Pride month is a time of celebration and remembrance. We celebrate the progress that has been made and remember those who were brave enough to begin the conversation of inclusion. Pride month is more than just parades and celebrations, it is about inclusion. The pride movement has allowed many of us in the LGBTQI+ community to come out of hiding and be our authentic selves at work. It’s a celebration of embracing one another in acceptance and love.
LGBTQ inclusion requires more than just openly celebrating Pride. With the recent Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade, many of us who identify as LGBTQ are concerned with the implications on the progress we have made to be seen as equal under the law. The safety we once felt has been shaken to the core as we wait to see what other infringements on privacy law makers intend to address with this reversal of precedent. Now is the time for employees to feel safe in their workplace more than ever.
Pride month is usually celebrated by companies “supporting” the community by changing their logo or marketing campaigns around the LGBTQI+ community. While these are welcomed, it’s time companies begin putting action behind their campaigns and avoid simply “rainbow washing” their efforts.
Several recent reports indicate that LGBTQ workers look at a company’s track record of equality and inclusion when considering a job. For example, a series of studies by HR consulting firm Veris Insights found that:
- Nearly 70 percent of LGBTQ women and 60 percent of LGBTQ men have disengaged with an employer due to perceived lack of representation in the workplace.
- 80 percent of LGBTQ candidates said perception of “an inclusive and equitable workplace” is highly important to the decision to accept a job offer.
- 44 percent of LGBTQ candidates have felt that an employer was primarily interested in recruiting them to achieve diversity hiring goals.
- 86 percent of LGBTQ students find it important to feel comfortable being out at work.
- 52% – the percentage of LGBTQ people who’ve experienced depression recently.
- 1 in 8 – the number of LGBTQ people who have experienced unequal treatment in the workplace.
Jobs site Indeed conducted a survey of about 1,000 full-time professionals who identify as members of the LGBTQ community to better understand their current workplace experiences. According to the findings:
- 87 percent of survey respondents said they researched their company prior to applying to ensure it was LGBTQ-friendly.
- 71 percent said they checked the company’s social media accounts to make sure they were LGBTQ-friendly.
- 61 percent said they spoke to current and/or former employees.
- 45 percent reported that they checked employee benefits to ensure they were inclusive.
- 30 percent said they researched company leadership to gauge sentiment and inclusion.
- 24 percent reported they checked the company’s profile and/or mission to ensure their values aligned with their own.
Employers can show they are a safe place for LGBTQ employees by celebrating and elevating diverse voices within their organization. Here are a couple of ideas:
Highlighting and enforcing pro-LGBTQ and pro-inclusion company policies and attitudes.
Most companies have updated their policies to be more inclusive but it shouldn’t stop there. Company policies should clarify what is acceptable and what is not, and set out clear guidelines for conversations in the workplace. Managers should talk to employees about which types of behaviors are professional and appropriate at work.
After creating inclusive anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, educate managers and employees about these policies, then enforce these policies when they are violated. Policies regarding employment discrimination should include a designated person employees can go to for questions and complaints, a statement saying employees will not be punished for reporting discrimination, and confirmation that their reports will be kept confidential.
You may think this is overkill but there is still rampant discrimination and non-inclusive behavior in the workplace. According to the Williams Institute survey of private-sector public and private employees, more than 45% of employees (both LGBT and non-LGBT) reported hearing anti-LGBT remarks at the workplace.2 A 2018 study from the Human Rights Campaign found that 46% of LGBTQ workers nationwide did not disclose their sexual orientation at work, and 18% reported being made an inappropriate comment by a co-worker because the co-worker thought their sexual orientation or gender identity made it OK.
Create and Engage LGBTQ employee resource groups (ERG)
Sometimes called affinity groups or corporate networks, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are designed to promote inclusiveness in the workplace by creating spaces where employees with shared interests or affinity support each other and promote awareness. As an example, Oracle Pride employee networks are available to employees for networking events, online groups for connecting, creating business opportunities, and organizing company events to raise awareness about issues within the LGBTQ community. The Gap LGBTQ Employee Resource Group, GEAR, is designed to support employees in everything from organizing their own pride marches, providing resources to gay couples.
Groups exist to offer support and assistance with personal or professional development, and create a safe space for employees to bring their whole selves to the table. Give them a space to share any experiences with bias or discrimination that they might have had on your team, or to solicit suggestions for ways you could make the workplace more inclusive of different communities. Educate or remind employees how to talk with each other in an appropriate manner, using appropriate terminology, and following boundaries, and ensure that they understand behaviors that will not be tolerated.
Initiating and protecting health benefits relevant to the LGBTQ community
All people, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ), need access to sexual and reproductive health care. LGBTQ people are often left without comprehensive sexual health consultations, screenings, or treatment because providers assume that they do not need specific services or information. Experienced discrimination increases a LGBTQ person’s risk for developing mental health conditions or substance use disorders, and it also further hinders LGBTQ individuals ability to access needed treatment.
When employers provide equal access to critical benefits such as health insurance or disability coverage, they can help to increase access and outcomes for the LGBTQ community as a whole, helping to create a more equitable world. Employers would be wise to make sure that their health benefits offer coverage that helps address the needs of all employees, including transgender employees who might require hormone treatment or other gender-affirming treatments.
I can attest to the need for a safe working environment as a member of the community. I am not one to become overly reactive to politics but I will confess Friday’s decision shook me. So if you are reading this post, I have two challenges.
First, to leaders of organizations. It’s important that we who are leaders in our companies initiate and facilitate. We should initiate and facilitate conversations about LGBT inclusion in our organizations. We should also be the first to call out discrimination and noninclusive behavior. We should be the first to welcome any team member to bring their whole self to work without fear of judgment.
My challenge to you is to help us continue the hard conversations and lead by example, our team members look to us to set the example.
To my fellow members of the LGBT community, I’d like to challenge you to remember that Love Wins. When questions are asked about your lifestyle or the community, remember, regardless of tone or context, the question is the beginning of a conversation. Try not to shut down and hide and adversely, be sure not to take on a condemning tone. See it as an opportunity to help others better understand you and our community. If we take the opportunity to help others grow, Love truly Wins.
and Sprint Recruiting
I joined the HR industry in 2004 after working as a sales leader in the Financial Services Industry for eight years. After spending his first couple of years in HR trying to fit in, I found my voice. Now I leverage all of the things I once hated about HR to become a consultant and invaluable partner to the businesses I support. I contribute to the HRGazzette and to DataDrivenInvestor on Medium. WARNING: my writing style is raw and in your face, not what you would expect from an HR executive.
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