Consultancy firm Accenture was named Ireland's best workplace for LGBT equality at an awards ceremony in Dublin on Tuesday.
The multinational company beat Ernst & Young and Microsoft - which were second- and third-placed respectively - to claim the accolade for the first time.
The Workplace Equality Index 2016 Awards in the Radisson Blu Hotel was hosted by 2014 Rose of Tralee winner Maria Walsh.
Ms Walsh, who is openly gay, handed out 16 trophies in recognition of the achievements of companies and individuals based on the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen) workplace equality index for 2016.
Speaking afterwards, Accenture’s LGBT network lead Peter O’Reilly said his employer had made a concerted effort to encourage LGBT inclusiveness by facilitating social events, an LGBT allies programme and the wearing of rainbow lanyards as a sign of solidarity.
Mr O’Reilly told the audience at the ceremony that he originally turned down an offer of employment from Accenture 15 years ago because at the time he did not consider it to be an LGBT-friendly workplace, before being convinced otherwise.
He encouraged companies to advertise their positive attitudes towards inclusiveness in order to attract employees from diverse backgrounds.
“I think it’s very important for companies to get out in front of it. The index is a very easy way for companies to start to have these conversations,” he said.
The event also heard personal testimony from IDA chief executive Martin Shanahan, who spoke candidly about his own experience of being gay in the workplace.
“I have never hidden my sexual orientation in my working life, nor have I advertised it more or less than my heterosexual colleagues.
“I do not believe that it should be remarkable that I’m gay because of where I work or the post I hold.
“I would like to see a situation where everyone’s sexual orientation in the workplace is unremarkable in a work context,” he said.
Mr Shanahan also defended the stance he took when encouraging a “Yes” vote in last year’s same-sex marriage referendum.
He said his comments about sending out the right message to the international business community by voting for marriage equality had been borne out by the positive feedback from multinationals since the referendum.
"I was asked a question during the referendum, I answered it honestly, [saying] that I felt that the 'Yes' vote would be positive for Ireland in terms of sending out a message that Ireland is an inclusive place where we value diversity.
“I absolutely believe that, and the ‘Yes’ vote has been very positive.
“The sentiment from multinational investors is clear. You can see there are quite a number of IDA-supported companies that are backing this initiative . . . You can never discern or disaggregate why exactly companies invest, but sending out a positive message certainly helps,” he told The Irish Times.
Elsewhere, Ernst & Young’s Catherine Vaughan was named senior leader of the year, Dena Y Lawrence of Microsoft was named the LGBT role model of the year and Alice Tolan of Eir was named LGBT ally of the year.
Trinity College Dublin was named public sector employer of the year, Enterprise Rent-a-Car was SME employer of the year and LinkedIn's Out@In was chosen as employee network of the year.
Glen’s workplace index takes into account factors relevant to LGBT inclusiveness, such as leadership, policies and visibility, when compiling the annual rankings.
“These organisations and leaders are playing an integral role in creating a business culture in Ireland that values the skills, ideas and creativity that LGBT people bring to the workplace,” said Glen co-chair Kieran Rose.