Equal Opportunities Commission



Hong Kong LGBT Workplace Inclusion Index 2015 by Community Business – Awards Ceremony

Remarks by Dr York Y.N. CHOW Chairperson, Equal Opportunities Commission


Fern, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good afternoon.

Congratulations to Community Business on the successful launch of the first-ever Hong Kong LGBT Workplace Inclusion Index, and thank you for inviting me to be here.

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) is delighted to be a supporting organisation of this initiative to advance equal opportunities for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community in our city. For those of you who do not know us, the EOC is the statutory body tasked to implement the anti-discrimination ordinances in Hong Kong. Our vision is to create a pluralistic and inclusive society free of discrimination, where there is no barrier to equal opportunities.

Although there is currently no legislation in Hong Kong to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status, the EOC has been vocal in voicing out our views that LGBTI people should enjoy equal rights and opportunities. We have been advocating for legal protection for sexual minorities against discrimination in the public sphere, such as in employment and the provision of services. We firmly believe that it is important for Hong Kong, as an international business centre, to take actions on this front in order to maintain our competitiveness.

Certainly, LGBTI workplace inclusion should be a key business concern for all companies aspiring to be employers of choice. Providing an open and equal environment for everyone to be their best self clearly makes good business sense in terms of attracting and retaining talents. There is also an urgency attached to this issue here in our city, given our broadening talent shortage, and our priority in attracting various expertise from all parts of the world. 

It is therefore fitting that this Index, the first of its kind in Asia, was launched here in our city. This inaugural Index has attracted participation from a wide range of companies and over 50 nominations. Such enthusiastic response shows that employers are increasingly recognising the real economic benefits of protecting the human rights of LGBTI people.

Indeed, we have seen real initiatives on this front from the business community – whether in providing inclusive benefits to global best practice standards or setting up internal employee networks to promote diversity and inclusion. We have also seen business-led, large-scale action, such as the formation of groups for the banking and legal sectors. 

Outside the business sector, we have seen innovative community-based initiatives that aimed at raising awareness and educating the public. And we have seen individuals who have stood up, whether within their own company, as well as outside in the wider community, to provide a voice and leadership. All of them – whether on their own or in a team – provide much needed role models on this front, and help to push the dialogue forward. 

In the past few years since I became the Chairperson of the EOC, we have seen the landscape shift on LGBTI rights, both here and abroad. Certainly, I believe we are seeing greater awareness and openness than before in our city, and the organisations and individuals who have made this happen deserve our recognition. 

As mentioned in Community Business’ invitation, today is about “Celebrating Achievements and Collective Efforts on Impacting Change”. So I want to offer my hearty congratulations to all the participating organisations, the award nominees and finalists, for bringing about the change, and for doing your part towards a more inclusive workplace and an equal society for all here in Hong Kong. It is especially meaningful that this ceremony is held in the advent of IDAHOT, the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, a day to commemorate and thank all those who help create a better world free of discrimination against sexual minorities.  

To keep the momentum going and widen the positive impact of these actions, we believe that there must be cross-sectoral collaboration – from the Government to the private sector, from non-governmental organisations to professional bodies. We need more platforms that bring together leaders from all sectors to exchange thoughts on collective action and push this issue forward. We also need to facilitate knowledge-sharing, across sectors and borders, so that we may learn from one another as Hong Kong looks at the way ahead. 

This is particularly relevant for small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs), who make up the majority of employers in Hong Kong. As at mid-2014, there are over 1.2 million local companies in the city, and over 10,000 non-Hong Kong companies. A large majority of them are SMEs. Throughout the social dialogue, we have heard about the owners of SMEs expressing concerns that they lack resources to formulate or implement equal opportunity policies. Others feel that they may not have the exposure to global best practices. Much more can still be done in this area to encourage concrete action for workplace inclusion. 

That is why initiatives such as this Index are so crucial – by providing an important tool for benchmarking and measuring progress, as well as a platform for all of us to learn from each other’s good practices. It serves to show that there are concrete steps that all employers, including SMEs, can take to create a fairer workplace.

Such innovative attempt can also play a key role towards public education and fostering a truly inclusive society. Notwithstanding the progress we have made so far, we face still too much misunderstanding and stereotypes about sexual minorities in our society. Given Hong Kong’s status as a business city, corporate leaders can have considerable influence and help to educate the public by speaking up on this issue. Indeed, we need more positive role models from the business and professional sectors, including supportive straight allies, to help break existing stereotypes about sexual minorities and demonstrate that non-discrimination is an attainable and desirable norm. 

In the coming few months, the EOC will release the results of our feasibility study to look at the inadequacy of our existing legislation on prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. It is our hope that it will help to guide the discussions in Hong Kong and push the progress forward. 

We also hope that our work to advance equality for all will continue to receive the support of the business community. Surely, if we continue to work together and learn from one another, we can turn this conversation into concrete action. With the commitment of the corporate sector and the partnership with other stakeholders, we have here a platform and a potential to make a real difference in our society. Together, we can build on the progress thus far and make Hong Kong a role model in the region on the issue of diversity and inclusion.

Thank you again for inviting me, and congratulations to all.