Alan Joyce, who is openly gay, said that the world would a better place if there were more openly LGBT business leaders.
Speaking at the Economist Group’s global conference on inclusion for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, Joyce said: “It is very critical that we make sure people recognise that they know LGBT people.”
The Qantas CEO, who frequently speaks out about diversity in the workplace, said: “It has become more important for leaders who are LGBT to be open about their sexuality. I am passionate about it. There should be more people like Apple’s Tim Cook and Paul Zahra, the former CEO of Australia’s David Jones (store chain).”
Joyce isn’t the only tourism boss stepping out to support diversity this week, with a number of destination and hotel organisations publicly pledged their support for the LGBT community.
Among them is Hotels.com’s Vice President Asia-Pacific, Abhiram Chowdhry, who said as an accommodation website the company understands that “love and life comes in all shapes and sizes” and supports the right of its employees to live “in an environment free of prejudice and discrimination and enjoy the same freedoms that opposite-sex couples enjoy.”
Called Pride and Prejudice, the Economist event began in Hong Kong on Thursday before moving on to London and, later, New York. Daniel Franklin, executive editor of The Economist, said the event was an attempt to “to break the business sector’s silence” on the issue and to look at the economic and human costs of discrimination.
There have been worrying developments in the Asian region recently, from provocative comments by Indonesian officials and religious leaders regarding homosexuality.
The Economist’s own research shows that in Asia, business leaders are less likely to be aware that there are members of the LGBT community working in their companies.
The Hong Kong event featured speakers from across the world, including Nguyen Thanh Tu, acting director general of Vietnam’s Ministry of Justice, who drafted the country’s law that legalised same-sex marriage last year, as well as Joel Simkhai, founder and chief executive officer of gay dating app Grindr.
Simkhai noted that attitudes towards homosexuality were changing very fast in China. Just over a year ago, Grindr was banned there. Today, that ban has been lifted and Simkhai has just sold a majority stake in Grindr to Beijing Kunlun Tech Company, a Chinese company controlled by billionaire Zhou Yahui.