Banks and the pool of pink talentI suppose this article is useful for public education purposes in Singapore. On the other hand, I could not help finding it somewhat funny.
Wednesday • January 30, 2008
By Neo Chai Chin
AMERICAN investment bank Lehman Brothers is planning an unusual initiative in Singapore, Financial Times reported recently. It is specifically targeting gay and lesbians who aspire to be bankers. This follows the success of a presentation and buffet dinner for 50 gay students in Hong Kong.
Today has learnt that the banking giant is not alone. Global banks around Asia are breaking new ground to attract and retain the best and brightest. Increasingly, their hiring and diversity policies are taking into account the homosexual community, which makes up as a significant part of the talent pool.
At UBS Singapore, for example, benefits including health insurance are extended to a staff's "significant other", defined as "a person who has cohabited with an employee for a continuous period of 12 months". The couple does not need to be married, and sexual orientation is not an issue.
Money is a factor in the competition for talent, but keeping up with social changes is also important.
"This is why our benefits policy is designed to be as flexible and inclusive as possible," said Ms Leona Tan, UBS Singapore's diversity advisor.
Merrill Lynch, on its part, has four professional networks in the Asia-Pacific region for its staff, one of which is the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender network, set up last April. The other networks are for women, young professionals and parents. The firm even has an annual diversity week, when it hosts speakers, events and conferences for the various networks.
"Our efforts in the area of diversity are about how we can create the most effective and inclusive environment, one in which we value diversity rather than simply tolerate it," said Mr Roman Matla, spokesperson for the bank's diversity and inclusion team.
The article suggests that by taking gay people into account in their HR policies, foreign banks are doing something really unusual and innovative – “breaking new ground”.
Actually, this is nothing new at all. Practically all US and European banks have global HR policies recognizing the rights of their gay employees worldwide. Such policies would have been in existence for many years.
For example, my current employer has a HR policy which promotes fair and equal treatment of all employees. Among other things, the policy says that no employee is to be discriminated against on the basis of his race, nationality, age, religion, gender, marital status, disability or sexual orientation.
As a matter of fact, this isn’t even unique to banks. You see it across different industries, among a wide range of global MNCs. Here are a few examples, from the world’s best-known corporate names:
Microsoft: “It is our policy to recruit and hire applicants for employment opportunities based solely on the qualifications. We do not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, marital status, age, or disability in any of our recruitment, hiring, training or promotion practices.”If the above surprises you, it’s only because you live in Singapore. “Gasp!” you say. “How could all these respectable companies openly employ criminals?!”
British Airways: “British Airways offers an inclusive environment to all of our employees, whether gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. British Airways has for many years included sexual orientation in its the diversity policy.”
Deutsche Bank AG: “We think of Diversity in its broadest sense, embracing all of those differences that make up the exciting, challenging world in which we live. These include age, culture, ethnicity, gender, nationality, personality type, physical ability, religion, sexual orientation, and work style."
General Electric: “GE's commitment to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender communities is supported by the GLBT Forum, as well as our offering of benefits for domestic partners.”
BP: “Our code of conduct, distributed to all BP employees, states that the company will not discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and identity.”
Nike: “Nike works closely with Stonewall, Britain’s leading gay equality organization, and other members of the program, to improve the working environment for our lesbian, gay and bisexual employees.”
Nokia: “Among those rights that Nokia views as fundamental and universal are: freedom from any discrimination based on race, creed, color, nationality, ethnic origin, age, religion, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation ....”
Well, yes, the Dark Ages still prevail in Singapore. However, most other developed countries moved on long ago. They already discovered that gays are human beings too, you see.