Pride and Prejudice

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?

Debate covered:

  • 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.



Dizzy with Facts

At Vienna airport on Saturday morning I made the mistake of buying The Economist’s most recent little book of facts – The Pocket World in Figures, 2016 Edition. I love facts. I can’t get enough of them.

At first I was going to use the term factoid to describe these entertaining trivia but when I looked it up I was astonished to find that the word was coined by Norman Mailer, no less, in 1973 and was intended, originally, to refer only to false statements that we take as true simply because they are often enough repeated (such as that the Great Wall of China can be seen from space).


But, as Wikipedia documents, the word has shifted in meaning over the last forty years, and now it’s understood to refer to any trivial truth that is frequently repeated, is briefly fascinating, and instantly forgettable. Factoids of this kind are what you need if you want to win Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

And I’ve just offered you one.

I’m sometimes told by my partner that I’m a tiny bit autistic, and if that’s a fair description of someone who can read a list of facts for an hour or two, or pore over an atlas, then it’s probably true. I like to know about things, how they work, who made them, what they’re for. What is it to be human, after all, if not to have time for the pointless? Indeed, I just asked a swimming pool attendant here at our Montenegran holiday hideaway about the population of Montenegro (around 650,000) and I feel all the richer for knowing this.

The Economist’s little book is therefore a treasure trove for people like me. Here are some of the highlights:

I may never go to Rwanda, but I am delighted to know that Rwanda’s parliament has a higher proportion of female members than any other parliament in the world.

I am also interested and surprised to learn that there are more than three men for every woman in Qatar, and too few in Moldova, though I can’t see how to put this knowledge to good use.

Bulgaria has the slowest growing population of any country in the world.

Melbourne, in Australia, is the most ‘liveable’ city.

Norway is the country with the highest ‘human development index’, and is also the most democratic (Syria the least).

Sweden is the country with the most equal household income.

Macau and Singapore are less dependent on agriculture than any other countries and contain the most city-dwellers (100%). No surprise, I think, in both respects.

The United Kingdom is the eighth consumer of tea.

Albania produces all of its electricity from hydro-electric sources.

The Turks, working an average of 49 hours each week, are the most industrious in the world.

Brains are draining more rapidly from Myanmar than from any other country.

In terms of distance driven annually per car, Chileans are the world champions. Given how long and thin their country is this is not particularly remarkable.

The Swiss travel further by train each year than any other nationality. Presumably this has something to do with the famed reliability of their service.

In Monaco women may expect to live nearly 94 years, longer than the women of any other nation.

Both the men and women of Qatar are the most obese in the world (respectively 40% and 49.7% of those aged over 18).

The people of Myanmar are the most generous in the world in terms of the money and time they give to those in need.

In the United Kingdom, more new titles per head of population are published than in any other country.

The Czechs drink more beer than anyone else.

The United States imprisons a higher proportion of its population than any other country.

Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world.

Don’t you feel richer for all these facts?!

A note on the title of this book…

How can facts and figures ever have a future date? It’s 2015 now, so how can The Economist’s pocket book be the ‘2016 Edition’? What facts can we know now that will certainly be true in 2016? True, many facts about 2015 may survive, but then why put them together under 2016?

Isn’t it the case that anything that’s certain enough to be true for all time is not, in fact, a fact. ‘2+2=4’ is not a fact, for example. Certainties of the logical or mathematical kind are not discovered, as facts are, they are derived.

Discovered facts, if they are true (as facts, logically must be) are understood to be true at the time of discovery. They may continue to be true in 2016, but crucially, they may not be.