Out Leadership Asia Summit: Advocacy and Allyship

I was privileged to able to register and attend Out Leadership’s 2020 Asia Summit in its virtual conference format being my workplace is a proud corporate sponsor and of course it is an amazing opportunity to hear from LGBTQ+ leaders and advocates from renowned companies who champions Diversity & Inclusion such as EY, HSBC, AXA, and more. The Asia Summit covered the whole month of October 2020 with talks from LGTBQ+ Fashion Industry in Japan and the Asian perspective on LGBTQ+ and Mental Health, to the importance of allies, role models and sponsorship throughout Asia – a total of 14 sessions.

There were a lot of highlights to take note of and one thing I am glad that the sessions were virtual, meaning I can re-watch the sessions and catch up on the ones that I have missed. The Summit kicked off with Todd Sears, Founder and CEO of Out Leadership and Ben Way, CEO of Asia Macquarie whom is proud Ally where they discussed the importance of leaders that can drive change and be able to speak up on equality and inclusion. Ben stressed that we need to get this right and speed up highlighting family dynamics and cultural nuisances are the main drivers of challenges. They affirmed that in these challenging times, a leader’s good character by doing the right thing and being yourself is the most important aspect on a leader’s journey.

An informative session on Balancing Being an Advocate and Advancing Career was moderated by Jennifer Lu, Executive Director of Taiwan Equality Campaign with Panelists – Holly McGhee of EY, Ilan Wong of Ropes & Gray, and Jen-Husan Ho of ASML. One topic that was discussed on Being an Advocate is when providing advice to children experiencing culture bias against LBGTQ+, is that when providing support, it is better to channel support from people who are in the community, from people are living a similar lifestyle, and living a normal life, than finding support from people who are in media. The speakers added that such best practices like developing own’s empathy, keeping the dialogue open, letting home be a safe place, and having an effective conversations and family education are crucial and necessary. Some biggest challenges on being an advocate while advancing their career as the speakers noted are transforming policy to everyday practices depending workplace behavior, values and policies which can be frustrating at times as change and progress doesn’t happen in one night; raising awareness on Allyship; maintaining LGBTQ+ collective umbrella in having role models in the out; and, colleagues not familiar with the LGBTQ+ human perspective. And while different cultures face different challenges, so are different industries. Some effective adjustments on Being an Advocate that the speakers shared were having a Best Practice behavior approach such as an inclusive Company Value, or for multi-national corporations to have a Global D&I tracker, honoring local policies as applies while bridging gaps, and lastly having an effective top-down approach and discussions within senior leaders and employees.

Nowadays, Allyship has progressed its definition in support of the LGBTQ+ community over the last several years, on the session The Evolution of D&I Initiatives moderated by Todd Sears with a panel of CMOs namely Oliver Nip of Ropes & Gray, Jack Guest of HSBC, and Jeff Tang of EY, they talked about LGBTQ+ representation across diverse platforms, the progress has society made, and how can it be supported by Allies. Allies are now expected to combine forces to combat threat, to be proactive and fight alongside, and at times, sacrifice. One great point that was mentioned was: Enable leaders to be Allies first. On a recent study conducted, a surprising result showed that in Asia, 87.5% of leaders surveyed said that they are LBGT-friendly however only 30% of them considered themselves as Allies. So what seems to be the gap? Allyship should be a verb and should require an action. Allies needs someone such as an Accomplice who can drive influence and can give a strong message. Allies similar as to the self-identified LGBTQ+ community, needs to be visible, vocal, and subtle by which they can represent themselves thru lanyards, laptop stickers, or any identifiable item that can send a message of safety and understanding to the LGBTQ+ community.

There you go for the Part One, will be sharing more about the 2020 Asia Summit, on my next blogs!

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