BIG BUSINESS COURTS QUEER STUDENTS

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By Jesse Trautmann

One of the world’s biggest companies wants you, especially if you’re queer.

Procter and Gamble, the largest consumer packaged goods company in the world, invited lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) Ryerson students to its annual career info session last week.

“We want to be not only the largest but also the fastest-growing company, and to do that you need diversity,” said Tim Penner, President of P&G Canada.

“For the queer community that’s been marginalized for so long, this is an important step,” said Lali, third-year sociology student and RyePRIDE events co-ordinator.

“I think it’s important that P&G’s doing this,” he added.

RyePRIDE received an invitation to the cocktail meet-and-greet from David Hutchison, co-chair of GABLE, the queer network within P&G that supports and advocates for LGBT employees. The e-mail read “specifically, we want to attract LGBT students to the company.” The event was held at Voglie, a bar at Church and Wellesley Streets.

The goal of the recruitment and info session, Hutchison said, was to inform LGBT students of the company’s inclusive, queer-positive workplace environment.

For Robert Klienman, a law student at the University of Toronto who attended the meeting, a workplace environment that embraces gays and lesbians is essential.

“I would be ‘out’ right from the interview,” he said. “I have my work as an executive of U of T’s gay group on my resume. I will find a job where I won’t have to hide my sexuality.”

Students in the queer communities at U of T and York also received the invite.

P&G is hiring for a variety of full-time and summer internship jobs, which include positions in marketing, sales, human resources, finance and IT.

“I always get positive feedback from executives about the talent calibre from Ryerson and different schools,” Huchinson said.

“A transsexual can’t just walk up and get a job anywhere. He or she will often be discriminated against,” Lali said.

He added that he might have been a teacher if it weren’t for enduring prejudices among parents about gender roles.

P&G-style recruitment is extremely rare because “people don’t think we’re disadvantaged,” Lali added.

He also said that P&G organized the event because they happen to have a “huge queer segment” within the company that wants to “give back” to the queer community.

P&G Canada, the company that brings you Crest, Tide and Gillette, has offered same-sex partner benefits since 2001.

Spouses of queer employees are entitled to the same medical, dental and life insurance perks that partners of heterosexual employees get. They also get the same adoption leave offered to the company’s straight workers.

Proctor and Gamble isn’t the only large company tapping into the pool of LGBT students as a fresh resource.

Earlier this month both IBM and McKinsey & Company, a consulting firm, held meet-and-greet events in Toronto advocating workplace diversity and encouraging students to network with IBM employees, including “out” executives.

Straight and same-sex couples have enjoyed the same legal status in Canada since 2000, when the government legislated equal benefits.

For example, if a company’s spousal insurance plan is only extended to opposite-sex partners, it is illegal and discriminatory, said Ryan Sequeira of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, spousal benefits including leaves and insurance must be guaranteed equally to all employees, regardless of sexual orientation.

“Many companies don’t know their responsibilities,” he said, adding that few firms actually honour their legal obligations.

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