Harnessing LGBT+ talent

Benjamin B. Azada Consulting Managing Principal, PwC Philippines 21 Sep 2018

Compared to many of our Asian neighbors, we Filipinos seem to be pretty accepting of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual plus (LGBT+) community.

Only Taiwan appears to be far ahead of us in terms of LGBT+ inclusion, having recognized same-sex unions as a fundamental right.

In the Philippine workplace, however, we have a long way to go before we can say we have realized the full potential of LGBT+ talent.

Some organizations have an informal rule against hiring outwardly LGBT+ talent. Others make it difficult for them to get into positions of influence and power. And very few (other than some enlightened multinationals) provide equal benefits to LGBT+ couples.

Of course, some of this is because our legal framework has not yet recognized gay marriage or civil unions. But there is still a lot that can be done now to make LGBT+ employees feel they have a seat at the table and can contribute fully to their organization’s goals.

But why should we even bother? What’s in it for businesses?

PwC recently conducted a global survey on LGBT+ inclusion, entitled “Out to Succeed: Realizing the full potential of LGBT+ talent”.

We found 96 percent of employers and 84 percent of employees agree that being openly supportive of LGBT+ gives their organization broader access to the best talent.

An overwhelming majority also say that it has improved market positioning, driven greater creativity, and helped them better understand customers’ needs.

In this era of digital transformation and artificial intelligence, soft skills like authenticity, inclusion, and resilience have become competitive weapons. These are not easy to replace with computers and robots.

What we found is that one good way to build and preserve these attributes is to become a more attractive employer for LGBT+’s.

The majority of employees we surveyed said that being able to come “out” at work has helped them enhance such soft skills.

It’s sad, therefore, to see that nearly one in five of employees surveyed have experienced discriminatory or negative behavior due to being LGBT+. This could range from inappropriate jokes to bullying and being held back from promotion.

But it could also include unintended, seemingly innocent behavior like assuming that everyone in the team is a heterosexual.

So how should one go about becoming an employer of choice for LGBT+ talent?

Our survey points to where companies might want to place their initial focus. The top three attributes cited by employees are: opportunities for career progression, competitive wages, and being known for fairness and equal treatment.

Interestingly enough, these are things that I believe everyone wants, including myself.

To begin the journey, we recommend five concrete steps:

First, set the right tone from the top and engage the CEO. The employees surveyed said they want to see their CEO lead the charge. One idea revealed through our CEO interviews is “reverse mentoring” of the C-suite by LGBT+ employees for executives to get a better understanding of their experiences within the organization.

Second, create clear pathways for career progression. This includes instituting targeted leadership-development opportunities for LGBT+ leaders, and monitoring the LGBT+ talent pipeline from recruitment to promotion and ultimately to organization exit.

Third, stand up and advocate for equality. Leaders need to be visibly engaged in this issue, and translate principles into day-to-day decisions and actions. You can start by effecting change within the four walls of the organization, and later on advocate change with business partners and broader society.

Fourth, build and empower ally networks. Creating formal networks, internal committees or groups that support LGBT+ inclusion can help create a welcoming environment for LGBT+ talent. More than 80 percent of employees surveyed see an ally program as important in creating an inclusive culture.

And finally, create inclusive communications. Companies’ external and internal communications often reinforce stereotypes (like parents being a male-and-female couple). A great way to kick-start the change is to review the language used in all their documents, policies, and advertising and marketing materials. The interesting thing is that our native languages in the Philippines are mostly gender neutral, but gender bias has creeped in along with the adoption of English as our standard business language.

Within PwC Philippines’ Consulting practice, we have set up a Diversity and Inclusion committee to take baby steps towards greater inclusiveness. We had some initial successes with sessions on helping our people be more conscious of their biases, and being more willing to discuss LGBT+ issues.

I know it’s going to be a long struggle, but I’m confident that we will eventually succeed.

This content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

Contact us

Benjamin B. Azada

Consulting Managing Principal

Tel: +63 (2) 459 3011

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