The summit March 27, thought to be the first of its kind in China, brought together 120 people from around 100 companies, about 10 percent of which were Chinese, reports gaystarnews.com.
Among them was HSBC, IBM and Chinese computer company Lenovo but 50 Fortune 500 firms were represented.
The First Annual LGBT Diversity and Inclusion Conference focused on attracting and retaining talent and increasing productivity through having a happy LGBTI workforce.
It was organized by Steven Paul Bielinski, who founded Shanghai LGBT Professionals four months ago to create a better future for China’s LGBTI employees.
The network has a 70-30 percent Chinese-Western ration membership.
“There have been a lot of companies talking about LGBT as a business issue but it hasn’t made it to the strategic level yet. A lot of HR leaders agree it is an important issue but say they don’t know anyone LGBT in their company. And these are big multinational companies with huge offices,” Bielinski told Gay Star News.
Bielinski said he wanted to give a chance for all these leaders to talk and meet so they can realize their company must have LGBTI employees.
Companies say they want to do something about the LGBTI community but don’t know where to start. “So we heard corporate case studies of companies who are already in China and have policies, so these other companies can say I can do this and to hear what the benefit is for them doing it,” he said.
About 90 percent of US Fortune 500 companies have specific policies for LGBT. “But when they come to China, most of those companies are not actioning those policies,” Bielinski said.
“It is not that people outside the US are against these policies but it’s just because there are virtually no openly LGBT employees, the executives say we don’t need to action it, it is not relevant to China,” he explained.
“But that is changing as more and more employees are coming out and telling their friends and becoming more confident. Companies realize that and want to be ahead of this trend and have training and policies in place,” Bielinski added.
Private Chinese firms, particularly in the tech, PR and media sectors, appeared to be more interested in LGBTI issues, the gaystarnews.com report quoted Bielinski as saying.
However, state-owned enterprises, he believes, are less focused on diversity as a business interest, as it does not yet have widespread political backing.
Bielinski said he is already thinking about his next summit, expected later this year, to focus on the massive, untapped LGBTI market in China.
For companies that are willing to direct market to LGBTI people, there is an “enormous opportunity,” he said.