A recent report on the impact of LGBTQI inclusion on company performance tells a compelling story, writes Conrad Liveris.
Conrad Liveris

27 Apr 2016 - 11:22 AM  UPDATED 27 Apr 2016 - 11:13 AM

What motivates business on equality? That is what I spend my day thinking about. It keeps me up late at night. It keeps me searching for evidence. And it keeps me asking hard questions of business leaders.

Obviously, there will never be one answer. But I do find one thing that propels some people into action: economics. If people can see a financial reason to act, usually, they do.

Over the past decade there has been a growing development of a so-called business case for diversity. It has typically focused on women, and it is quite compelling.

Earlier this month, Credit Suisse released a report detailing the impact of LGBTQI inclusion on company performance. It tells a compelling story.

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Credit Suisse combed over thousands of companies’ performance daily, but only 270 reach the benchmark. To be included, businesses needed to have an 80 score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. The standard expects employers to prohibit discrimination on sex or gender identity bases, have similar policies for suppliers, LGBTQI inclusion training for the entire organisation and actively uses a reference group amongst others.

That really isn’t a high standard, but few reach it. Those that do outperform competitors and sharemarket averages. As a group they beat a comparable group without LGBTQI inclusion by 3 per cent.

And returns on equity and investment are higher. The likelihood of a dividend is also increased. Companies are more likely to attract better talent, both LGBTQI and allies, and they are going to be more productive. All managers and investors should realise that discrimination does not pay dividends.

But what does this mean on the ground?

The Human Rights Commission finds that more than 10 per cent of the population is LGBTQI. Yet only about 50 per cent of us are 'out' at work and even less of us are engaged to be so. Workforce engagement is a key issue in modern business because it has a strong connection with productivity and performance.

For LGBTQI people that is strongly correlated to being open at work. We all know that there is baggage that comes with being LGBTQI. What this evidence shows is that organisations who are conscious of that are more successful. When we don’t have to worry about being gay, we can be more focused and productive.

"In my first meeting with a manager or executive I ask them the same question. When was the last time they were called a derogatory name by a stranger on the street?"

In my first meeting with a manager or executive I ask them the same question. When was the last time they were called a derogatory name by a stranger on the street? These are the words we all know unfortunately well. But we don’t discuss them. It can be easier to avoid those challenging and difficult conversations for what looks like peace of mind.

We don’t share those experiences and we hide ourselves. Burdened by discrimination we don’t speak up and it then spins a web of destruction to ourselves and our work-life. The best workplaces work against this and make everyone feel included. Show your boss the evidence that links them as being more profitable and effective. It may motivate them to stand up and call out discrimination. More than tokenism, like a yearly networking event for gay staff, disclosure about our sexuality is a lived experience every working day.

Supporting LGBTQI people finds itself in every facet of a business. What I know is that action on equality motivates us when we see the evidence. And it is compelling.

Conrad Liveris is a workforce diversity specialist.