LGBTQ+ at work
Let’s start with some telling facts. In research from Deloitte, McKinsey and Stonewall, LGBTQ+ people shared experiences such as:
- Microaggressions Getting negative comments at work.
- Opportunities Feeling limited in job opportunities.
- Authenticity Hiding who they are at work.
- Health Feeling uncomfortable talking about their mental health issues.
- Hybrid Feeling more left out and less connected in a hybrid environment.
- Allyship Having allies and an employee resource group (ERG) helps to be out.
To start with the basics: What does LGBTQ+ identity stand for?
(Some people add QIP2SA Questioning, Intersex, Pansexual, Two-Spirited and Asexual.)
- Lesbian Individual who identifies as female and who is attracted only to people of the same gender.
- Gay Individual who identifies as male and is only attracted to people of the same gender. However, lesbians are sometimes also referred to as gay.
- Bisexual Indicates an attraction to both males and females.
- Transgender A person’s gender identity is different from the one assigned at birth.
- Queer Umbrella term for anyone who is not heterosexual.
- Plus All gender identities and sexual orientations not specifically covered by the other five initials.
Since my coming out when I was 20, at work, I’ve always felt safe and secure enough to share that I’m lesbian. It took me some time to get there though and I can relate to several of the experiences I shared earlier.
- Microaggressions I’ve had colleagues who shared with me that, because of their religion, they couldn’t accept LGBTQ+ people.
- Opportunities By mentioning my LGBTQ+ volunteer work in my resume, I’ve always been out from the start. Has this led to people not inviting me to a job interview? Possibly.
- Authenticity ‘If not me, then who?’ led to me always being open about having a female partner (unless I am in a country where I know I am at risk). Throughout my career, people have approached me to talk about their coming out, their struggles since coming out and to get ideas on how to help an LGBTQ+ family member or friend.
- Allyship ‘I know a woman who is also a lesbian!’ is not necessarily the best way to show you’re an ally… but I’ve certainly experienced support from colleagues who clearly stated being LGBTQ+ supportive.
I realise I’ve been lucky to have worked in fairly LGBTQ+ tolerant parts of the world. Some of us are not that lucky. I have recently held calls with leads of LGBTQ+ ERGs of international companies and heard stories that gave me goosebumps. They shared experiences of LGBTQ+ microaggressions being made. The comments were so transgressive that they led to the firing of colleagues. Several people shared that while this had made them feel extremely unsafe, these feelings ultimately drove them to start an LGBTQ+ ERG.
Business relevance LGBTQ+ supportive workplace
Research has shown that an LGBTQ+ supportive workplace has an instant effect on market share, innovation, productivity, retention, talent attraction and costs.
- Higher market share It’s worthwhile for organisations to implement diversity and inclusion policies for LGBTQ+ staff because of the market share the LGBTQ+ consumers hold. LGBTQ+ consumers have switched products or services because a different organisation supported the LGBTQ+ community, even if that brand was more expensive or less convenient. Also, the number of same-sex households and their buying power is rising.
- More innovation Teams with members whose sexual orientation matches the target consumers are likelier to understand that market. LGBTQ+ inclusive companies tend to have more LGBTQ+ employees, including their insights to drive market innovation.
- Increased productivity LGBTQ+ employees who feel the need to hide their identity in the workplace have more stress causing health issues and work-related complaints. LGBTQ+ employees and allies at LGBTQ+ positive companies are more likely to go the extra mile.
- Better employee retention Organisations without an LGBTQ+ friendly environment are suffering a higher turnover rate.
- More talent attraction Straight Gen-Z and millennial employees care more about inclusion and are more likely to advocate for it than previous generations.
- Lower costs Inclusive employers will have lower legal costs related to discrimination lawsuits as well as lower health insurance costs.
Creation of an LGBTQ+ positive workplace
Creating a more LGBTQ+ friendly work environment requires effort. Due to the fact that some countries criminalise everything that does not conform to heterosexual norms, the possibilities may differ. Here are 6 examples:
- Developing policies Implement policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression e.g. offering inclusive healthcare benefits, parental leave and pensions and establishing guidelines for using inclusive language.
- Reviewing practices Review and update your hiring, promotion and retention practices when necessary to ensure they are inclusive. Homogenous groups are more likely to hire candidates they have an affinity for.
- Offering support Set up an ERG, a mentoring program or other support services. An ERG provides LGBTQ+ employees and their allies a safe space within their place of work to meet and talk.
- Conducting surveys Surveying your current employees and potential candidates can help you uncover areas where your efforts are succeeding and where you have room to improve.
- Offering training Offer training to employees on LGBTQ+ issues, including e.g. how to address harassment and create a welcoming environment. This will help ensure your policies are heard and understood across the organisation.
- Fostering culture Create a culture that values diversity and promotes this, for example by celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month, Pride Month or Transgender Day of Visibility and creating unisex toilets. Celebrations will greatly boost LGBTQ+ awareness and inclusion throughout the year.
Getting LGBTQ+ applicants
Once you have created an LGBTQ+ positive workplace, you will want LGBTQ+ job seekers to apply for jobs at your organisation. Here are 6 examples of steps that can make this happen:
- Showing commitment Emphasise your organisation’s commitment to creating a supportive work environment for LGBTQ+ people in your mission statement and on your career site. Some great ways to “show your pride” include celebrating Pride Month and having an LGBTQ+ ERG.
- Using inclusive language Use gender-neutral language (“they”) in your job postings and include a statement that welcomes LGBTQ+ individuals.
- Posting on job boards Try going beyond your existing network e.g. by searching for (online) LGBTQ+ communities and organisations that have job boards or career events. Connect with those who will be joining the professional workforce in the near future by reaching out to LGBTQ+ student groups.
- Attending events Participating in LGBTQ+ job fairs and events can help you connect with potential candidates and showcase your organisation’s commitment.
- Creating referral schemes An employee referral scheme can be a strong recruitment source.
- Supporting partners Partnering with local LGBTQ+ organisations and supporting LGBTQ+ causes, charities or community centres can help you build relationships with potential candidates.
Having inclusion strategies in place for LGBTQ+ staff makes sense from a business perspective as well as an ethical standpoint. There are clear benefits for companies that get it right. Leaders around the globe are recognising more and more that when they stand up for LGBTQ+ people — including their own employees, clients and consumers — they promote justice while also serving their organisation.
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