Promoting equality and diversity to increase economic growth

As businesses report the benefits of equality, we explore global barriers for women & LGBTQ+ individuals & the impact on their wellbeing

This Pride Month, many businesses are echoing the benefits of diversity and inclusion in business. Here, we take a look at the business benefits of diversity and inclusion and how including LGBTQ+ individuals has a positive impact on their health and wellbeing - and business.

Diversity and inclusion leads to economic growth

In 2022, the proportion of women in senior management roles globally grew to 32%, the highest number ever recorded - despite almost 50% of men thinking that it is sufficient when just one in ten senior leaders in their company is a woman.

McKinsey & Company’s research into women in the workplace and its ‘Delivering Through Diversity’ report shows that diversity promotes profitability among other benefits.

“A global survey of 279 companies conducted in 2010 found that those with the greatest proportion of women on their executive committees earned a return on equity 47% higher than did those with no female executive members,” it says. 

“Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 27% more likely to outperform their national industry average in terms of economic profit.”

The research shows not only financial gain as a benefit, but also value creation. 

London School of Economics reports that companies with LGBTQ-inclusive policies experience benefits including increased employee commitment, job satisfaction, productivity and more altruistic workplace behaviour. 

“Additionally, being LGBTQ-friendly can improve a company’s ability to attract and retain talented employees, enhance customer relationships, and boost its reputation as a socially responsible corporate citizen,” the LSE research shows.

32% of senior management roles are held by women

Equality in education for women and LGBTQ+ individuals 

Women, LGBTQ+ people and those belonging to minority groups face discrimination of varying amounts globally. In many countries this becomes a barrier to education, which reduces employment prospects. 

Young LGBTQ+ people can face prejudice, intolerance, discrimination, and violence in their own schools. 

The European Union lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender survey found that 83-95% of students in Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic and Poland have witnessed negative comments directed at a classmate who was perceived as LGBTQ+ – disrupting their ability to learn and leading to lower attendance and higher drop-out rates.

In Afghanistan, women have been banned from attending university by the Taliban. 

The BBC reports that wellbeing in women has dramatically decreased since this decree, with a spike in suicides in young women. Psychologist Dr Amal received 170 calls for help within two days of the announcement that women would be banned from universities. She now receives around seven to 10 new calls daily, mostly from girls and young women. 

Diversity and equality in the workplace leads to economic benefits

Taliban Persecution of LGBTQ+ Afghans

Since the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan in 2021, Outright International’s have interviewed LGBTQ+ Afghans in an effort to understand what it is to be queer under Taliban rule, and how groups like Outright can help.

"Since the Taliban’s return to power, we witnessed the excruciating deterioration of humanitarian conditions for LGBTIQ Afghans,” notes Maria Sjodin, Executive Director of Outright International. 

Outright International is an LGBTQ+ human rights organisation working globally to document and amplify human rights violations and advocate for inclusion and equality. Launched in 1990 by American activist Julie Dorf as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the organisation has since campaigned for equality in international law, achieved asylum for the persecuted, created awards and written dedicated reports. 

“No one should live in constant fear, discrimination, and violence simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Sjodin says. 

Alongside active persecution, women and queer Afghans are being denied access to basic human rights, including education and healthcare, leading to increasing numbers of the LGBTQ+ community in Afghanistan choosing to flee the country and become asylum seekers.  

“The Taliban’s undisguised hostility toward sexual and gender diversity doubles the risk level those Afghans face,” says Neela Ghoshal, Outright’s Senior Director of Law, Policy and Research.

Discrimination in education: a long lasting impact

Discrimination hindering education can have a lifelong impact, both socially and economically.

UCLA School of Law’s report on LGBT Poverty in the United States discusses how higher percentages of LGBTQ+ people live in poverty with 23% of LGBTQ+ people having lived in poverty in 2020, compared to 11.4% of the total US population living in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Among racialised groups, a higher proportion of Black, Latinx/Hispanic, Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander (NH/PI), American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN), and Multiracial people were experiencing poverty than White or Asian American (AA) people,” the report continues.

The underrepresentation of minorities in board rooms can be linked to their overrepresentation in groups including people living in poverty, suicide attempts and increased risk of harassment, victimisation and depression.

Promoting diversity and equality in business

Katherine Maher, former CEO of Wikimedia Foundation, believes that proactivity and accountability is key in bridging the gap and making progress towards equality.

“Saying there is no deadline on diversity initiatives, or that things will right themselves, is an ahistorical way of looking at the advances that have been made in terms of equity and representation,” she says. 

“It has always required people to do the work. It has always required people to stand up and make it a priority.”

“Equality takes many different forms—income, education, racial, gender, LGBTQ, ability. There’s so much work to be done across all of these issues as we fight for equality for all,” says Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.

“We have seen firsthand the positive results of having women in leadership roles over the years,” says Solomon Amar, Founder & CEO of ALLSTARSIT. “We’ve learned that, in order to maximise the leadership potential of the women in your organisation, you need to be genuinely responsive.”

“This can have a domino effect that leads to better teams, a better company and even a better society overall.”


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