‘Diversity and inclusion aren’t getting enough airtime in SEA’s workplaces’

Andee Chua, a gay man, is championing the LGBTQ+ cause in Southeast Asia

Diversity and inclusion are two topics that are rarely discussed at workplaces in Asia.

In many countries in the continent, for instance, neither society nor the law of the land has recognised and accepted the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) community.

This minority community is still facing discrimination and harassment in public places and workplaces. Their voice is not heard even by the concerned authorities.

Things are changing, although slowly. Several people and organisations in Asia have taken up the LGBTQ cause. They are working to promote diversity and inclusion at workplaces and public places and to bring them into the mainstream.

Singapore-based Andee Chua is one championing the D&I cause in Asia. He is a culture builder at HubSpot and co-founder of Kampung Collective, a community for community builders across Asia.

Also Read: Being geek and gay in Southeast Asia: What startup ecosystem can do to foster diversity and inclusion

e27 sat with Chua, who is an avowed gay man, for an interview as part of Pride Month. Pride Month, celebrated every June mainly in the US, is dedicated to the uplifting of LGBTQ voices, a celebration of their culture and the support of their rights.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

How do you describe yourself?

I’m someone who is passionate about community building, diversity, and inclusion.

I believe in empowering, educating, and inspiring the ‘misfits’ to discover their true potential and find alternative paths to success through the power of community, collaboration, self-discovery, and personal development.

What is community building and why is it important? Why is there a need for a community for community builders?

Building communities is a crucial process that fosters connections among people and creates infrastructure for these connections to happen. It is all the more important in a pandemic situation like this. This is a time for people to come together to find support from their community and stay connected.

Community builders are often givers to their communities. They often do a lot for their community but lack avenues to talk about their feelings or don’t have a place to seek help. The idea of having a community for community builders is to bridge this gap.

What are the different aspects of community building? How are your initiatives helping during the COVID-19 crisis?

The pandemic may have forced us to restrict ourselves at home and keep a safe distance from one another, but it has also united the community in unprecedented ways.

The pandemic has caused severe disruptions to our economy, livelihoods, and way of life. However, it has also fostered a strong spirit of care, cohesion, and active citizenry in our society.

We have seen community builders in our community coming together, sharing resources, and collaborating to show their support for the migrant workers in Singapore. They pulled together their great network of resources to realise various initiatives, calling for volunteers and donations, which have received tremendous support and overwhelming responses.

Crisis or no crisis, community building is here to stay.

Could you talk about Kampung Collective? What are the different causes it is championing?

Kampung Collective is a community for community builders across Asia. It seeks to educate, gather, connect and build. These are our key drivers to achieve our vision of elevating community building as a credible professional career.

Also Read: How this SEA VC is rising to the challenge of gender inequality

We serve as a support network, a safe space for community builders to connect, share best practices, learn, grow and uplift one another in the community-building journey.

We have over 500 community builders in the group, from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, to India.

In Kampung Collective, we have community builders building communities around topics like startup ecosystem, mental health, environmental sustainability, LGBTQ+ issues, women empowerment, and the ageing population.

Do you conduct any specific programmes for the LGBTQ community?

In my day job as a culture builder at HubSpot, we have the LGBTQ+ Alliance group. It aims to empower HubSpotters through the creation of a safe, respectful community.

We further envision a more thoughtful, informed, and inclusive environment for all HubSpotters through meaningful engagement and conversation with our peers. We also commit to improving the living experiences of others in the communities we inhabit.

On a personal front, as an openly gay man in Singapore, I advocate for change and create awareness around LGBTQ+ topics on my personal social media platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Youtube.

I see myself more as a representative, sharing my life with my partner publicly as any straight couple would do, than an ‘activist’.

Do you think Southeast Asia’s employers have embraced/are embracing gender inclusiveness in their workplaces? Are these minority communities still looked down like in many parts of the world?

Honestly, I don’t think diversity and inclusion receive enough airtime in workplaces in Southeast Asia. You rarely see this as a topic being discussed in workplaces within the Southeast Asian region. You may not find specific roles within a company focusing on D&I.

Also Read: How to make gender equality training work

This is unfortunate and rather ironic, given the exceptionally rich breadth of people, ethnicities, and creeds in the region.

