“As a lesbian, for me, the activities and mission of ICS is not simply a job but it is also a goal and a personal desire.” Let’s come to episode 4 of the talk show “Philanthropy and stories” to hear sincere and interesting sharing from Ms. Ngo Le Phuong Linh – Executive Director of ICS Center with host Thai Van Linh.
1. LGBT and experiences in the Vietnamese working environment
Observing studies from ICS in 2015, it can be seen that a large part of employers are still conservative and have a negative view of the LGBT community in Vietnam. People often equate and think that LGBT people are a social evil, leading to the fact that LGBT workers are often isolated in the workplace and they cannot openly about their lives if they don’t want to lose their job.
The few who are brave enough to speak out can become or risk becoming victims of various forms of violence and discrimination, and many even have to quit their jobs after a long time of suffering. They always live under pressure to keep themselves hidden and to hide their desires. As a result, they worry about their personal safety and cause feelings of inability to fit in and connect with colleagues in the workplace. All of that, in the long run, will significantly reduce labour productivity, creativity and attachment to the business.
A study in the Harvard Business Review magazine mentioned that: among LGBT workers when surveyed, those who have not come out have a desire to change jobs 3 times higher than the number of LGBT people openly safe in the workplace. There is a description that I really like: “Try to go back to your office, close the door and erase all traces of your family, especially your spouse. Put all the photos in a drawer and take off your wedding ring. Do not talk about your home; Don’t tell them how you spent the weekend with them. And if your spouse is seriously ill and needs care, you can’t take leave for any reason because you’re afraid you’ll lose your job.
Try to imagine these things to see if you can be as productive as possible, that is part of the LGBT experience in the workplace.
2. The three biggest barriers of the LGBT community in the workplace
The first is the lack of information and knowledge about LGBT people in the working environment, leading to them having prejudices and misconceptions about the community as well as their LGBT colleagues.
The second problem is the lack of role models. The number of openly LGBT people in the workplace in Vietnam is still quite small. The fact that an LGBT person does not see role models or people like him/her in any environment will greatly affect whether you decide to go public or not or feel that the working environment is safe enough or not. In addition, when there is no openly LGBT presence in a work environment, employers or leaders will assume that in their businesses, there are no LGBT people. Therefore, they will not take action and policies to improve the working environment for LGBT people.
The third thing is the lack of State policy. As we know in terms of the law in Vietnam, there is absolutely no policy to protect LGBT people’s rights, both from labour rights to other equal rights, similar in the working environment as well. so. There are very few working environments that can be ahead of their time, proactively and develop policies to ensure rights for LGBT employees so that they can receive equal rights compared to other heterosexuals.
3. What opportunities for the talents of the LGBT community?
Through the process of working with businesses, I also understand to some extent that people, or human resources, are an extremely important factor. This is also one of the top concerns of most leaders. In the past, I thought that it was mainly international businesses that were interested in this topic, but later on, I realize that Vietnamese businesses themselves also attach great importance to talent.
A study by PWC was done on more than 10,000 people aged 20 to 35 in 70 different countries, including Vietnam, there were more than 80% women and more than 70% Men think that the company’s diverse and equal human resource policies will be a factor to be evaluated and considered before they apply for a job.
4. Challenges for today’s leaders
In Vietnam, new generation leaders might face certain difficulties when opening up opportunities for the LGBT community in the workplace.
First, there are concerns regarding whether the public’s views on LGBT are open enough. Did they experience any so-called backlash or objection from their traditional audience?
The second is legal barriers, LGBT people themselves are not protected legally. For example, when ICS consults on policy development for some businesses, businesses have a need to provide equal rights for same-sex couples, but in the Labor Code, there is no such thing. The current limitations of the law in Vietnam also make it more difficult for businesses to want to create a safer working environment for LGBT people.
5. Some advice on how to accompany and support your friends or your colleagues from LGBT community in the workplace
First, you should enhance your knowledge about LGBT community and share that knowledge with others. When you want to solve a problem, you need to understand the problem, and when you want to support a community, you need to understand that community.
Second, communicate, talk, and share. It is quite common for all of us to assume that the people around us are heterosexual, that is, the people next to us will naturally like the opposite sex or will not be transgender. For example, I often get questions from people I meet for the first time whether I have a boyfriend, married, or married. That’s the default in everyone’s mind.
Another thing is when you face conversations, or discriminatory acts against LGBT people, for example hearing about a “gay joke”, you will not know whether the people who hear that story, hear the jokes, are their people inside the LGBT community or not. And if so, sometimes they are in positions where they don’t dare to speak up. I think the most meaningful thing you can do is choose one of two things: one, you walk out of that conversation, turn your back, and show that you don’t want to be part of the behaviours and that conversation; or second, if you feel the environment is safe enough then say you don’t like such jokes and behaviour, you have LGBT friends and you feel that joke makes them feel hurt.
In addition, there are two things you can do at the workplace to not only support your LGBT colleagues but also help your organization take a step towards building a safe work environment for LGBT community.
Firstly, you can ask your leaders or human resources department if there have been any training sessions on gender diversity in your company before, have there been activities support on LGBT topics or solve problems of LGBT people in the working environment. Furthermore, has the business ever had policies to ensure equal rights of opportunity and rights for LGBT people.
Secondly, you can advocate your company to join the Vietnam Corporate Pride Network so that your company can learn more about the good practices of other businesses with similar views and concerns on LGBT issues in Vietnam. In a further aspect, businesses and yourself can contribute to a common program of the LGBT community in Vietnam. That program includes you being able to speak up and participate in other activities such as advocacy on same-sex marriage, transgender legislation, building a safe environment. safe schools, fight school bullying against LGBT people or build LGBT support and family networks. There are many different activities and topics to support the LGBT community in Vietnam, businesses and yourself can participate with many different roles.
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Watch the full 4th episode here: