Prove your humanity

Perth’s economy will be stimulated this weekend thanks to the Pride Parade and corresponding events.

The Parade will bring thousands of patrons into Northbridge and the surrounding area, with after parties to be hosted at The Court, Connections, The Bird and a number of other venues.

Last year, the festivities accumulated more than 37,000 attendees, attracting interstate and international visitors for the largest Pride Parade in Perth’s history.

“The direct economic impact of the Perth and regional events was $1.3 million to the business community,” said Pride WA President Jeremy Wray at the VIP launch earlier this year.

Wray thanked Lotterywest for their tri-annual funding, which has totalled in excess of $800,000 between 2004 and 2017, and has assisted Pride’s development and expansion into regional areas. He also thanked first-time sponsors BankWest and Channel Nine for their support.

This year, the theme for Perth Pride is “Together”. Pride WA Secretary Curtis Ward said that this was selected to recognise the coming together of Perth—not only of the LGBTIQ+ community itself, but of Western Australian society in general.

This message of inclusivity is apt, given ongoing discussions about “the business case for diversity”.

Although the definition of “social inclusion” has been extensively debated, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation defines an inclusive society as one based “on fundamental values of equity, equality, social justice, and human rights and freedoms, as well as on the principles of tolerance and embracing diversity,” in which “every individual has an active role to play.”

It is defined, in part, against social exclusion: the restriction of access to opportunities and a limitation of the capabilities required to capitalise on them. Much of which is the result of discrimination.

What some fail to understand, however, is that a diverse workplace that supports its minority employees has a better bottom line.

How does inclusivity make dollars?

Social inclusion can be measured economically in a number of ways.

With Perth’s queer community, the economic benefit of inclusivity is, in part, made obvious by the activation of local businesses, with the community’s allies and visitors to the city celebrating Pride en masse for the past 28 years.

As stigma surrounding the LGBTIQ+ has waned in Perth, the Pride Parade has swelled from hundreds of participants to tens of thousands, which has increasingly benefited locales financially.

While this is a short-term benefit, social inclusion has a substantial impact on a country’s economy.

Queer-inclusive dollars

The statistical findings of a study by the University of California, Los Angeles, Williams Institute conducted in 2015 of 39 countries found that countries with more Pride perform better economically.

“We compared a measure of rights granted by each nation related to homosexuality—decriminalisation, non-discrimination laws, and family rights—to GDP per capita and other measures of economic performance,” writes co-author of the study, M. V. Lee Badget.

“The positive link between rights and development is clear: countries that come closer to full equality for LGBT people have higher levels of GDP per capita over the 22 years we studied”.

In the same year, a report by Out Now estimated that the US economy would swell by AU$12.3 billion a year if companies implemented inclusive policies to retain LGBT employees, while the World Bank estimated India negate AU$43.8 billion a year because of LGBT discrimination.

In 2013, Australia made discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status against the law. But, despite this, members of the queer community still face discrimination.

Recently, The Diversity Council of Australia partnered with RMIT University and other organisations to conduct a study on LGBTIQ+ outness, workplace inclusivity and its economic impact.

Of the 1600+ respondents, 74 per cent said that it was important to them to be able to be out at work, but only 32 per cent were out to everyone with whom they work.

And LGBT employees who aren’t out at work experience higher levels of stress and anxiety; this impact on mental well-being has a number of effects.

First, productivity decreases—with a recent study finding that mental well-being effects productivity by 12 per cent.

Relationships with co-workers and supervisors may become strained, impacting the work environment—this explains why allies are 72 per cent more likely to accept a job at a company that supports LGBT rights.

And work commitment is negatively impacted; companies with non-inclusive policies are, unsurprisingly, 47 per cent less likely to retain their queer employees.

This means that non-inclusive workplaces have higher labour costs and lower profits.

But it goes beyond the office

According to a survey conducted in 2015 among 300,000 consumers in 60 countries, 66 per cent are prepared to pay more for socially-responsible brands—an 11 per cent increase from the previous year.

The global LGBT consumer market is estimated at AU$5.12 trillion—a figure that would be far more substantial if allies were factored in.

The Out in the World Report found 71 per cent of LGBT respondents and 82 per cent of allies said they are more likely to purchase from a company that supports LGBT equality.

And LGBT consumers are extremely loyal. They reward companies who are inclusive, even if it means paying more for a product.

The costs of discrimination

The effects of discrimination, economic or otherwise, are deeply concerning.

For example, 80 per cent of LGBTI bullying in Australia involving young people occurs at school. Unsurprisingly, LGBTI youth are more likely to leave school before completion, but those who continue onto higher education still experience discriminatory behaviour.

report into the experience of LGBTI students at UWA found that 20 per cent felt their sexual orientation or gender identity had disrupted their academic progress. Although the economic flow on effects are unclear, it stands to reason that if a student’s education is negatively impacted there will be implications for their performance in the workforce.

Bisexual, gay and lesbian youth are twice as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to become homeless. A Swinburne University-led study released in 2016 found that the annual cost of health and justice services for homeless youth in Australia is AU$626 million. This is in addition to the cost of providing accommodation and support services.

The Australian Human Rights Commission found that LGBT people are three times more likely to experience depression compared to the broader population, and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported that AU$9 billion was spent on mental-health related services between 2015–16.

Queer discrimination has numerous effects, and countering them is an expensive practice.

Where do we start?

 At The Economist’s Pride and Prejudice Summit earlier this year, Chief Executive of Vodafone, Vittorio Colao, said that he’s tired of making a business case for diversity and inclusion when “we should do it because it’s right, full stop”.

“I don’t care about the business case, I care about human rights,” he said.

Chief Executive of Whitebread, Alison Brittain, agreed but said we had to keep making a business case for it until it was no longer needed.

Having leaders, queer and otherwise, who are committed to LGBTIQ+ issues is important.

Alan Joyce, the CEO of Qantas, spoke to The Australian Financial Review for a feature on LGBT+ business leaders. He remarked that an aspiring pilot thanked him for his visibility, while another person told him that his openness helped them recover from suicidal thoughts about their sexuality.

“They felt there was hope, that you could have a career, you could have a life, and that was, to me, very inspirational—I didn’t know you could have that type of impact on people’s lives,” he told AFR.

Inclusive policies are a starting point.

Although the Australian Defence Force has a sordid history when it comes to its treatment of LGBT personnel, they launched a diversity and inclusion strategy in 2012 with specific measures for LGBT people.

But in order to make a real difference, we have to change the culture.

Queer people need to feel safe in all environments, including the workplace, and that means that every individual has to contribute to fostering an inclusive culture.

So, when the glitter from the Perth Pride Parade has been swept away and local businesses have profited from the celebrations of another year, please remember that social inclusion benefits the Australian economy, and, more importantly, it’s what the LGBTIQ+ community deserves.