Being Yourself as LGBT <4> Movements to Improve Work Environments
T-Shirts, neckties, shoes, dresses. On the fifteenth, the office of Deutsche Bank Group in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward was overflowing with workers wearing purple articles of clothing.
The move was part of a “wear purple” campaign held in the office to show support for the International Day Against Homophobia, which took place two days later.
“This message of support is especially important for workers who cannot come out,” Shouwa Yanagisawa (37) said with a smile. Four years ago, he revealed at his workplace that he is gay. The real estate agents in charge of his company-owned apartment pointed out that living together with his same-sex partner was not allowed under the terms of the rental, but after consulting with human resources, they allowed his partner to be recognized as family.
In 2013, the company launched the LGBT network “DB Pride” in Japan, creating a place within the company for workers to voice their troubles and also hosting LGBT-themed lectures. They are currently extending their activity to creating LGBT awareness through various events such as parades and film festivals, and networking in other business circles.
Working with companies like Goldman Sachs, Nomura Securities, and thirteen other finance-affiliated companies, they are also creating a network called “LGBT Finance” with the goal of treating all workers with respect. In March of this year, they held their first “Finance Industry Seminar”, targeted at LGBT college students.
LGBT workplace policies mirroring those of America and Europe are making progress.
There are efforts to establish a welfare system that is friendly to LGBT individuals and hiring campaigns that are targeted at same-sex couples. This is because declaring support for diversity raises a company’s worth.
Last July in America, President Obama signed an executive order banning the federal government and private enterprises from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or identity. For transnational corporations that employ various nationalities and span various cultures, it is advantageous to embrace diversity to ensure the employment of a wide range of excellent workers.
On the other hand, while the idea of “diversity” has already begun to permeate the Japanese consciousness, while women, foreigners, and disabled people have received attention, the needs of LGBT individuals has only been addressed by foreign companies. Finally, as of last year, it appears that the time has finally come for companies to begin to create workplaces free of LGBT discrimination.
Starting from this year, the cosmetic company LUSH Japan (Kanagawa Prefecture) has modified it’s support system to provide a monetary wedding gift, nursing care, and maternity leave for same-sex couples. It has also removed the gender box on its application form and started a country-wide LGBT support campaign in all of its 140 stores across the country.
“I’d like to apply (for the support system) when the time comes,” a thirty-nine year old worker who transferred to LUSH last Autumn said elatedly. He used to have to conceal his orientation at other companies, but now, he doesn’t need to hide anymore. “A work culture where it’s normal to have a variety of people is more comfortable. I can concentrate on my work without the stress of hiding myself.”
The SNS company “Mixi” extended it’s monetary wedding gift and marriage leave to same sex couples and common-law marriages in August of last year. Hare Aoki, the head of human resources and administrative planning, stated “A company is more innovative when diverse, talented people are present. A lack of prejudice towards minorities is appealing during recruitment activities.”
The fact of the matter is, it seems that there are many who agree with that stance.