Hong Kong will, for the first time, hold a careers day on Saturday (20 October) to help LGBTI Hong Kongers in the workplace.
Organized by LGBTI festival, Pink Season, ‘Work It’ will include one-to-one CV workshops, seminars, presentations from top LGBTI professionals, and a job fair.
‘We want to offer guidance and empowerment to be able to be who they really are in their careers’, Pink Season Director, Philip Howell-Williams, told Gay Star News.
Though Hong Kong may be a global financial hub, the majority of LGBTI Hong Kongers are not out at work.
Conservative attitudes and a lack of anti-discrimination legislation mean most stay in the closet. LGBTI individuals can be legally fired for being who they are.
‘For many people being at work can be like being in a prison’, Howell-Williams said. ‘They are not able to come out and really be who they are’.
Michael Gold, of the Economist Intelligent Unit who will be presenting at the event, said there was a ‘don’t-ask-don’t tell’ situation in many workplaces.
‘Though instances of overt prejudice against LGBTI people are rare, support systems a la LGBTI networks, diversity training, etc, are also rare,’ he explained.
This is despite recent wins in LGBTI rights, such as the immigration department recognizing same-sex unions when considering visa applications.
Hong Konger Henry Chu, an electrician who is planning to attend Saturday’s event, said coming out at work would be ‘extremely hard.’
‘It would be very uncomfortable,’ he told Gay Star News, ‘no one would talk to you’.
First of its kind
Work It was inspired by a graduate recruitment event organized by University LGBTI organization Queer Straight Alliance.
Howell-Williams said he wanted to ‘take the concept to a different audience’.
‘This is the first time that we have done an event like this,’ he said. ‘We are really excited about it.’
More global companies in Hong Kong are launching inclusivity programs. But, coming out remains a daunting task in smaller, local firms.
The event will cover creating dialogue on LGBTI issues with colleagues, creating allies in the workplace, and finding LGBTI-friendly organizations.
Gold said the career day was an example of how grassroots community mobilisation could alter the environment.
‘Obviously, the more people come out at work the more non-LGBTI managers and colleagues will gain familiarity of LGBTI people’ he explained.
What’s more, LGBTI-friendly workplace is not just the right thing to do morally, he said. But, it is also good for business.
‘Research from Credit Suisse, for example, has shown that companies which have openly LGBT people in senior management roles outperform those that don’t in terms of stock price’ he said.