|Apinda Mpako, Pan Africa ILGA|
|Apinda Mpako, Pan Africa ILGA|
The American multinational IBM hosted its first ever African LGBT Business and Human Rights Forum on September 29 and 30 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The event turned part of Sandton’s Hilton Hotel into a hub of activity as it brought together a number of corporates and NGO’s with the stated objective of raising awareness within the business community of the legal, social and economic aspects of LGBT diversity.
Explaining the significance of the forum, Marijin Pijnenburg, Business Development Executive at IBM said, “IBM is proud to support this Forum. At IBM, global diversity and equality are far more than company policy. They are our company’s philosophy for over 100 years now. Our strong commitment to LGBT inclusion is cornerstone to that philosophy. Individual differences, skills, and backgrounds aren’t just important, they are invaluable. It opens our eyes to make us smarter, as individuals, and as a company whose focus is to drive innovation.”
One of the stated aims of the forum was to “Raise awareness and share best practices for achieving workplace equality.”
The forum further provided “An opportunity for key stakeholders to connect and help facilitate the advancement of workplace equality and human rights into the future for LGBT employees and citizens.”
Themes for the forum included issues of “Advancement of LGBT Rights in Africa”, which was further divided in topics such as “Developing NGO and Corporate Co-operations” amongst others. This particular topic was primarily aimed at NGO leaders interested in expanding their project reach and developing sustainable revenue.
The plenary speech was given by Advocate Simon Jiyane, Deputy Director General at the Department of Justice.
Jiyane said that the department was working tireless in ending discrimination in all its forms and in the accessibility of courts by all South African citizens. He also touched on the establishment of the national task team on corrective rapes, which he said was an indication that the department was committed at “Responding to gender based violence against LGBT people.”
IBM was the first private company listed at the Top500 list of Supercomputers, to implement a diversity policy for sexual orientation back in 1984.
IBM ranks eighth in the Diversity Inc. Top 10 Companies for LGBT Employees list and currently IBM has 49 Employee resource Groups, six in Asia Pacific, 17 in Europe and Africa, Five in Latin America and 21 in North America. These resource groups include monitoring sexual orientation, domestic partner benefits, transgender workplace transitions and LGBT leadership pipeline identification.
IBM provides same-sex partners of its employees with health benefits and provides an anti-discrimination clause. The Human Rights Campaign has consistently rated IBM 100 per cent on its index of gay-friendliness since 2003 (in 2002, the year it began compiling its report on major companies, IBM scored 86per cent).
In 2007 and again in 2010, IBM UK was ranked first in the British LGBTI rights group, Stonewall’s annual Workplace Equality Index for UK employers.