With 70 countries in the world that treat consensual homosexual activity as illegal, including 13 that can punish such activity with the death penalty, multinational organizations that support LGBT+ rights face difficult choices when operating in anti-LGBT+ jurisdictions.

To mark WorldPride and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, the Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at NYU School of Law has released a discussion paper, Opening Up The World: How Multinational Organizations Can Ascend the Maturity Curve on LGBT+ Rights, on how pro-LGBT+ companies can assess a jurisdiction’s legal, social, and company environments and identify appropriate strategies to advance LGBT+ rights.

Coauthored by Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Director Kenji Yoshino and Executive Director David Glasgow, the paper examines how companies can advance from a “When in Rome” model (in which companies follow local norms) to an “Embassy” model (in which they focus on internal LGBT+ inclusion), and finally to an “Advocate” model (in which they strive to influence local law and culture). Their research is based on interviews with 30 leaders and employees across five continents from three multinational organizations—EY, Dow, and Microsoft.

“It is unrealistic to expect multinational companies to adopt the Advocate model in every country around the world, but that does not mean they should succumb to inertia. This paper gives guidance on when companies should move from one model to another, and how they can lay the foundation for a future move if they are not yet ready,” said Glasgow.   
The paper explores how companies can assess the risks in a particular location that might prevent a move from one model to another; build capacity by cultivating champions of LGBT+ inclusion at the company’s grassroots and leadership levels; and mobilize those champions into action, such as by focusing on allyship, leveraging technology, and forging coalitions with other companies and NGOs.

In Singapore, for example, the government prohibits foreign entities (including multinational companies) from sponsoring “Pink Dot” (a Singaporean event celebrating LGBT+ individuals). However, Dow organized an internal Pink Dot event in its Singaporean office as a means of providing subtle support of its LGBT+ community without being a full advocate. The authors identify such efforts as “embassy-advocacy”— activity in which “companies can engage in subtle or creative actions internally that drive toward the Advocate model without fully embracing it.”

“This research affirms that multinationals play an important role in promoting equality and a culture of respect in the workplace, and this extends to the communities where they operate. Through dialogue and a thoughtful approach, we can start to open hearts and minds, deepen understanding, remove uncertainty and create pathways toward LGBT+ equality and inclusion in our global workplaces and beyond,” said Beth Brooke-Marciniak, EY Global Vice Chair – Public Policy.

For more information on the Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at NYU School of Law, visit http://law.nyu.edu/centers/belonging.