Todd Sears: The Olympics are an historic opportunity for companies in Brazil to demonstrate LGBT inclusion

“Last week, I was honored to meet with senior business executives in Brazil who are leading local efforts to leverage LGBT inclusion in the business context, at a series of meetings hosted by Bloomberg in São Paulo.

I love visiting Brazil – Brazilians have an infectious enthusiasm for their country, and they wear their pride on their sleeves.

Furthermore, it is clear that Brazil is at a tipping point for acceptance of LGBT people – Pew Research shows 60% of Brazilians say LGBT people should be accepted by society. Sao Paulo Pride is one of the largest in the world – attracting 3 million people every year. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Brazil since 2013, and same-sex unions had been recognized since 2004.

Even by conservative estimates, 13 million Brazilians identify as LGBT – that’sUS$120 billion in spending power. And LGBT tourists spend billions of dollars in Brazil every year – including US$115 million in Rio during Carnival alone. Some Brazilian states have outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation, although there is no federal non-discrimination law.

Out in the World,” a study of 10 countries by the Center for Talent Innovation and sponsored by Out Leadership and a number of major multinational corporations, including several Out Leadership members, was released last month and found that 34% of LGBT Brazilians have experienced workplace discrimination in the last five years – noticeably lower than the rates of discrimination reported in countries like the U.S. (42%), South Africa (48%), and China (52%).

Nevertheless, “Out in the World” found that 61% of LGBT employees in Brazil are still in the closet at work, and that 49% of out employees in Brazil downplay, or cover, their LGBT identity at work – meaning that Brazil lags behind peer countries like the U.S. and the United Kingdom where the legal environments for LGBT people are generally favorable. The study also showed that companies can harness productivity and innovation gains by creating work environments where employees do not feel the need to “cover their identities.”

The research shows that there’s a clear opportunity for forward-thinking companies operating in Brazil to position themselves as allies of the LGBT community – an investment that will pay off handsomely.”

Read the rest of Todd’s op-ed on the Huffington Post