As a business leader I see the importance of diversity and inclusion for our company on a day-to-day basis. Strengthening LGBT equality – including marriage equality – plays a critical role in promoting diversity and inclusion.
As Managing Director of Microsoft in Ireland, I have witnessed immense social and economic change over the past fifteen years. The country first benefitted from economic growth, then a subsequent downturn with significant social change happening in parallel. One change we have seen is more of our young people emigrating, while we have also become an attractive location for immigrants. The country is now attracting highly skilled people from around the world, who, through a rich diversity of cultures and backgrounds, are contributing to Irish society.
Microsoft was first acknowledged for its leadership in the area of diversity and inclusion back in 1993 when Microsoft became the first Fortune 500 Company to provide same-sex domestic partnership benefits. In Ireland in 2006, we established a Diversity & Inclusion Council. This was an employee team to promote diversity and inclusion in areas such as gender, ethnicity and LGBT across our business campus in Sandyford, Co. Dublin. Earlier this year, as a company, we took a public stance advocating for marriage equality at a global level. We believe that initiatives such as these have helped us to recruit and retain talented employees, as well as being the right thing to do, by creating an environment in which everyone is welcome and valued. 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.
In Europe the protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is a fundamental value enshrined in the EU treaties and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. In March, the European Parliament voted to declare same-sex marriage a fundamental human right. These legal provisions and declarations are important for protecting peoples’ rights.
But in a globalized market we recognise there is more that needs to be done.
As a business operating in all parts of the world we manage our talent on a global basis. This involves sometimes asking employees to take on international assignments based on our business needs, or to help them develop their careers by taking on more responsibility or a different set of challenges. For our LGBT employees and their families, there can be significant challenges if a country they are moving to doesn’t provide equal recognition for their marriage. There can be visa, tax and benefit implications. We want to ensure that there are no barriers in place which will stop us getting access to the best possible talent for our team locally and globally.
Ireland is one of the world’s most open economies, by moving towards becoming one of the most open and inclusive societies, it will place Ireland at a competitive advantage for securing top talent, enabling us to benefit 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. As can be seen from the progress made at a European level, diversity, inclusiveness and equal treatment are also fundamental values that need to be upheld. This underpins our commitment to support our LGBT employees. Marriage equality makes good sense for business, and for people.