The full potential of employees can be realised only when all are valued for their contribution, regardless of their sexual orientation, says Simon Altham, managing director of Hoseasons
As a proud member of the LGBT community who enjoys a very accepting and tolerant workplace environment, it’s easy to forget that many others don’t have the same luxury.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, 62% of Generation Y LGBT graduates at university go back into the closet when they start their first job.
We’re fortunate in the UK to live in an increasingly tolerant (but not perfect) society, so I was shocked by this statistic.
Unfortunately most gay people I know have suffered homophobia at some point in their lives, and often more frequently than many may imagine.
It saddens me to think that there are still industries where people, young and old, don’t feel they’re able to bring their whole selves to work.
Not only does this go against the grain of social progress, but it is also damaging to business productivity.
It isn’t easy to talk about your life when you start a new job, regardless of your sexuality.
This is partly a natural reaction for anyone, gay or not, to feel their way into their new working environment and is completely understandable.
Much more concerning, however, is that there are still some people who feel that being openly gay will affect how there are perceived and more crucially their ability to ‘get on’ and progress their careers.
Does this mean that the view among young LGBT graduates is that being seen as gay is a negative, not a positive?
I’m lucky; the provision of an inclusive working environment is fundamental to the vision of Wyndham Worldwide and a key ingredient to our success.
I’d also like to think that the travel industry as a whole is leaps and bounds ahead of many when it comes to embracing diversity.
Whether it’s because people in the sector love to travel and broaden their minds, or they are simply more tolerant, I’ve yet to meet anyone in the industry who hasn’t been warm, welcoming and inclusive when it comes to matters of ethnicity, culture, gender or sexual orientation, something that we as an industry should celebrate.
Unfortunately not everyone has this experience in their workplace. It’s for this very reason that it is so important that we continue to create positive role models for young people in the LGBT community.
Only once young people begin to see how other gay men and women have succeeded in business and become a valued part of their organisation, will they feel confident to disclose their own sexuality.
Gay people perform better at work when they can be themselves. As business leaders, only when employees feel valued for their contribution and know they can progress their career based on merit and skill, can we leverage the full potential of our workforce.
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