Yesterday, in City of London, I attended The Economist’s first event on the subject of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Diversity and Inclusion – Pride and Prejudice – an event held over nearly 24 hours on a rolling schedule in Hong Kong, London and New York.
The Economist has been campaigning consistently for economic and personal freedom for two hundred years, and this event was held to promote discussion of the economic case for inclusion (pride), and the economic costs of exclusion (prejudice).
The event was hosted in London by Zanny Minto-Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief of The Economist, and attended by representatives of the LGBT community and their allies. Speakers, on site or via video link, included:
- The Mayor of London
- The Chief Executive of Arsenal Football Club
- The President of the World Bank Group
- The Director of the CIA
- Lord Browne (former Chairman of BP)
- Sir Martin Sorrell (CEO of WPP)
- Activists, HR specialists, economists, and interested spectators
Some of them are members, and some of them are allies of, the LGBP community. Who knows which, or cares?
- How to calculate the additional cost to an individual of being LGBT
- How to calculate the cost to an economy of prejudice and exclusion of the LGBT community
- How global businesses and Governments can foster inclusion in LGBT-hostile countries
Vivienne Ming, Founder and Executive Chair at Socos, presented her company’s fascinating research into the ‘tax’ imposed by society on membership of the LGBT community, the additional lifetime cost to an LGBT individual of compensating for prejudice. These are costs arising from the harder work, better schools, and higher qualifications LGBT individuals need in order to achieve the same success as their non-LGBT peers. I didn’t entirely understand how this research was done, but it involved comparing data on hundreds of thousands of people trawled from the internet.
- The additional lifetime cost of being a gay man in the UK is around 35,000 GBP.
- The additional lifetime cost of being a lesbian woman in Hong Kong or Singapore is around 700,000 GBP (this cost reflects gender discrimination as well as LGBT discrimination)
This is what it costs to achieve the same as a straight man or woman. It’s largely wasted cost.
Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, spoke of research the World Bank will sponsor into the economic cost of prejudice, costs arising from the exclusion of talent from the economy, of emigration and of the utterly wasteful enforcement of legal prohibitions. He explained the controversial position he adopted on loans to Uganda, which, he argued, placed LGBT people in danger if Uganda’s discriminatory laws were to be passed and enforced.
Is it any wonder, everyone asked, one after another, that countries and cultures that habitually exclude the LGBT community are less innovative, and usually poorer. Three million jobs created in Silicon Valley might have been created in the conservative mid-Western states of the USA if young and talented LGBT people had felt equally comfortable in their home states. And is it any wonder that cities with thriving LGBT communities, such as San Francisco, London, Berlin, and New York, have the highest number of start-ups in the world?
Is it any wonder that Moscow, Singapore and Jeddah don’t incubate novelty and that talent emigrates?
There was interesting and lively discussion, indeed considerable disagreement, on how business and Government should encourage change. Should they refuse to participate, and absent themselves from this or that country or event, or should they demonstrate inclusion by example and through participation? Should they advocate quietly, or campaign publicly?
Of course, the answer is that it depends on the circumstances. Sir Martin Sorrell noted that the adoption of public adversarial positions doesn’t work in China, and activists suggested that global campaigners should take the advice of those who are locally oppressed. Others emphasised the importance of role-models, others cautioned business and Government against making things worse by being too vocal.
But everyone agreed that the rise of populist leaders and extremist ideology, including buffoons such as Donal Trump, as well as the contraction of civil society in the emerging world, are a threat to progress on LGBT inclusion.
The LGBT community is everywhere, represented in all walks of life. From my perspective the greatest progress is not only that we can stand up and make our case but also that when we do so, we look just like everyone else.
Thanks to The Economist for joining the campaign. I look forward to the next event.