Imagine having to hide a fundamental part of yourself every day at work to avoid discrimination or ridicule from your colleagues or bosses. This is the reality for many working LGBTQ+ individuals in Hong Kong SAR.
Even though the city lags behind the rest of its Asian counterparts in LGBTQ+ acceptance, there is hope for the community in Hong Kong SAR as more companies strive to create diverse and inclusive workplace environments.
People are increasingly embracing the LGBTQ+ community and have been advocating for their rights to protect them from discrimination. Recognising the importance of fostering an inclusive society, HR professionals assert that anti-discrimination laws are essential in driving Hong Kong’s future societal development and for their organisation’s ability to compete in the global talent market.
Having a workplace that prioritises diversity and mandates equality is crucial for organisations to attract fresh talent. By eliminating hiring biases such as gender or sexual orientation, employers can create a true sense of workplace belonging while creating an inclusive workplace environment for everyone to thrive. Research has further shown that LGBTQ+ individuals who are open about their sexual orientation at work experience greater joy and career satisfaction at work.
Employers are working to build inclusive and welcoming workplaces for all employees as part of continuous efforts to improve LGBTQ+ acceptance in Hong Kong SAR. Numerous companies in Hong Kong SAR are now actively promoting inclusive workplaces where individuals are empowered to bring their best selves to work and achieve their full potential.
This article dives into the key elements that contribute to an LGBTQ+-friendly workplace and highlight 5 companies spearheading this progressive movement in Hong Kong SAR.
how do you create a LGBTQ+-friendly workplace?
A LGBTQ+-friendly workplace is characterised by its recognition and support of LGBTQ+ employees to allow them to be their authentic selves at work.
This includes creating a safe and welcoming environment where LGBTQ+ employees have equal opportunities at work, and where discrimination against sexual orientation or gender identity is not tolerated and actively addressed.
From an organisational standpoint, safeguarding LGBTQ+ employees from discrimination and harassment at the workplace is just the start of their wider inclusion journey. Companies need to assess every touch point they have with their employees and job seekers to ensure that LGBTQ+ individuals always feel like they belong.
When businesses foster a community that is self-aware and open to differences, they demonstrate a much-needed sense of empathy. Employees will feel more connected with the company and open to share their experiences and ideas, which would eventually lead to greater innovation and creativity within the workforce. A diverse workforce can also create new opportunities and overcome obstacles that might have been overlooked in a homogenous community.
1. inclusive company policies and recruitment approaches
It’s non-negotiable for companies to implement anti-discriminatory policies to outline clear guidelines and procedures that are aimed at preventing harassment and bias in recruitment, hiring, promotion, compensation and training.
Discriminatory policies can include enforcing strict dress codes that separate employees by gender and allowing employees to mock or discriminate against their LGBTQ+ colleagues without any consequences of their behaviour. In worse cases, some biassed employers could even deny employment or promotion, as well as fire someone solely because of their sexual orientation.
Organisations can also take steps to improve their recruitment processes to avoid hiring bias to nip the issue in the bud.
As a start, employers can indicate in their job adverts that they are a LGBTQ+-friendly company and highlight the organisation’s equality policies. Companies can also use their careers website page to emphasise their dedication to workplace inclusion and diversity by sharing testimonials from their existing LGBTQ+ employees.
2. supportive culture at work
A popular way for companies to show their support for their employees and build an inclusive culture is through celebrating key events like Pride Month or similar awareness days. However, it’s important to note that such gestures can seem performative if inclusion is not woven directly into the fabric of a company’s culture, especially if they are hosted as one-off events.
To truly promote an inclusive culture, companies should go beyond organising internal employee events. Organisations need to consider a more holistic approach that encompasses corporate social responsibility and the removal of any barriers to success, so that every employee feels encouraged to participate in the workplace.
Promoting holistic support and inclusion can be achieved through LGBTQ+ workplace initiatives such as:
mandatory diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) training to educate employees
52% of respondents in our 2023 Employer Brand Research said that it’s important that they work in a company that values DEI. For many LBGTQ+ job applicants, knowing that an organisation is dedicated to DEI initiatives and inclusion training is a key consideration factor to guide their career decision making.
employee networks or business resource groups
These support groups provide LGBTQ+ employees and allies the opportunities to come together to brainstorm LGBTQ+ events and initiatives or simply bond over their shared experiences. By assisting in the eradication of harassment or workplace discrimination through education, mentorship programmes, and information exchange, staff networks or support groups are essential to maintaining effective equality and a culture of inclusion inside the workplace.
identify internal ambassadors
Invite employees to share their own experiences and recommend ideas on how to improve inclusive practices in the workplace. Celebrating allies, who are people that actively support and welcome their LGBTQ+ coworkers, shows an employer's dedication to inclusiveness.
3. LGBTQ+ support from leaders
Any successful leader knows that no employee, no matter how self-motivated or intelligent they are, feels empowered to do their best work in an environment where they don’t feel supported or safe to be themselves.
