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Recruit's LGBTQ+ Inclusion Initiatives in Japan: "SOGI" is a Matter for Everyone

In Japan, it's estimated that 10% of adults identify as LGBTQ+*1*2. However, according to a survey, more than 70% of them conceal this in their workplace, and about 40% report having a tough time at work*3. Recruit Co., Ltd., our operating company in Japan with its core value centered around respecting individuals since founding, has worked on making its workplace inclusive for everyone as part of its DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) efforts. This also includes LGBTQ+ inclusion, and we aim at providing a workplace where everyone can shine as they are. In recognition of Pride Month, a period to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ rights, we're highlighting Recruit's initiatives.

*1 LGBTQ+: A general term for the community that includes not only lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons, but also people of various sexualities, such as those who do not have a defined gender identity or sexual orientation.
*2 LGBT Research Institute in Japan "LGBT Awareness and Behavior Survey 2019"
*3 Indeed Japan "Survey of LGBTQ+ People's Attitudes About Work and Workplaces"

Offering a Benefit Program to LGBTQ+ is Not Enough: Changing the Organizational Culture is Key

Recruit's LGBTQ+ initiative started in 2016 as part of its DEI efforts. In 2017, Recruit had applied health and wellness benefits to same-sex partners, including wedding and bereavement leaves, nursing care and childcare leaves. Since 2018, Recruit has consistently won a Gold Award in the PRIDE Index, which is the highest recognition in evaluating companies' efforts toward diverse genders in Japan, for five consecutive years. It might look like good progress has been made in LGBTQ+ inclusive initiatives.

However, when Recruit first received the Gold Award in the PRIDE Index, there was a gap between the program’s progress and how it was perceived. Even though there was a benefit program in place, almost no one had used it before. Recruit’s DEI team was concerned that members of the LGBTQ+ community who refer to the index and join our company would be disappointed in the reality. In addition, the demand for promoting DEI was increasing nationwide ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the team wanted to take further steps to be more inclusive as one of the sponsoring companies for the event.

At that time, to use the benefit programs, employees first needed to go to their superiors for approval, and many of them did not for fear of outing themselves (disclosing their sexual orientation and gender identity to others without their consent). Also, since their relationships were not legally recognized in Japan, and are still not, the risks of the process outweighed the benefits. There were many cases where LGBTQ+ employees did not dare to apply, unless absolutely necessary.

At this point, Recruit realized that just having a LGBTQ+ program is not enough and that creating an organizational climate where people can use the benefits with peace of mind is essential. This is how Recruit's long journey to changing the organizational culture began.

*4 PRIDE Index: Japan's largest index for evaluating companies' LGBTQ+ initiatives. The evaluation index is constantly updated according to the actual situation in the world.

What Awaited Recruit Was Getting Others to Care and Become Supporters and Allies of the Community

In 2018, Recruit started an e-learning course for managers to learn about the LGBTQ+ community. Although a face-to-face lecture course for managers had been offered before, it was switched to e-learning. This course was a good opportunity to learn from real voices of people within the LGBTQ+ community, but the priority was to make more people reflect on their own behaviors and act differently. A new e-learning format with LGBTQ+ representation was distributed to managers first.

Smartphone screen showing "What is LGBTQ?" on the website of Recruit Co. Ltd.

In 2019, Recruit started to provide a shorter 20-minute e-learning course focusing on essential learnings to all of its employees. The content is designed to promote understanding by incorporating the voices of LGBTQ+ people and case studies together with essential knowledge. The participation rate for this e-learning course was over 80%, and the degree of understanding as measured by a post-course assessment was almost 100%. The company also launched a campaign to send LGBTQ+ ally*5 goods to attendees who requested them on the final screen of this e-learning course. Other initiatives include the launch of a one-stop information website where employees can learn more about the LGBTQ+ community and access workshops and seminars for better understanding.

Recruit Co., Ltd. distributed two pairs of key chains to those who requested them

Ally goods key holders. By sending a set of two key chains, one for the applicant and another for someone else, the company encourages the action of increasing allies.

These efforts contributed to raising the level of understanding of diverse genders and sexualities, but we were still unable to reach the point where we felt everyone could freely express their gender identities. Koichi Shimazaki from the DEI Promotion Office said, "Now we need to go one step further and take LGBTQ+ inclusion as everyone’s initiative. There are still some people who take the perspective “I could learn about the LGBTQ+ community through the e-learning course, but there are no such people in my department.” We first need to make everyone aware that people within the LGBTQ+ community are part of our team, even though team members may not be aware of this. The fact that not many people accept it and act differently is another issue," emphasizing the importance of changing the minds of employees.

*5 Ally: A person who thinks about what kind of feelings LGBTQ+ people have and acts accordingly. Anyone can be an ally.

Creating an Organizational Culture Where Everyone is Respected Based on “SOGI”

According to a survey conducted within Recruit in 2022, LGBTQ+ employees still conceal their gender identity and sexual orientation on a daily basis, and about 30% of them have encountered unfortunate experiences related to being LGBTQ+, even in their daily work. To counteract this, the company created both in-house communication and e-learning courses around the concept of "SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity)*6", which embraces the diverse gender and sexual orientations of all people. Yuta Oishi, who leads LGBTQ+ related initiatives, explained, "SOGI is a concept that applies to everyone. We want all employees to understand that all SOGIs are respected at Recruit." Koichi added, "Since Recruit is a company where everybody shares the value of respecting each individual, we should respect our LGBTQ+ colleagues, too. However, there are still some cases where people are unknowingly making others' lives difficult. Everyone should learn about SOGI well enough to be able to influence those around you."

In August 2023, Recruit plans to launch a new e-learning program that will allow its employees to learn more around SOGI-related communication at work. Going forward, Recruit will focus on eliminating negative experiences related to diverse genders and sexualities within the company, and ensuring psychological safety in workplaces where members of the LGBTQ+ community can make their own decisions about coming out. We will strengthen our efforts to create an environment where everyone is respected and all can shine as they are.

*6 SOGI stands for sexual orientation and gender identity. It's an inclusive concept that applies to everyone, expressing gender identity (how you identify your gender) and sexual orientation (to whom you are sexually attracted).

Koichi Shimazaki Support Promotion Group, DEI Promotion Department, DEI Promotion Office, HR, Staff Management Division, Recruit Co., Ltd.

Koichi Shimazaki

Support Promotion Group, DEI Promotion Department, DEI Promotion Office, HR, Staff Management Division, Recruit Co., Ltd.

Koichi joined Recruit in 2014 in ad sales for marriage information magazine Zexy at Recruit Marketing Partners. In 2022, he transferred to the DEI Promotion Office and currently leads the DEI Support Promotion Group.

Yuta Oishi, Support Promotion Group, DEI Promotion Department, DEI Promotion Office, HR, Staff Management Division, Recruit Co., Ltd.

Yuta Oishi

Support Promotion Group, DEI Promotion Department, DEI Promotion Office, HR, Staff Management Division, Recruit Co., Ltd.

Yuta joined Recruit in 2010 in procurement for printing information magazines. In 2023, he joined the DEI Promotion department and leads the team that is responsible for LGBTQ+ initiatives.

Jun 27, 2023

This article is based on information available at the time of publication.