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Hong Kong banks lead way in forging path for sexual minorities in the workplace

Hong Kong banks lead way in forging path for sexual minorities in the workplace

Originally published at the South China Morning Post on July 17, 2016.

Hong Kong banks are stepping up efforts to promote workplace inclusion for sexual minorities, as the city’s protections for LGBT individuals continue to fall short.

With the aim of supporting LGBT employees in the financial services industry, the Hong Kong LGBT Interbank Forum was officially launched on Thursday. Informally established in 2006, the forum coordinates activities, facilitates discussions and shares practices and resources among its 25 member and observer firms, as well as sponsors’ community organisations.

“A lot of companies in Asia have yet to grasp the commercial value of diversity and inclusion,” said Celine Tan, co-chair of the forum and vice-president of Asia Prime Brokerage at J.P. Morgan. “Our mission is to be the leading forum to discuss LGBT issues.”

Although the finance industry in Hong Kong is fairly tolerant when it comes to sexual minorities, there is still a culture of “don’t ask, don’t tell”, Tan said. Having worked in the corporate sector for 10 years, she came out openly as a lesbian six years back.

“I did miss opportunities. I did hold myself back. At one point I got frustrated and I was very down. It was a combination of self-doubt and the fear and concern of the double glass ceiling,” Tan said, referring to the glass ceiling for women and for sexual minorities within the sector. “I came out and found out that it’s actually a lot better for myself. I’m more authentic, I’m happier.”

Despite policies in place to protect sexual minorities in many firms, LGBT employees still struggled with discrimination and career progression barriers, Tan said. She hoped to encourage more support among senior management, investment in resources promoting diversity and a more vocal support culture.

Tommy Chen, spokesman for local LGBT group Rainbow Action, said that while corporations played an important role in the fight towards equality it was crucial for the government to implement legislation protecting sexual minorities if progress was to be made. Hong Kong does not have an anti-discrimination law based on sexual orientation.

“We welcome initiatives like this forum, but aside from that we need the government to do more,” Chen said. “Many corporations in Hong Kong still do not have any inclusive policies, so most LGBT people are still facing discrimination on a very serious scale. Most of them cannot disclose their sexual identity.”

A spokesman from the Equal Opportunities Commission said that the organisation was calling on the government to conduct a public consultation on introducing anti-discrimination legislation based on sexual orientation.

The commission also recommends that the government ensures adequate anti-discrimination training to officials and staff of public bodies, increases public education on LGBT issues and expands support measures.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: banks lead the way in welcoming lgbt staff

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