World Economic Forum puts LGBT rights on its radar

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The World Economic Forum, also called the Davos Annual Meeting, is being held from January 22–25, 2014, in the municipality of Davos, Switzerland. The meeting of many business and world leaders is meant to promote positive change around the world; having added “inclusiveness” to its list of objectives, the Huffington Post and Microsoft sponsored a panel on LGBT rights on January 23.

Speakers at the panel included Cameroonian lawyer and LGBT activist Alice Nkom, Elliott Management Corporation founder Paul Singer, Third Point founder Dan Loeb, Russian and American journalist Masha Gessen, J-FLAG Executive Director Dane Lewis, and Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.

Coverage of the event by the New York Times commented on the “seeming unlikelihood that prominent investors would take a stand on gay rights,” but it’s in part a matter of practicality: statistics show that equality is good for business.

Recent reports, such as Professional services firm Deloitte LLP’s Uncovering Talent, affirm that a friendly office environment is key to finding and keeping talented employees that feel valued, and thus inspired to bring their best to their work. The company’s Aon Pride Alliance provides feedback for diversity training for employees at all levels, so the LGBT perspective is understood by everyone.

Deloitte’s chief inclusion officer, senior partner Deb DeHaas, also points out that while pro-equality benefits and policies are important, in a company’s day-to-day operations, official policies take second place to office environment. “At the end of the day, it’s all about culture,” she told Human Resource Executive. “We’re trying to promote an environment where people believe they can bring their authentic selves to work.”

At the panel, Paul Singer talked about how he was inspired to learn about LGBT rights after his son came out as gay at the age of twenty-one. Though Singer is one of the Republican party’s biggest financial contributors, he is now also one of the most outspoken and active proponents of marriage equality in the professional finance world.

Regarding his influence on politicians, he declined to speak of whether or not he pushes a pro-equality agenda with them, but admitted, “I don’t try to proselytize, but they know that winning is better than losing.”

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