SHOWCASE March 18, 2016

Business leaders in Asia starting to show interest in LGBT rights

Andrew Chidgey is an APCOM Regional Advisory Group member and Chief Executive of AIDS Concern, Hong Kong. On 3 March 2016, Andrew attended the Pride and Prejudice conference in Hong Kong. Read below as he reflects upon the role of business and business leaders in supporting LGBT rights.

This month saw business leaders and diversity champions making the case for action on LGBT rights at the “Pride and Prejudice” conference organized by the Economist magazine and held simultaneously in New York, London and Hong Kong. This event left me with optimism because of some of the progress reported in different parts of Asia and the Pacific, but also with a sense of the mountain still left to climb. It seems that businesses are slowly waking up to the opportunity and responsibility to act on LGBT rights.

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, Gujurat, India

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, Gujurat, India

Some key highlights were:

  • Positive signs that some large and influential companies are beginning to act on diversity. For example, at the bank Nomura in Japan there is a diversity committee that reports directly into the company’s chief executive.
  • Some gay chief executives are out of the closet and advocating. Alan Joyce, the openly gay chief executive of Qantas airlines, spoke at this conference. One of his key points was that diversity in business teams isn’t just the right thing to do, it can have the best outcome as he argued that diverse teams can bring better business decisions.
  • Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil from India spoke via video link about coming out in India and also about the impact of appearing on the American Oprah Winfrey TV show which seemed to make him even more accepted in India.
  • Changes in national laws are what we all aim for. However, that can take a long time and before that there can be progress in other ways. Taiga Ishikawa, the first openly gay man elected as a city councilor in Japan, explained that one locality has introduced transgender recognition and one of the Japanese air flight companies has made it possible to transfer flight air miles to same sex partners.
  • Nicholas Rosellini from UNDP revealed that later this year the UN will publish an index of countries ranking them in their action on LGBT rights. This could be a useful advocacy tool.
  • Joel Simhkai, the founder and chief executive of Grindr, was at the event. I asked him how HIV NGOs could best work with Grindr. He suggested looking at the work that Grindr is doing in the US on PrEP and also on HIV testing. He suggested organizations get in touch with the Grindr regional sales team if they are interested in looking at local initiatives.
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Andrew Chidgey, APCOM Regional Advisory Group Member with Anna Olsen from Standard Chartered Bank

A strong message I would want to share with friends and colleagues working on HIV and LGBT rights would be that the business community is showing interest in diversity and it is through the channel of diversity that we can have more impacts on LGBT rights. I would suggest that the secret to having impact is to look at not only making our case only on LGBT rights but also by looking for alliances with people working on rights in general – women’s rights, children’s rights, ethnic minority rights and others.

If advocates are looking for local businesses and leaders who can support your work I encourage you to look at the conference brochure to see the companies you can approach which are already doing work in this area.

Let’s keep forging ahead – every mountain top is within reach if we just keep climbing.