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First steps towards more LGBT-friendly offices in China

First steps towards more LGBT-friendly offices in China

Twenty people gathered in the IBM offices in the Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai’s second tallest building, today start an effort towards more LGBT inclusion in China’s workplaces. 

Business people from multi-national banks, legal firms and pharmaceutical companies met to learn about how to make their workplaces more comfortable for LGBT employees. However no purely Chinese companies showed interest in the topic.

Hong-Kong-based workplace diversity advisors Community Business organized the meeting to start work on a resource guide on LGBT inclusion for employers in mainland China, which will present the business case.

‘Productivity drops by 30% for an LGBT person in a non-LGBT friendly workplace,’ said Community Business senior project manager Amanda Yik at the meeting, quoting international statistics.

A brainstorm about the challenges for LGBT people at work in China found inequalities around partner visas and spousal healthcare and a lack of leadership on pursuing the issue.

There was concern around sponsoring LGBT rights organizations in China because of the perception it is a political issue which the government is sensitive about.

Even if a company has an equal opportunities policy covering sexual orientation and gender identity in writing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the culture is accepting of LGBT rights.

Community Business program manager Kevin Burns recounted an experience he heard firsthand of a manager being blackmailed by one of his employees who discovered he was gay. His company has a policy of non-discrimination but the manager still doesn’t feel comfortable coming out at work.

Community Business will have another brainstorm with business people in Beijing on Wednesday and then produce a resource guide for September 2013.

A recent survey from China LGBT rights advocates Aibai and Community Business found that nearly half of those surveys are completely in the closet at work.