Redux: Chan Chun Sing’s gay recruitment

This issue has gone cold, but pinknews recently picked it up again. Again like many LGBT issues there are legends and myths around the stories created, mostly by dissenters… but let’s get back to the basics.

Goldman Sachs published one of their diversity events on their company website with the following message

Goldman Sachs’ LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender) Network invites you to attend this networking event to enable you to find out more about our firm, the LGBT Network, and discuss issues and concerns regarding being “out” in the workplace. The event will include a brief introduction to the firm and our culture and an opportunity to network with employees across the firm’s various divisions. Drinks and dinner will be served.

Goldman Sachs recently received an Asia Pink Award for “Extraordinary contribution to the LGBTI community” by Element Magazine at its ceremony in Singapore and will be a proud sponsor of Singapore’s Pink Dot event this June. The firm has also earned a perfect “100” score on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2014 Corporate Equality Index, which rates companies on corporate policies and practices related to LGBT employees and their families.

Spots for this event is limited, please register before April 25, if . you are LGBT Students graduating in year 2015, 2016 or 2017 interested in attending this event. Successful applicants will receive a confirmation email with event details and location in early May

This was picked up by one of the local news media and in a bid to sensationalize it by labelling it as “gay recruitment drive”. I don’t even need to explain how wrong this is; as one can read from the description, this is far from a “gay recruitment” exercise.

For those who may be unaware, many foreign progressive financial institutions have already setup LGBT networks in Asia as part of their diversity drive. To put it more bluntly, diversity drive is part of the competitive advantage for these firms to attract and talent and keep everyone happy and productive so as to reduce cost and improve the bottom line. Companies are aware that a closeted gay person is at less productive than their non-gay or opening gay colleagues for simple reasons that some energy and effort is used to lie about or hide one’s identity on daily basis. Social cohesion amongst team members also suffers as a result. At the same time, enlightened clients are looking at the diversity portfolio of the firms before they start to invest.

As to the GLBT networking event, this has been done by many other firms before Goldman Sachs and many already included graduates and undergraduates in their events.

Strange accusations arose in the midst of the sensational “gay recruitment drive”. One of it is that Goldman Sachs are now hiring gay graduates and only gay graduates. The ignorance of this assertion cannot be more emphasized. Just because an event is targeted at LGBT, it doesn’t mean only LGBTs will be hired and for that many any LGBT will be hired. The same goes with a women networking event targeted to attract talent women; does it mean that the firm will only hire women from there on and any women they can find? Further there are strict criteria in the interview and hiring process; the fact that most firms get graduates from top universities globally in their graduate programs tells you how strict the criteria is and what kind of talents they are looking for.

Now some comments on the statement by MP Chan Chun Sing in his facebook

1. SG is a largely conservative society. While different groups may express their different points of view, everyone should respect the sensitivities of others and not create division.

It is still a mystery to most of us on how conservative Singapore is when we have both marriage couples working and leaving children at home with their maid, high divorce rates, bat F1 and car show events

2. Singapore and Singaporeans will decide on the norms for our society. Foreign companies here should respect local culture and context. They are entitled to decide and articulate their human resource policies, but they should not venture into public advocacy for causes that sow discord amongst Singaporeans.

We know that it is the govt who decides that norms of the society from casinos to encouraging more babies when the norm is two or less. It has been shown that the govt will force changes if those change will reap economical benefits and obviously their KPI and performance appraisal, so we know the Chan is not really honest when he talks about norms. Incidentally, our penal code still have not rectified the marital rape exception, except under certain circumstances. Does this mean that our social norm welcome husband to force sex on to their wife?

Secondly, it is too fair stretch to call the event public advocacy. What is so advocative for a company to want to understand issues facing LGBTs in the work place so that they can develop better practises to help them and to attract them to work for the company?

Also the dear Minister really need to expand on how such event “sow discord”. If I don’t like Buddhist temple in my area and get a group to protest the temple, can we say that the temple is sowing discord because I disagree with it? Shouldn’t the people who are responding with anger and violence threats be the ones sowing discord instead?

3 Employment in SG is based on one’s merit and ability. Discrimination – be it positive or negative – whether based on race, language, religion, or sexual orientation is not aligned with our social ethos, and has no place in our society.

The minister is really confused about discrimination here. Okay I can understand what he means by positive and negative discrimination. By positive, I think he means targeting one group and favouring them over other groups (like how some companies will only promote FTs or people of their own ethnic groups). In this case, there is none; The event is not a recruitment exercise, which Chan obviously was unaware of, and neither is it an event that promotes only recruiting of LGBT into the firm (which is stupid anyway).

Secondly, not all discrimination are the same. Which is why there are various diversity groups in the firms to deal with different issues faced by those people in the workplace, from women, parents, disabled to LBGTs. People of religion don’t need to actively hide their believes or risk dismissal or ridicule if they are of a certain religion. Women don’t and cannot hide that they are women. Yet many gay folks have to hide their identity, listen and go along with homophobic jokes from colleagues and even bosses. Some risk promotion and even dismissal if they are out as a gay person. And many cannot talk normally about how their weekend or have to constantly faced being asked about getting marriage or not dressing up womanly enough. None or few of these discrimination are faced by people of different race, language or gender or religion and in fact they are better protected by law from being discriminated or dismissed.

To brush all discrimination within the same stroke shows the lack of understanding Chan has about workplace discriminatory especially for LGBT folks. Not sure how he could carry his work on social and family development effectively with such myopic view of society. Honestly speaking, I had better expectations from our new generation of MP especially when they are the highest paid in the planet.

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