When leaders in a company publicly support LGBTQ+ rights and implement an inclusion strategy, it sends a powerful message to all their employees that they have support not simply from their peers, but at every level of the organisation.
In recent years, numerous large businesses have received criticism from consumers and advocacy groups for their lack of inclusivity at a management level.
It is not enough for a business to simply align its brand with strong values. Leaders should prioritise workplace equality, inclusion and diversity and integrate these principles into every strategic business decision. Whether it pertains to employee engagement or the services provided to customers, these decisions drive a strong message across the workforce, encouraging everyone to maintain an open mind and embrace each other’s differences.
Rather than selecting employees and job seekers based on arbitrary factors, embracing workplace inclusion practices gives each person a powerful chance to prove their worth as a human being.
the importance of LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the workplace
With inclusive company policies in place, companies can be more successful when it comes to attracting and retaining diverse and top talent.
When employees feel supported and included, they feel happier and more satisfied with their jobs, hence much less likely to leave the company. When there is an innate empathy and mutual respect between co-workers regardless of orientation and personal beliefs, there will be increased productivity, better teamwork and higher employee satisfaction.
5 best LGBTQ+-friendly companies to work in hong kong
Despite Hong Kong being a diverse society, finding LGBTQ+-friendly workplaces can be difficult due to the persistent taboo surrounding discussions on this subject. However, we have identified several companies that actively promote diversity and inclusivity in the workplace, establishing safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community.
Linklaters is one of the leading employers for LGBT+ inclusion in Hong Kong SAR. As a law firm, they have consistently advocated for access to justice and their practice places more emphasis on helping groups that have been discriminated against because of their gender or their sexual orientation.
They work with different charities and NGOs, including Justice Centre Hong Kong, to provide advice and assistance to the vulnerable LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and migrant workers with their legal issues.
HSBC has actively expressed their support for the LGBTQ+ community, including lighting up their Hong Kong headquarters in rainbow colours to demonstrate their commitment. They also repainted their lion statues guarding the HSBC building in rainbow colours in 2016.
The bank also allows same-sex and unmarried heterosexual couples to be named as beneficiaries for their insurance products. Previously, Hong Kong’s life insurance industry only allowed individuals related by law or blood to be named as beneficiaries upon application.
Pride HK is a volunteer-led Employee Resource Group within HSBC. It encourages LGBTQ+ employees and their allies to perform to the best of their abilities, fulfilling the bank’s strategic goals in an inclusive and supportive environment.
Manulife promotes its LGBTQ+ community by supporting significant events such as Pink Season, the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia as well as the Pride Parade Hong Kong.
Acknowledging that the definition of “family” has evolved, the company enables same-sex partners to purchase life insurance policies for their loved ones. The insurance firm also has an internal PROUD employee network to connect with the LGBTQ+ community and allies as well as to give their workers a safe environment where they can be their authentic selves.
4. thomson reuters
Thomson Reuters has been a long advocate for the LGBTQ+ community across the world. In alignment with Thomson Reuters’ business objectives and the global LGBTQ+ community, the Pride at Work Employee Network was established to create a safe and inclusive workplace.
The network has hosted projects like On Side with Pride, which allow allies to publicly show their support for their LGBTQ+ coworkers and get a badge to show their belief in aiming for an equal world despite differences in sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, the network organised a #CountMeIn social media campaign where employees share their support for the LGBTQ+ colleagues by sharing their pronouns and how they demonstrate their allyship.
5. J.P. morgan
J.P. Morgan has been a long supporter of equality, including for the LGBTQ+ community. They have an official LGBTQ+ PRIDE Business Resource Group, established in 1996, that offers a safe space for personal development opportunities for LGBTQ+ employees and their allies to connect and share experiences.
The company has a strong commitment to promoting inclusivity from their Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs, which has a full-time dedicated team to promote intersectionality and deliver equity and inclusion for their LGBTQ+ employees, clients and partners worldwide.
where can you find LGBTQ+ inclusive workplaces?
Looking for a job that aligns with your values as an LGBTQ+ jobseeker can be challenging, especially if protection and safety is your highest priority. However, with the help of a trusted recruiter from Randstad, you can easily find companies that embrace and share the same beliefs as you.
Randstad supports workplace diversity, equality, and inclusion. We are committed to creating a fully inclusive workplace environment where LGBTQI+ employees feel valued, appreciated and welcomed. We strive to celebrate diversity and empower individuals to thrive through encouragement, respect and meaningful connections.
At Randstad, we are committed to understanding your unique needs and preferences, and we will match you with a company that not only values diversity and inclusion but also offers an exciting career path. If you’re looking for a safe space to work at, our consultants are ready to help you find your dream job with a company that values you for who you are.
Note: This article was updated to reflect the publicly available information in June 2023.