A number of sessions in Hong Kong delved into the dollars and cents of LGBT exclusion – Lee Badgett from the Centre for Public Policy at University of Massachusetts uncovered the global pay gaps amongst the LGBT community and how this affects businesses in attracting the best employees, and Joel Simkhai, Founder and CEO of Grindr, spoke about chasing the pink dollar with your customer base.
Three themes of: selling to the LGBT market, attracting LGBT talent in your workforce, and the responsibility that companies have to champion human rights highlighted the challenges and opportunity costs of LGBT exclusion in the Asian economy.
Your customer base
On a panel entitled ‘chasing the pink dollar’ Joel Simkhai, of popular gay dating app Grindr, believes there is nothing wrong in chasing the pink dollar as long as you are authentic in solving people’s problems. He shared how Grindr personalises the customer experience – “it’s just good business to be aware of your customers and cater to their needs. This is not revolutionary” he stated.
The key takeout from the panel was that it is important for businesses and large brands to tailor services for diverse communities, and learn from LGBT-specific service companies on how they speak to their consumer audience in an authentic and effective way through their marketing. The LGBT community is a great market in which to do business; understanding their needs and customizing services to these people can reap huge rewards.
Also on the panel was Daisuke Iwase from Lifenet Insurance Company, which offers tailored insurance services to the LGBT market. Larger insurance firms with global brand recognition must be aware of such niche offerings in order to stay competitive, and understand how these affect their businesses with the rise of the minority and niche becoming more mainstream.
Your industry talent pool
But it’s not just your customer base that can affect the bottom line. Understanding the pay gap within the LGBT community to ensure you have a diverse and innovative workforce is important too.
“There’s a global gay wage gap of around 11%” said Lee Badgett from the Centre for Public Policy University of Massachusetts during her talk on the dollars and cents of discrimination. This global pay gap is having an impact on the LGBT community in attracting the best talent into a workforce. Badgett has done a lot of research uncovering the economic costs of LGBT exclusion and the case for improving profitability and productivity.
The confidence that comes from being supported in who and what you are, and the ability to reach out to all parts of society that follows from that, are invaluable to the success of a business. Through being an authentic individual in the workplace, an employee can bring out the greater productivity within themselves and ultimately improve profitability.
And finally the third key takeaway is that large companies have a corporate social responsibility in how they conduct business and their impact on the wider society. There is an opportunity of championing LGBT human rights within a business on improving that company’s bottom line, as found through Badgett’s research. A study she conducted found that improving human rights within a country can also have a huge impact on GDP. “What we found across 39 emerging markets was the more human rights and equality that the country had, the higher the GDP per capita” said Badgett. Through acting more responsibility by giving visibility and rights to minority groups, such as LGBT, economic benefits can be found.
Simkhai noted that attitudes towards homosexuality were changing very fast in China. Just over a year ago, Grindr was banned there. Today, that ban has been lifted and Simkhai has just sold a majority stake in Grindr to Beijing Kunlun Tech Company, a Chinese company controlled by billionaire Zhou Yahui. The responsibility of bringing acceptance of LGBT services, such as Grindr, is important to boost the Asian economy and for the country to act responsibly with greater acceptance and inclusion.
In order to improve the lives of minority groups such as LGBT, and particularly in Asia, an understanding of the differing cultural nuances that exist within a wide spread of different customer groups and employees, and reflecting these within your business is becoming increasingly important if you are to build a long-term, sustainable company and economy.