What you need to know
The event was a demonstration of two pillars of Taiwan's cultural diplomacy: its successful Covid-19 response, and its progress in LGBT equality.
Taipei held this year’s only in-person Workplace Pride conference on Tuesday, October 27, called “Workplace Taiwan: Trailblazing LGBTI Workplace Inclusion in Asia.” Workplace Pride is a global LGBT+ advocacy group headquartered in Amsterdam.
The conference was kicked off by Andrew Fuh, Ernst & Young (EY)’s Taiwan Country Managing Partner. The accounting firm co-hosted the event with Dutch semiconductor giant ASML. [Disclosure: The author is an employee at EY]. The Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline and Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan were partners, and the moderator was Jennifer Lu.
“I would be happy to the witness the wedding of any colleague who is marrying their same-sex partner,” Fuh said while touting the achievements Taiwan has made to advance LGBT equality through legalizing same-sex marriage. In Taiwan, two witnesses are required by law for marriage registration. The country has also legalized same-sex marriage in 2019, the first in Asia to do so.
Mori Kida, EY’s Japan regional chief operating officer, also shared his coming out story as the only out C-suite executive in the country and how he changed the business landscape in Japan through the power of personal storytelling.
The Workplace Pride in Taipei saw participation from foreign diplomats, government officials, executives from both domestic and global companies, students, and researchers, as well as those tuning in online from the Americas, Europe, and other parts of Asia.
It was a rare opportunity to bring together different voices in Taiwanese society, as there is a generation gap in opinions on LGBT rights. Given Taiwan’s stellar response in containing the spread of Covid-19, with only seven deaths and approximately 500 confirmed cases, it was also an opportunity to cast a light on Taiwan’s soft power and global standing.
Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s digital minister, brings together the country’s success in both promoting human rights and handling the spread of the pandemic.
During the event, Tang stressed the importance of building an environment where everyone can choose to be themselves. An open society brings out a “synergy” where the best ideas around innovation and good policy making arise. She is a living example of that, as Asia’s only out transgender Cabinet minister who has spearheaded a sucessful mask rationing scheme that has won Taiwan plaudits internationally.
The event also included a panel discussion of dignitaries from the EU. Guido Tielman, the Dutch Representative to Taiwan, praised Taiwan’s progressive agenda and expressed how proud he was to have both his homeland and the country where he is stationed champion LGBT rights in their respective continents. In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in Europe.
Tielman also said he was impressed at how this has put Taiwan on the map, especially among liberal democracies around the world. Chen Hsin-hsin, the Taiwan Representative to the Netherlands, also concurred via video conference that same-sex marriage has transformed Taiwan’s image abroad and enhanced its soft power and standing in Europe.
Lin Ching-yi, the Taiwan Ambassador-at-large and former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator who concluded the conference, said it was important for Taiwan to continue the conversation with liberal democracies and advance equality for the LGBT community in both the workplace and society.
Lin also shared the Tsai administration’s idea of freedom of choice as a cornerstone of how the current government operates. Based on this idea, her administration promoted change in all levels of the government, and most recently, included two same-sex couples in mass military wedding.
“Forward thinking employers realize that marriage equality in Taiwan will require a different approach to interaction with employees, clients, and society,” said Michiel Kolman, co-chair of Workplace Pride. “This conference brings all stakeholders together in setting the tone for workplace inclusion in Asia for years to come.”
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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)
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