Bringing Diversity to China’s Workplaces, One Voice at a Time

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08/31/2020

As Anna remembers it, there were a dozen women standing outside the ladies’ room, barring one of her fellow tutors from going in. The reason? She looked like a boy. “They were whispering that she was ‘neither male nor female,’” recalled Anna — to protect the identities of my interviewees, I have given them all pseudonyms. A 34-year-old early education tutor in Beijing and a lesbian, Anna stepped forward, grasped her colleague’s hand tightly, and silently led her through the crowd. Her colleagues, aware of Anna’s reputation for taking firm stances on LGBT issues, quietly let them past. In recent years, workplaces across China have started adopting new, more inclusive diversity policies that better protect sexual minorities. Yet, while these have helped reduce overt discrimination, many LGBT employees remain wary of coming out at work. They thus face a conundrum in how to push boundaries and build a more inclusive workplace without outing themselves in a potentially hostile work environment.

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