Guest opinion: Billings will benefit from being more inclusive of LGBT citizens

2014-06-08T00:00:00Z Guest opinion: Billings will benefit from being more inclusive of LGBT citizensBy WALT DONGES The Billings Gazette
June 08, 2014 12:00 am  • 

In December 2013 the Billings Human Relations Commission approached the City Council and recommended a review of the BHRC language and Billings city employee Equal Employment Opportunity statement language. In January 2014, the commission presented suggested language for the City Council’s consideration. Our goal is to help present Billings become a culturally diverse city to attract businesses and citizens for economic growth.

The BHRC was born out of Not In Our Town in the mid-1990s. The BHRC’s mission is to serve the underserved, report to City Council, and recommend actions after verifying shortfalls in representation. The BHRC has verified a shortfall; it deals with the LGBT community, our business culture and our future as a community.

Constant competition

Cities are in constant competition for business, residents, and employers. Cities that have significant and vibrant gay and lesbian communities have higher levels of income, life satisfaction, housing values, and emotional attachments to their community as well as higher concentrations of high-tech businesses. Research also shows that when a culture of diversity is created, individuals who are highly educated, skilled and talented are attracted to the community. As the culture of inclusiveness increases, its citizens feel safer, more productive and more engaged with the city government, their neighbors and their neighborhood. Potential employees now view location as an important factor when accepting a job.

Businesses are drawn to this type of city as a pool of highly talented, organized, and confident workers are readily available. By recruiting from a diverse pool, a company selects from more qualified applicants and is more likely to hire the best and the brightest. When companies pick employees from an already culturally diverse community, the employee is more secure, exhibits greater loyalty, and is more productive overall.

A corporation’s biggest investment is in its employees in salaries, benefits, training, development and recruitment. Training new workers is costly and becomes wasteful if employees are leaving or being fired for reasons that have nothing to do with job performance.

Businesses have learned that they can draw upon a community’s diversity to strengthen their bottom line. By bringing together individuals from different backgrounds and experiences, businesses can more effectively market to consumers from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, women, and gay or transgender consumers.

Diversity pays off

Diversity fosters a more creative and innovative workforce. Bringing together workers with different qualifications, backgrounds, and experiences are all key to effective problem-solving on the job. In a 2011 Forbes survey of 321 large global enterprises (each with at least $500 million in annual revenue), 85 percent agreed or strongly agreed that diversity is crucial to fostering innovation in the workplace. Diversity leads to better business decision making. Diversity is critical to ensuring business viability into the future.

Cities and municipalities are adapting to be competitive in the economic market. Census data tell us that by 2050 there will be no racial or ethnic majority in our country. Our economy and our community will grow and benefit from these changing demographics if community and business leaders commit to meeting the needs of diverse communities for workers and consumers.

The BHRC supports and recommends the City Council develop and implement a fully inclusive non-discrimination ordinance and continue their multi-year march to make Billings Montana a truly Magic City.

Walt Donges chairs the Billings Human Relations Commission and writes on behalf of the commission.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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