Diversity and Inclusion Key to Business Success
18 May 2018 by Caitlin Wiesen
We recently heard from Le Xuan Tu, a 31-year-old technician of Cua Dat Hydropower Plant in the central province of Thanh Hoa: “I have been working at this hydropower plant for 7-8 years. My work is good so far. The fact that I belong to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community doesn’t affect my job here”.
In his company, people’s wage and benefits are based on their work and performance. Tu is a very active member of his company’s youth union. He plays sports such as volley ball, badminton and football. He has joined entertainment competitions held by his corporation and the communal administration and won high prizes.
We are very happy for Tu and the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and Biphobia (17 May) is a good opportunity to celebrate Viet Nam’s remarkable progress for the protection of LGBTI persons in recent years. This progress has seen a growing base of civil society advocating for the inclusion of LGBTI people in the country, greater awareness and public discourse on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and intersex status, and the launch of Viet Pride in 2012, the first-ever pride event that took place in Viet Nam.
However, not every LGBTI person is as lucky as Tu. Discrimination against LGBTI persons is still prevalent in Viet Nam. According to a survey conducted in Viet Nam, 30% of LGBT people said that they were denied employment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Even after getting a job, 33% to 50% of LGBT respondents said that they would hear and witness negative comments and acts from colleagues, superiors, clients or business partners. In addition, 13.5% of LGBT respondents answered that they were paid less than others with the same position and skills, with 22.6% responding that they were denied promotion and 20% of LGBT respondents said that they reassigned to other posts, because of their sexual orientation.
Such forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity during the job application process, and even after employment, make it very challegning for the LGBTI community to openly express their gender identity and truly feel comfortable in the workplace. Ultimately, this situation prevents them from reaching their full potential.
Not only is discrimination against LGBTI persons unjust, but not promoting the inclusion of LGBTI persons can work as a stumbling block to growing business in Viet Nam. Breakthrough ideas are more likely to take place where diverse perspectives, experiences and identities are embraced. A recent study on Stanford Business School graduates revealed that those entrepreneurs with the most diverse friendships scored three times higher in terms of innovation, evidently showing that inclusion accelerates creativity in business. Innovation is a pre-requisite for businesses to survive and grow, especially in this rapidly changing environment, with new technologies, emerging markets and changing preferences of consumers.
Notwithstanding the ‘business case’ for promoting diversity and inclusion, business enterprises must recognize their growing influence and impact on society, and assume their responsibility to respect the rights and dignity of their employees, whether they are LGBTI or not, and their wider impact on human rights, the environment and society.
One important step in doing so is to uphold the ‘Standards of Conduct for Business in Tackling Discrimination against LGBTI people’, adopted by leading multinational companies with the UN in September 2017, and the ‘UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’, which were unanimously endorsed by UN member states at the Human Rights Council in 2011. These standards, principles and guidance can help business better understand their role in respecting human rights, and take concrete and practical steps to mitigate, prevent and redress violations of human rights.
Eighty-seven percent of Fortune 500 companies now have policies that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, pursuing greater equality in the workplace. Multinational companies such as IBM, KPMG, PwC and Baker McKenzie, who are pioneers of the inclusion initiative, can share their experiences and offer guidance for Vietnamese companies in promoting an LGBTI-friendly environment.
Listening to the call of multinational businesses in Viet Nam, Vietnamese businesses can adopt global diversity and inclusion examples. By championing the inclusion of LGBTI persons, they will have the opportunity to explore diverse ideas, which will boost innovation and growth of Vietnamese businesses.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has provided platforms for businesses, government officials, development partners and community groups to gather and talk about LGBTI issues including the ‘Innovation through Inclusion Conference’, held in January this year. To further promote the rights of LGBTI persons, efforts will be made to revise the Labour Code of Viet Nam to include sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited grounds for discrimination. UNDP will also continues to provide training to LGBTI youth entrepreneurs, to accelerate social innovation and leadership and further promote LGBTI inclusion.
On the occasion of IDAHOT 2018, UNDP is proudly associated with the Joint United Nations statement in Viet Nam recommitting our support to the country’s efforts to promote equality and equity for LGBTI people, establishing a solid foundation for full access to the educational, social and healthcare services they need, as well as the required opportunities to fulfil their ambitions and aspirations.
 The Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE) “Is it because I am LGBT? – Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Viet Nam", 56-60