Barclays set up its LGBT employee network, named Spectrum, in Singapore in 2011. In a relatively short period of time the network was able to overcome significant challenges due to strong global leadership and a local steering committee, both instrumental in educating and engaging local employees.
Spectrum leaders in Singapore are happy with the progress they have made, pointing to the positive changes to corporate culture and the level of participation they have seen in network events. Barclays strongly believes that creating inclusive workplaces for employees is the right thing to do and that Spectrum is tremendously important in helping them achieve their diversity and inclusion objectives.
Barclays historically is a champion of LGBT inclusion, not just in Asia but around the world. Recognising an opportunity in Singapore to strengthen its brand as a champion of diversity and inclusion, the bank began to build its LGBT employee network in late 2010. Spectrum officially launched in February 2011 and has made considerable progress engaging and educating employees. There are currently more than 200 LGBT or allies in Barclays’ Singapore office who consider themselves members of the Spectrum network. Barclays Spectrum SG Pink Dot
In contrast to other Barclays networks in say the United States or the United Kingdom, leadership played a key role in setting up the network. Networks in the US and the UK have evolved over time and as a result grown more organically. People in these countries and regions tend to feel more comfortable self-identifying and coming out, as compared with many Asian countries, including Singapore. Recognising this essential difference and the importance of demonstrating their commitment to diversity and inclusion, leaders at Barclays took the initiative and began setting up Spectrum with the hope that this proactive step would encourage LGBT employees to self-identify and eventually step forward.
Spectrum benefits from strong global and local leadership. Besides having one overarching global executive sponsor, Barclays’ network in Singapore benefits from both an Asia Pacific steering group as well as a country level steering group, made up of staff from all areas of the business and seniority. Interestingly, Human Resource is not the driving force of the network. Senior leaders are very much responsible for this and many of the steering group members allocate significant portions of their time to Spectrum matters, in addition to their standard role at the bank.
In 2010 and 2011, when Spectrum Singapore was just starting out, the steering group met regularly to set up an appropriate governance model, establish objectives and the different events the network would use to engage employees. The steering group found that reaching out to leaders in charge of the Spectrum network in the US or UK was helpful in identifying internal and external resources that they could use to ensure that the network they built was sustainable.
The Singapore steering group meets monthly to decide on network events and oversee logistics for upcoming activities. Starting out, many of the activities focused on education and awareness. Barclays felt employees needed to understand the importance of diversity and inclusion and also the sensitivities around LGBT issues before they could expect employees to realistically attend network events. However, it did not take long for the network to grow and more interesting and dynamic activities were added to the mix.
One of Spectrum Singapore flagship events is its involvement in Singapore’s annual inclusion event, Pink Dot. Apart from sponsoring this event, Barclays promotes its involvement in this event quite heavily internally to employees. Special T-shirts were made for the more than 50 employees who decided to join the event as representatives from Barclays.
The OOGACHAGA Quiz Night was a major event for Spectrum Singapore in 2012 as well. Barclays organised a night of fun trivia questions and meaningful networking, all to support OOGACHAGA, a local NGO providing social services for the Singapore LGBT community. The event was well attend and raised a considerable amount of money for an important social cause.
Singapore’s unique legal environment posed a significant challenge to Spectrum organisers early on. Section 377A of the Singapore penal code effectively criminalises homosexual behaviour. Even though Barclays was not violating any law by promoting inclusivity for all in their workplace, many employees, especially LGBT employees who are not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity, were hesitant to join or participate in an LGBT related employee network. Yet in a relatively short time, more and more employees at Barclays have joined network events and are participating. Barclays attributes this success to its focus on education and awareness early on and the overwhelming support from senior leaders in Singapore and the region. Educating employees on the realities of human sexuality and identity and the importance of inclusion to the business was essential in gaining their buy-in and trust. Having senior leaders at Barclays help deliver these messages peaked interest and inspired participation and support.
Barclays has seen a positive impact on corporate culture since Spectrum launched in Singapore in 2011. Employees report that less negative or demeaning comments are being made, whilst at the same time, LGBT issues are being talked about in a more positive light. The launch of the network was a very visible show of support for LGBT inclusion and LGBT employees have begun to open up about their sexual orientation or gender identity with the company.
Although Barclays recognises the importance of building a strong business case for their inclusion efforts, in many ways the bank feels that it has moved beyond the business case. Simply put, Barclays feels that creating inclusive workplaces for LGBT employees, and indeed, all employees, is the right thing to do. The bank strongly believes that the Spectrum network is making tremendous progress in achieving LGBT equality for its employees and clients in Singapore and is proud to support it.
Critical Success Factors
Proactively demonstrate inclusive behaviour to lead employees
Focus on education early-on to gain the buy-in and trust of employees
Allocate senior leader time and financial resources
Create a strong link between the company’s objectives and inclusion efforts
- LGBT inclusive workplaces article "Barclays, Spectrum Singapore" by Kevin Burns, 2013:.