Openly gay still taboo in China's workplaces
Updated: 2013-12-30 10:38
By Yu Ran in Shanghai (China Daily)
As a gay man, Cheng Wei said the most difficult time of his life was the eight months he worked at a State-owned company.
"All the time I was there I was so worried and cautious about people discovering my sexuality," said the 29-year-old from Shanghai. "I was sure that if my co-workers found out, they would view me differently."
Cheng quit and last year started work at an advertising agency that already had several openly gay employees. He said the change made a world of difference.
"I feel much more confident about myself now," he said.
Working in a more-open environment is a dream for most lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in China, according to a recent poll.
Aibai, a nonprofit organization offering support to the LGBT community, interviewed 2,161 people between January and April and found 21 percent had considered leaving, or had left a job, because of discrimination in the workplace.
Eighty-seven percent also agreed that an inclusive work environment improves relationships among employees.
"I really hope every LGBT individual can be as lucky as me," Cheng said.
Despite changing attitudes, sexual orientation remains largely a sensitive subject, especially in the workplace.
Yet as Chinese enterprises compete in a globalized world, Amanda Yik argues they need to do more to drive innovation and diversity of thought, as well as improve corporate governance.
"They need to provide inclusive environments for emerging or open LGBT individuals," said the senior program manager at Community Business Ltd, a Hong Kong nonprofit group focused on advancing corporate responsibility in Asia.
In September, Yik began promoting Creating an Inclusive Workplace for LGBT Employees, a resource guide she helped compile for Chinese employers.
Hu Zhijun, executive director of PFLAG China, a gay-rights NGO in Guangzhou, said more attention is being paid to LGBT issues in China today, "but most people are still reluctant to talk about sexuality or gender identity unless encouraged by others".