The D&I opportunity that business must get behind

Lisa Butler, Global Chief Talent and Diversity Officer, for Manulife, says celebrations of Pride Month need to be matched by real action from business.
By: | July 2, 2019

It was Pride month around the world last month, and a host of parties, festivities and events celebrated diversity and called for more inclusion. While we celebrate what the Lesbian-Gay-Bi-Transgender-and-Queer (LGBTQ+) community has achieved, we also want to remember what we still need to do to continue to bring about greater equality.

With June now at a close, I want to share a few thoughts on what I think are important for us, as allies and as the business community, to consider:

Business must be inclusive

We all know that businesses with open and inclusive environments perform better. In the same way, LGBTQ+ inclusion within Manulife has helped us make better business decisions. It allowed us to be more innovative, more collaborative and more customer-centric, because we’re able to anticipate the needs of all our customers.

Because we are LGBTQ+ inclusive, we attract and retain top talent. The business community needs to sustain and nurture an inclusive environment, where diversity thrives and where all employees feel valued and respected. Only when we can bring our authentic selves to work, can we better contribute to our company’s success.

A work culture that’s inclusive is clearly good for people and, consequently, good for business. When we fully represent the communities we serve, we build trust and open ourselves up to more people. We then better serve our customers, too.

Everyone’s journeys need to be supported

We are mindful that in all our actions we need to be responsible for our values, our customers and our employees. Importantly, we recognise that in the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) policies we implement, we need to ensure that they are meaningful and grounded in the local realities of LGBTQ+ people.

Our global presence means that we do business in countries where LGBTQ+ inclusion is challenging and where LGBTQ+ people face discrimination every day.

While we adhere to local laws and norms in more challenging environments, we advocate in jurisdictions where we can. And where can’t, we protect. For example, in Hong Kong, we have been proud sponsors of Pink Dot and Hong Kong’s Pride Parade for several years.

In other more challenging markets, it’s important for us to put in place stringent anti-discriminatory and pro-LGBTQ+ policies within our own offices. These policies cover everything from hiring processes to extending employee benefits to same-sex partners.

In June, we celebrated the second birthday of Hong Kong’s Professionals Reaching Out for Unity and Diversity (PROUD) – a voluntary, employee-led group that provides support for our members. We took time to encourage open and honest conversations, where both allies and PROUD members helped employees learn more about their colleagues and the challenges they face.

Allies can help shift discourse

Allies, in almost in any company, can help drive the LGBTQ+ conversation forward and change the discussion from a minority discourse on rights protection to one that’s about talent, performance and innovation, which ultimately impacts a company’s culture and bottom line.

Many businesses, including us at Manulife, have stepped forward to make the economic case for LGBTQ+ inclusion and non-discrimination protections – and we are not doing it alone. Many of us are part of pro-LGBTQ+ coalitions and alliances, such as Interbank in Hong Kong, to ensure we have strength in numbers and resources, and we are speaking in one voice.

Indeed, the work of equality requires the voices of many. We pool and share our expertise and experience and build a critical mass when we come together. As the business community, collectively, we are a major force for LGBTQ+ rights. And when we work together, we can gain the clout and influence necessary to bring about positive change.