July is international Gay Pride month with loud rainbow striped concerts and festivals happening all over the world. It feels like a celebration of weird and wonderful personalities, somewhat scandalous attire, outrageous performances and a whole lot of love.
As an employer and an organisation involved in the development and placement of people, this raises the question; What, if anything should gay pride month mean to me, my staff, my organisation and clients?
Do we have a responsibility as employers to address this sensitive debate head on and ensure that the rights of all employees, candidates and clients are respected and protected? And the question begs to be asked – How should we go about doing this?
Is it enough to simply treat everyone equally and with respect, no matter what their sexual preference? I hear you say that surely this is a given – obvious in fact that the workplace, as we push into the progressive and enlightened 2020’s, is a place and time where all can finally enjoy equal opportunity. Besides, some might argue; this is a topic for action groups and NGO’s, not for business.
In theory, certainly we have come a long way. The reality is that in many countries, being gay is, in fact, a crime. Outrageous? Certainly, but true. Still today, more than 70 countries have laws against homosexuality, a staggering 33 of these are on the African continent alone. Not only can these people not enjoy equality in the work place, they are being ostracised from their communities, hunted and often cruelly prosecuted.
These archaic laws force people out of their places of work, their communities and their countries. From being, in many cases, an economically active and contributing member of society in their own countries, they end up as illegal immigrants in ‘safe’ countries where they are unable to work or contribute to society as they mostly do not hold the correct documents.
I leave you with the words of Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.