Are Japanese Corporations Truly Turning Their Attention to LGBT?

While it seems that we are less likely to hear the question “What does LGBT mean?” as often as in past years, there is still a lack of awareness reflected in corporate policies.

While the number of corporations working to create an environment where LGBT individuals can work easily remain few, we reached out to some of these corporations to ask how they are changing and what effect the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games are having in the business world.

What is the relationship between the Olympics and LGBT?

To answer this question, we spoke with Matsunaka Ken, representative of the NPO Group Good Aging Yells. Alongside working for a major advertising firm, he has organized various events for LGBT individuals.

Following his retirement last month, he has become involved in the “Pride House” for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. A Pride House is a venue welcoming LGBT athletes, fans, and their allies during large-scale international sporting events. According to Matsunaka, “The treatment of LGBT individuals at the Olympic and Paralympic Games is something that the world takes notice of.”

Russia’s laws limiting LGBT activism during the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the refusal of world leaders to attend the opening ceremony as a sign of protest was widely covered in the news.

After this incident, the International Olympic Committee took steps to include sexual orientation in the non-discrimination principals of the Olympic Charter.

Japanese companies conducting business at the Tokyo Games have adopted an anti-LGBT discrimination clause in their “procurement code”, stating that “Discrimination towards LGBT individuals is banned, and their rights must be respected.”

However, is this clause enough?

Mr. Matsunaka claims that the clause lacks any specific details, and as such, many companies have sought his council, claiming that “they are unsure of how to carry out the policy”.

Mr. Matsunaka explains, “When it comes to a corporation’s efforts for LGBT individuals, I am often asked ‘what should we do about toilets’.” He also answers questions regarding the implementation of other measures, such as extending employee welfare programs and creating sensitivity training for non-LGBT workers. Mr. Matsunaka expressed his hope, stating “Companies creating a comfortable environment for LGBT individuals will certainly raise standards across society.”

Company Practices

What are the best ways to implement LGBT-friendly practices?

One corporation that has begun creating LGBT-friendly measures for both employees and customers is RECRUIT.

We spoke with Tanabe Takahisa of the RECRUIT group subsidiary “RECRUIT Sumai Company”. Tanabe identifies as gay.

RECRUIT has created an LGBT network that spans throughout all of its subsidiaries, and its members, which currently number over 30, utilize the network to exchange information.

From April of this year, congratulations and condolence leave, congratulatory gifts, job transfer allowance, nursing and childcare and other welfare benefits normally offered to an employee’s spouse and family have been extended to cover same-sex partners.

Tanabe says that he was able to register his long-term partner, and his company extended him a congratulatory gift.

Considerations for LGBT Individuals Seeking Housing

As far as services being offered for LGBT individuals, RECRUIT has begun to offer consultation services for those seeking to rent or purchase apartments together.

According to a survey conducted by the company, 16.5% of LGBT individuals answered that they have faced difficulties in finding an apartment to rent or buy.

Specifically, many same-sex couples find it difficult to secure a housing loan together even if they are a dual-income household. In many cases, applying separately would mean a single person’s income is not enough, and as such, the couple is denied.

There are also many same-sex couples who fear being denied an apartment if they were to come out to their real estate agent, and according to the survey, 41.9% of same-sex couples live separately.

RECRUIT also provides consulting services for LGBT individuals, and on their rental apartment search site, SUUMO, users can use the keyword ‘LGBT-friendly’ to search for related apartments.

Of the measures implemented by his company, Tanabe stated,

“Through the adoption of such measures by large corporations, I want ‘LGBT-friendly’ to become standard throughout the business world. The goal is to one day reach a point in society where we can look back on specific ‘LGBT-friendly’ measures as an antiquated concept.”

To What Extent Will Corporate Awareness Go?

While the two individuals we spoke with have come out as gay in their work places, have gained the understanding of their bosses and coworkers and are strongly devoted to their work, Mr. Matsunaka expressed that on the other hand, “There are still many LGBT individuals who are harassed at work, become depressed, or come to quit their job.”

Will companies increase their efforts to create awareness as we approach the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games? If so, will Tokyo become a place where LGBT individuals can live comfortably? We will continue to report on such changes.

Source –  LGBTに企業が向き合い始めたってほんと?

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