The business case for marriage equality

Last month’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland included many important topics. One topic discussed more broadly this year was the issue of diversity and inclusion, including the business case for stronger steps to promote LGBT equality. This issue is increasingly front and center around the world as the result of important initiatives such as the United Nations’ Free and Equal Campaign. It was good to see the topic start to get more attention in Davos as well. As a company Microsoft has some experience and a clear point of view that I wanted to share.

Diversity and inclusion help drive our business and our bottom line. Our customers literally are as diverse as the people of the world. To create technology that empowers the world, we need a workforce that reflects the diversity of the world.

Put in this context, it’s clear to us that strengthening LGBT equality – including marriage equality – plays a critical role in promoting diversity and inclusion.

That’s why Microsoft joined other leading companies in January 2012 to support legislation in our home state of Washington that recognized marriage equality for same-sex couples. It’s also why Microsoft supports recognizing same-sex marriage across the United States and around the world.

Let me explain a bit more.

First, we understand the critical role that diversity plays in our day-to-day business. Within the workplace, diversity is a powerful concept that’s still evolving, and we know that it requires more than a conversation about numbers alone. But there is no substitute for our employees’ diverse backgrounds, perspectives, skills and experiences when it comes to understanding customer needs, developing new products or designing successful marketing campaigns. In short, the diversity of our workforce is an important bridge to the global marketplace.

Second, we recognize the importance of recruiting and retaining the best employees. We operate in fast-moving and very competitive markets, and having access to the best talent is critical. To recruit the best talent we need to create an environment in which everyone is welcome and valued.

Third, we’re committed to treating all of our employees equally. In 1993, Microsoft became the first Fortune 500 Company to provide same-sex domestic partnership benefits. Our commitment to treating all our employees equally has helped our business grow as well as being the right thing to do.

But there is still more that needs to be done. Laws across the U.S. and around the world that define marriage differently can impact the day-to-day lives of our employees, and they make it harder to treat every employee and their family equally. For example, the lack of consistent recognition of marriage equality makes it more difficult for all people to enjoy an equal opportunity to move and work in different places. We’re a global business and we need to manage our talent on a global basis. We ask employees to move to other states or take on international assignments based on our business needs or to accelerate their experience and development. For our LGBT employees and their families, there can be significant challenges in states or countries that don’t provide equal recognition for their marriage or committed relationships.

This isn’t just important to Microsoft. We believe it is also good for economies operating in a global context. We believe countries that provide immigration benefits to same-sex permanent partners – such as Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Australia – place themselves at a competitive advantage for securing top talent and benefitting from the contributions of a diverse workforce.

We believe the business arguments for inclusiveness and for marriage equality are clear and compelling on their own. Of course, the business case is only one part of the argument. Diversity, inclusiveness and equal treatment are also fundamental values more broadly, and this too underpins our commitment to support our LGBT employees.

In short, marriage equality as a legal right makes good sense for business and for people. That’s why we’ve advocated for marriage equality in places where we have facilities and employees. And it is why we’ll continue to support marriage equality when this issue arises in communities around the world.