely supported throughout the bank. We are also a proud supporter of the marriage equality movement in Australia. These are initiatives that I would call upon all large organisations, in particular, to replicate in some form to support their LGBTI employees and customers.

It's time for business to stand up and become a powerful force for change on the issues that impact our LGBTI community on a daily basis.