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Why now is the time for world and business leaders to talk LGBT at Davos

Why now is the time for world and business leaders to talk LGBT at Davos

Around 2,600 world leaders, CEOs, heads of NGOs, top academics and journalists are on their way to Davos – and this year LGBT issues will be firmly on the agenda.

The annual World Economic Forum summit in Davos, Switzerland brings together many of the world’s most powerful figures.

The fact lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people are now on the radar shows how far we’ve come.

Global professional and tech services company Accenture is leading the way by hosting a groundbreaking conversation with three of the most senior gay and lesbian corporate executives on the panel.

So why is now the right time to make a breakthrough on global business and political thinking about diversity, inclusion and business development for our community?

Here’s what the experts will be saying:

Top execs are out
Senior leaders in business (the ‘c-suite’) are coming out as openly gay, lesbian – and even trans or bi – in increasing numbers.

That’s creating an environment where it’s safer to come out and you can be praised for showing leadership by doing so. It’s also creating large numbers of out role models, and potential mentors, so inspiration and support is on hand for those who follow them.

It’s time to stand up.

Authentic leadership
Business leaders have realized their teams and peers trust them more if they know who they are. Being honest and showing leadership about being openly LGBTI makes them better.

Studies and personal testimonies prove that being able to be yourself at work, rather than having to hide part of your life, makes staff happier and more productive.

The global economic downturn of 2008 created a drive for new thinking. Diverse and inclusive teams are more creative, challenging assumptions and producing better results.

A new generation of workers, including many of the top university graduates and the most sought-after professionals, are already out as LGBT in their daily life.

They are simply not prepared to hide themselves at work. And their peers don’t think it’s an issue.

Businesses work hard to attract the best talent and know these people will check out their LGBT credentials before they join the firm.

Vital for business
Diversity, including LGBT, is good for business and organizations are recognizing this on a macro scale.

If the workforce is right, they can reach customers, including LGBT customers, far better. For business to business firms, the shared values of being diverse and inclusive builds trust. And networking between people who are able to be themselves is often more honest and effective.

LGBT is not just an inclusion issue in the workplace but a business development opportunity in the wider world.

Last chance
So why now? Quite simply, it’s time to get on board – the train is leaving the station.

Companies who want to be the best in the future will have the right values, the right systems and structures to back those values and lead from the front.

The panel, chaired by CNN anchor Richard Quest, is made up of people already living these messages.

Beth Brooke-Marciniak is the openly lesbian global vice chair for public policy at professional services firm EY and one of the world’s most influential women.

Antonio Simoes is chief executive officer of HSBC in the UK and one of the most senior openly gay people in British business.

And the Accenture-backed event may well not have happened if it wasn’t for the passion of another openly gay exec and the last Davos panel member – Sander Noordende, Group CEO in charge of the firm’s products division.

As he puts it in his blog: ‘I believe that corporate leaders have an opportunity – indeed, an obligation – to create a more diverse workforce that helps fuel a strong sense of belonging and pride… and ultimately helps companies to understand and serve a diverse customer base.

‘The number of companies supporting LGBT equality in the workplace internationally has grown tremendously in the past decade, and is now on the radar in c-suites around the globe. To that end, this is the perfect time to host this discussion in Davos.’

You can watch the Accenture LGBT panel at Davos live on Thursday (22 January) from 4pm CET on Gay Star News or via this link, where it will also be available for replay afterwards.

You can read Sander Noordende’s full blog post about this event here.

Accenture has sponsored Gay Star News to raise the profile of the LGBT discussions at Davos and help more people engage in the conversation.