One of my core beliefs is that it is a moral imperative for us to champion diversity and inclusion within our organisations and workplaces. This is simply the right thing to do.

I am personally committed to ensuring that my employer allows people of all identities — in terms of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, age, and national origin — to thrive.

Is there still an unwillingness/fear among LGBTQ communities to openly admit their sexual orientation? If so, why? How do you think we can address this as an educated society?

I see more people coming out as LGBTQ+ individuals in their social lives but not many in workplaces. There are a few factors for that. In Singapore, there is still a law, Section 377A, that criminalises sex between consenting male adults.

In that context, there isn’t a point of safety for gay people to come out and live their lives openly or simply express their love publicly as there is still discrimination.

In a workplace, the importance of a supportive social environment plays a huge role in a person’s decision to openly asset his/her identity. Leadership makes all the difference. Research shows that employees whose leaders publicly support LGBTIQ+ issues are 50 per cent more likely to be out to everyone at work.

Organisational policies and strategies that recognise the specific needs of, and sometimes just the existence of LGBTIQ+ people, are also key to creating an inclusive environment.

Also Read: This gay founder is creating a safe media platform for LGBTQ community in SEA

When LGBTIQ+ people work in a safe environment, they are more willing to come out.

Anything else to share with the startup communities in SEA?

Diversity and inclusion are essential in business today as a healthy variety of people from different backgrounds and cultures provides us with the balance of voices and diversity of thought that we need.

As the future generation of the workforce is getting more aware of the social injustice happening around the world and are already looking at companies they work for through such a lens, I think it’s time for startups to take a more proactive stance on employing a diverse workforce that reflects the real people of society today.

It’s becoming clear that when workers can bring their authentic selves to work, they are more productive and engaged. In a diverse and inclusive workplace, employees will be happier in their job roles; new ideas will arise, and productivity will increase. This will lead to greater successes within the business and allow the business to flourish and stand out amongst competitors.

Image Credit: Andee Chua.

The post ‘Diversity and inclusion aren’t getting enough airtime in SEA’s workplaces’ appeared first on e27.

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Andee Chua, a gay man, is championing the LGBTQ+ cause in Southeast Asia

Diversity and inclusion are two topics that are rarely discussed at workplaces in Asia.

In many countries in the continent, for instance, neither society nor the law of the land has recognised and accepted the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) community.

This minority community is still facing discrimination and harassment in public places and workplaces. Their voice is not heard even by the concerned authorities.

Things are changing, although slowly. Several people and organisations in Asia have taken up the LGBTQ cause. They are working to promote diversity and inclusion at workplaces and public places and to bring them into the mainstream.

Singapore-based Andee Chua is one championing the D&I cause in Asia. He is a culture builder at HubSpot and co-founder of Kampung Collective, a community for community builders across Asia.

Also Read: Being geek and gay in Southeast Asia: What startup ecosystem can do to foster diversity and inclusion

e27 sat with Chua, who is an avowed gay man, for an interview as part of Pride Month. Pride Month, celebrated every June mainly in the US, is dedicated to the uplifting of LGBTQ voices, a celebration of their culture and the support of their rights.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

How do you describe yourself?

I’m someone who is passionate about community building, diversity, and inclusion.

I believe in empowering, educating, and inspiring the ‘misfits’ to discover their true potential and find alternative paths to success through the power of community, collaboration, self-discovery, and personal development.

What is community building and why is it important? Why is there a need for a community for community builders?

Building communities is a crucial process that fosters connections among people and creates infrastructure for these connections to happen. It is all the more important in a pandemic situation like this. This is a time for people to come together to find support from their community and stay connected.

Community builders are often givers to their communities. They often do a lot for their community but lack avenues to talk about their feelings or don’t have a place to seek help. The idea of having a community for community builders is to bridge this gap.

What are the different aspects of community building? How are your initiatives helping during the COVID-19 crisis?

The pandemic may have forced us to restrict ourselves at home and keep a safe distance from one another, but it has also united the community in unprecedented ways.

The pandemic has caused severe disruptions to our economy, livelihoods, and way of life. However, it has also fostered a strong spirit of care, cohesion, and active citizenry in our society.

