At work, the corporate culture is what matters

Updated: 2013-01-06 11:03

By Xu Lin (China Daily)

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For Jimmy Chen from Beijing, it's quite normal for him to talk about his homosexuality with his colleagues, who don't think it a big deal.

He works at IBM and told his manager about his sexual preferences in 2007, after being inspired by the company's positive policy toward the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) group.

"It's necessary to come out to my co-workers because I want to share my life with them," Chen says. "Once I've come clean, I can be myself. I feel more self-confident and braver. It even affected how I approach things. For example, when I don't agree with my boss, I now dare to speak my mind."

He started his career in a State-owned enterprise in Beijing 10 years ago, but decided to join an international corporation after four years, because he felt the latter would have a more open environment for LGBT.

Like Chen, more young LGBTs choose to come out because of the friendly environment at their offices, and increasing public awareness and acceptance.

Another young lady, who wants to be known as Xiao Xing, works in a media company in Fujian province. She told her colleagues about her homosexuality in 2008.

"I rarely conceal my sexual preference. You can see that I dress up like a typical lesbian, in a unisex style.

"Once, a colleague asked me whether I was lesbian, I was awkward for a few seconds and then, I admitted it. All my colleagues accept me," she says.

Xiao Xing often shares information about the LGBT group with her colleagues and some of them even offer to become volunteers at LGBT group activities.

"There is no privacy at work because people are concerned about whether you have a boyfriend and when you are going to get married. I can't focus on work if I have to lie about my relationship.

"I was very anxious when I first hunted for a job because for a tomboy like me, it's very uncomfortable to dress up in high heels and skirt. Office dress code is a big concern for people like me," she says.

According to a report by Community Business, an organization dedicated to enhancing understanding of corporate social responsibility in Asia, LGBT employees are more likely to pursue their careers in organizations that promote an open and supportive environment.

The report says companies that fail to develop clear policies and guidelines for their LGBT employees run the risk of having cases raised against them and tarnishing their corporate reputation. Prejudice results in human costs and affects the bottom line.

"Hong Kong is more open-minded about the issue compared with the Chinese mainland. Most think an inclusive workplace improves relationship with colleagues as well as work efficiency. The situation in Taiwan is much better," says Kevin Burns, senior project officer from the Community Business.

"Companies should have a diversified policy and provide related education and training programs, to create an inclusive environment for LGBT staff," Burns says.

While some companies such as media and foreign corporations are relatively open-minded about sexual orientations, State-owned enterprises and government departments are more conservative.

According to Fan Xiyun, an organizer of the Fujian branch of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), China, one of her best friends, a civil servant, had to conceal his sexual preference at work. He committed suicide recently after more than a decade of suppression.

"A company's attitude toward LGBT is very important for the group. I hope they can offer equal job opportunities for these young people," she says.