A survey conducted by Lingnan University in Hong Kong’s (LU) Department of Cultural Studies finds 65 per cent of lesbian and bisexual female respondents perceived a glass ceiling in financial services in Hong Kong. The research team noted an urgent need for employers to build inclusive workplaces for LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and related communities) employees.
The survey project, “Building Inclusive Workplaces for Lesbians and Bisexual Women in Hong Kong’s Financial Services Industry” is the first of its kind study conducted in Asia.
The survey, carried out between May and August 2020, examines the specific challenges and barriers faced by lesbians and bisexual women in the financial and banking industry in Hong Kong. A total of 103 female respondents aged 18 or above completed an anonymous online questionnaire, and two focus group interviews with 16 female participants were conducted.
Results show that 37 per cent of respondents came out as lesbian, bisexual, or transgender at work and 23 per cent were out to close colleagues only (Figure 1). Although 93 per cent of respondents had never known of or been involved in grievance or disciplinary measures associated with sexual orientation (Figure 2), 65 per cent agree or somewhat agree that there is a glass ceiling for LGBT+ employees (Figure 3) and 32 per cent agree and 46 per cent somewhat agree that it is harder for lesbians and bisexual women to come out in the workplace than it is for gay men (Figure 4). In addition, 66 per cent replied that their companies do not offer LGBT+ inclusive or ally training to all staff.
Prof Denise Tang Tse-shang, Assistant Professor at the Department of Cultural Studies of Lingnan University in Hong Kong who led the project, said that although most respondents have never been involved in grievance or disciplinary measures against their sexual orientation, there were only 37 per cent of them came out at work, and that 65 per cent perceived an invisible barrier preventing LGBT+ from attaining executive positions.
“Hong Kong’s financial and banking industry, the so-called international financial hub, may not be immune from the discrimination against LGBT+ employees, and their high levels of stress and anxiety, and fear of being judged as both a woman and a lesbian as reflected in our survey, should be addressed. Masculine-presenting employees reflected that they face significantly more scrutiny than cisgender female employees. Therefore, even though discussions on diversity and inclusion have been on the agenda for a better corporate work environment in Hong Kong, there still remain gaps in raising awareness of lesbian and bisexual women’s issues,” Prof Tang explained.
The research team noted an urgent need for employers to ensure that all levels of their companies observe diversity and inclusion initiatives, and set up comprehensive diversity ally training programmes. “We hope to increase public awareness of the workplace issues and challenges that lesbians and bisexual women in Hong Kong’s financial services industry face, as well as raising the professional standards of the industry overall. Employers should be aware of homophobia and sexism in the workplace. If there is a report of inappropriate or unprofessional behaviour, such as bullying, harassment or discriminatory remarks, toward LGBT+ employees, employers should avoid brushing it off or dismissing it as a joke,” Prof Tang stressed.