Aegon employees speak out on International Day Against Homophobia

Today is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). For some, these terms, and the issues they reflect, are new. For others the issue of discrimination is very real.

Man with a rainbow flag in front of the ocean

That is not the case, however, for the Aegon employees who shared us their coming out stories.

"Although everybody thinks that homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals are accepted in the Netherlands, that is frequently far from the case on the work floor," says David Pollard, Director at Workplace Pride, a non-profit organization that advocates fair treatment for this particular target group.

While Aegon supports diversity among its workforce for many positive reasons, there's one reason that will appeal to many businesses in today's competitive markets: Employees who stay in the closet cost employers a great deal of money.

A person from the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual ,Transgender) community who is in the closet is around 30% less productive, according to figures from the Dutch Economic Affairs ministry and the government's Central Planning Bureau. If you translate that into lost productivity, it comes down to an amount of 1.8 billion euro of wasted payroll costs each year.

Unique skillset

David Pollard stresses that people in the LGBT community also have specific talents: "You become naturally hyper-sensitive to how people look at you. That's something you learn if you're in the closet." That is a talent and could, for instance, lead to a position in relationship management or in management itself.'

Aegon joined Workplace Pride in 2014. According to Marc van Weede, head of strategy and sustainability at Aegon, this was "a signal that we believe the emancipation of members of the LGBT community is an important issue, both within and outside the company." Marc says there is "still a lot to be done, especially outside the Netherlands."