We have seen community builders in our community coming together, sharing resources, and collaborating to show their support for the migrant workers in Singapore. They pulled together their great network of resources to realise various initiatives, calling for volunteers and donations, which have received tremendous support and overwhelming responses.

Crisis or no crisis, community building is here to stay.

Could you talk about Kampung Collective? What are the different causes it is championing?

Kampung Collective is a community for community builders across Asia. It seeks to educate, gather, connect and build. These are our key drivers to achieve our vision of elevating community building as a credible professional career.

Also Read: How this SEA VC is rising to the challenge of gender inequality

We serve as a support network, a safe space for community builders to connect, share best practices, learn, grow and uplift one another in the community-building journey.

We have over 500 community builders in the group, from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, to India.

In Kampung Collective, we have community builders building communities around topics like startup ecosystem, mental health, environmental sustainability, LGBTQ+ issues, women empowerment, and the ageing population.

Do you conduct any specific programmes for the LGBTQ community?

In my day job as a culture builder at HubSpot, we have the LGBTQ+ Alliance group. It aims to empower HubSpotters through the creation of a safe, respectful community.

We further envision a more thoughtful, informed, and inclusive environment for all HubSpotters through meaningful engagement and conversation with our peers. We also commit to improving the living experiences of others in the communities we inhabit.

On a personal front, as an openly gay man in Singapore, I advocate for change and create awareness around LGBTQ+ topics on my personal social media platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Youtube.

I see myself more as a representative, sharing my life with my partner publicly as any straight couple would do, than an ‘activist’.

Do you think Southeast Asia’s employers have embraced/are embracing gender inclusiveness in their workplaces? Are these minority communities still looked down like in many parts of the world?

Honestly, I don’t think diversity and inclusion receive enough airtime in workplaces in Southeast Asia. You rarely see this as a topic being discussed in workplaces within the Southeast Asian region. You may not find specific roles within a company focusing on D&I.

Also Read: How to make gender equality training work

This is unfortunate and rather ironic, given the exceptionally rich breadth of people, ethnicities, and creeds in the region.

One of my core beliefs is that it is a moral imperative for us to champion diversity and inclusion within our organisations and workplaces. This is simply the right thing to do.

I am personally committed to ensuring that my employer allows people of all identities — in terms of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, age, and national origin — to thrive.

Is there still an unwillingness/fear among LGBTQ communities to openly admit their sexual orientation? If so, why? How do you think we can address this as an educated society?

I see more people coming out as LGBTQ+ individuals in their social lives but not many in workplaces. There are a few factors for that. In Singapore, there is still a law, Section 377A, that criminalises sex between consenting male adults.

In that context, there isn’t a point of safety for gay people to come out and live their lives openly or simply express their love publicly as there is still discrimination.

In a workplace, the importance of a supportive social environment plays a huge role in a person’s decision to openly asset his/her identity. Leadership makes all the difference. Research shows that employees whose leaders publicly support LGBTIQ+ issues are 50 per cent more likely to be out to everyone at work.

Organisational policies and strategies that recognise the specific needs of, and sometimes just the existence of LGBTIQ+ people, are also key to creating an inclusive environment.

Also Read: This gay founder is creating a safe media platform for LGBTQ community in SEA

When LGBTIQ+ people work in a safe environment, they are more willing to come out.

Anything else to share with the startup communities in SEA?

Diversity and inclusion are essential in business today as a healthy variety of people from different backgrounds and cultures provides us with the balance of voices and diversity of thought that we need.

As the future generation of the workforce is getting more aware of the social injustice happening around the world and are already looking at companies they work for through such a lens, I think it’s time for startups to take a more proactive stance on employing a diverse workforce that reflects the real people of society today.

It’s becoming clear that when workers can bring their authentic selves to work, they are more productive and engaged. In a diverse and inclusive workplace, employees will be happier in their job roles; new ideas will arise, and productivity will increase. This will lead to greater successes within the business and allow the business to flourish and stand out amongst competitors.

Image Credit: Andee Chua.

The post ‘Diversity and inclusion aren’t getting enough airtime in SEA’s workplaces’ appeared first on e27.

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