LGBTI+ Equality in the Workplace: A Global Perspective

By Erasmo Sánchez Herrera | via OECD

This article is part of a series in which OECD experts and thought leaders — from around the world and all parts of society — address the COVID-19 crisis, discussing and developing solutions now and for the future. Aiming to foster the fruitful exchange of expertise and perspectives across fields to help us rise to this critical challenge, opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the OECD.

NGLCC Global is the international division of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), the exclusive third-party certifying body for Certified LGBT Business Enterprise® (Certified LGBTBE®) companies in the United States. NGLCC Global is comprised of more than 15 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI+) Chambers of Commerce and Business Networks all over the world. NGLCC Global is dedicated to advancing the economic empowerment of LGBTI+ people, while promoting inclusive economic growth for LGBTI+ persons throughout the world in partnerships with multinational corporations, multilaterals and the international public, non-profit and diplomatic sectors.

To promote global LGBTI+ equality in the workplace, NGLCC Global builds on the strengths of our affiliated international chambers to share best practices and seek solutions to current challenges hindering the economic progress of LGBTI+ people and business owners in their countries. Employment discrimination continues to be a matter of high importance, not only for LGBTI+ chambers of commerce based outside the United States but also to the LGBTI+ community worldwide. Recently, our international affiliates based in Brazil, Canada, Colombia and the United Kingdom shared their thoughts on some of the local barriers and the groundbreaking initiatives they have to achieve LGBTI+ equality in the workplace.


The Brazilian LGBT Chamber of Commerce and Tourism (Câmara de Comércio E Turismo LGBT do Brasilfeels that over the past decade, a few significant initiatives to enforce the employability of LGBTI+ persons in the workplace have led to an increase of LGBTI+ persons in senior leadership positions. Additionally, supplier diversity programmes that aim to empower LGBTI+ and other diverse businesses in Brazil have provided them with access to beneficial contract opportunities from international corporations, thus creating awareness for LGBTI+ equality in the workplace; to that effect, the Brazilian chamber recently launched the Programa Fornecedores Diversos. However, both the public and private sectors need to continue to make greater efforts to support equality, through enforcement of antidiscrimination mechanisms and diversity and inclusion policies that would support LGBTI+ inclusion at the local and national level.


Across Canada, one in 40 businesses are owned by a member of the LGBTQ+ community. This represents approximately 28,000 businesses—collectively generating CAD 22 billion in gross corporate revenue and employing over 435,000 Canadians. However, ongoing barriers prevent LGBTQ+ businesses and entrepreneurs from fully participating in the Canadian economy and the workplace, thus collaboration efforts across sectors continues to be the best way to achieve equality.

As part of the New World: 2021 Digital LGBT+ Global Business Summit, and in partnership with international corporations such as Scotiabank and IBM, Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce will host a roundtable discussion on the United Nations Global LGBTI Human Rights Standards. Through this and other activities, the Canada chamber remains particularly focused on Standard #4: companies should not discriminate against LGBTI+ customers, suppliers and distributors—and insist that business partners do the same.


According to the Colombian LGBT chamber of Commerce (Cámara de Comerciantes LGBT de Colombia), education is and will continue to be the key to eradicate employment discrimination against LGBTI+ persons—but achieving a society-wide cultural transformation will take time. Therefore, the Colombia chamber has developed different capacity-building trainings and workshops, offering them to stakeholders across sectors to achieve two main objectives:

  • Take the local context into consideration when designing Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Policies for international corporations with headquarters and operations in Colombia, thus ensuring local legislation challenges and biased cultural notions are acknowledged in internal policy-making procedures and at the national level.
  • Build DEI business cases for local or national corporationsand Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as a part of a customised, strategic plan to encourage discrimination-free workplaces, breaking away from cultural and social biases to ensure businesses walk the talk when presenting themselves as LGBTI+ inclusive.

United Kingdom

OutScotland, Scotland’s LGBT+ Business Network, stated that when it comes to LGBTI+ workforce equality in the case of the United Kingdom, improving equality and building inclusion for under-represented groups has and always will be a challenge. At a global level, legislation, political views and culture vary vastly from country to country, or from continent to continent; quite simply, change has been too slow. Governments are too slow to enact change or are too caught up in debate that leads to watered-down solutions that do not achieve what they originally intended to—true equality for all. As a result, we are increasingly seeing initiatives such as the “LGBTI+ Chambers of Commerce” model arise, which is effectively how these under-represented communities are coming together to solve a problem themselves, regardless of borders and legal or political challenges. Through the upcoming launching of a London-based chamber and a certification program for LGBT-owned businesses later this year, OutScotland will seek to increase visibility for LGBTI+ business owners and their needs.

By working together—and with key stakeholders who truly value diversity—more and more forward-thinking groups are finding ways to create opportunities to improve equality outside of the usual geographical, governmental and social structures that we are used to operating within.


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