Business and the marriage referendum…a look back

BITCI News - Aug 27, 2015

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Companies across Ireland had diverse responses to the recent Marriage Equality referendum. A common theme was provision of flexible working arrangements to facilitate employees to vote. Beyond that there were differing levels of engagement with the issue itself. Some companies felt that their existing diversity policies were clearly supportive of their LGBT staff and that voting was a personal choice that required no additional commentary. Others such as Twitter joined the IDA and IBEC in publically outlining the case for marriage equality. More than 300 businesses, mostly SMEs but also some large companies including BITCI  network members Arup and Sodexo, signed the Yes Equality Business pledge.

Margot Slattery, Sodexo CEO, explained that the company felt it was important that corporate communication be consistent with their diversity principles. They co-hosted a number of events with GLEN (Gay & Lesbian Equality Network) to encourage cross-business discussion on the issue, and held an internal discussion webinar for all managers who were encouraged to facilitate flexible working at each site on voting day. They were always mindful of acknowledging personal beliefs, and subsequently received much positive feedback from staff.

Accenture shared advance information on postal voting and reminded staff of the business reasoning behind their signature of the US Supreme Court Amicus Brief supporting Marriage Equality which happened in parallel to the referendum in Ireland.

In Microsoft Ireland senior leaders and the employee LGBT Network jointly facilitated an active internal Yammer discussion on the referendum. Employees were encouraged to simply consider the issues and to vote, with additional flexible working options on May 22nd. Managing Director Cathriona Hallahan made the business case for equality in her EU policy blog, and participated alongside staff in the Microsoft group at the Dublin Pride Parade in June.

More than 80 businesses joined the parade, the largest number to date. Almost all large technology companies participated including Symantec and IBM, with other sectors represented by Accenture, Bank of Ireland and Enterprise-Rent-A-Car amongst many others.