LGBTQ+ Inclusion at Work

LGBTQ+ Inclusion at Work
LGBTQ+ Inclusion at Work

Diversity and inclusivity are vital aspects of workplace culture that not only improves the lives of people in the organisation but has a strong business case too. However, one area of diversity and inclusion that many organisations are falling behind with is focusing on LGBTQ+ inclusivity at work.

The recent Deloitte Global 2023 LGBT+ Inclusion @ Work report highlights the following findings:

  • One-third of respondents are looking to move to a more LGBT+ inclusive employer, a figure that is even higher for those in an ethnic minority.
  • When it comes to choosing their new employer, what matters most to respondents is seeing a diverse workforce—with this being a deciding factor for nearly seven in 10.
  • Diversity and LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace are particularly important for younger generations. Gen Z and millennial respondents are far more likely than their Gen X counterparts to place an emphasis on diversity and inclusion when seeking a new employer.
  • Being out at work is important for many, yet less than half are out with all colleagues. The majority (six in 10) of respondents believe it is important to be able to be out at work about their sexual orientation.
  • Concerns about being treated differently keep many from being out at work, while other factors, including concern for personal safety, play a role. Nearly two in 10 cite concerns for personal safety.
  • Comfort to be out at work increases with seniority. This is most pronounced when it comes to sexual orientation—just over half (51%) of those in senior roles are comfortable being out at work, compared to just over a third (37%) of junior employees.
  • Non-inclusive behaviours are being experienced at work— and many say they are certain it is a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Four in 10 respondents (42%) have experienced non-inclusive behaviours in a work context and just less than half say they are certain they experienced them as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity, with a further 37% saying they strongly suspect this to be the reason.

These statistics are helping organisations to realise that they need to do more to ensure every employee feels safe, supported, understood and accepted.

Creating LGBTQ+ Inclusion in the Workplace

Review Existing Policies

Before setting out new policies for diversity and inclusion, start by reviewing the existing policies. This review can make sure that language is inclusive, for example, removing gendered language such as ‘mother’ and replacing this with the term parent, guardian, or carer.

As well as reviewing existing policies for gendered language, it is worth reflecting on the policies already in place. Many organisations focus on including policies that serve a large proportion of the workforce. However, this approach can make the minorities in your workforce feel excluded. Consequently, there may be amendments you can make to include those that may feel like they’re in the minority in your organisation.

Another crucial update in your policies is to ensure that discrimination, harassment and anti-inclusive behaviour will not be tolerated. The policy can also stipulate the steps that the organisation will take if there is a breach of policy

Use Inclusivity to Create Community

Networks within your organisation can help to increase employee engagement and retention. When organisations make progressive steps and take bigger steps in promoting allyship, they create a company-wide culture of inclusivity. By creating communities and opportunities for participation, you show that it is something that everyone can enjoy and doesn’t require individuals to ‘out’ themselves to feel included in an LGBTQ+ network.

To grow a community feel within an organisation requires support and inclusion at every level. It can help for leaders (and senior members) to be instrumental in creating aims and responsibilities for building the community.

Education and Regular Training

Many people do not realise the persecution and threats to safety that can affect LGBTQ+ individuals. Whether in or out of the workplace, there are significant risks that LGBTQ+ people face. Creating a compassionate and understanding workforce can help LGTBQ+ employees feel safe at work, but education so that all employees understand the risks that are still present can help to build awareness and allyship.

Having specific inclusivity workshops or language reviews can also be useful to show the commitment to seeking expert and external views. It may also be useful to work with consultants who identify in different groups to ensure the organisation has considered every perspective. It is important not to rely on minoritised employees to be the spokesperson but allow them to share their knowledge if they feel comfortable doing so.

Encouraging conversations and resource sharing can help to build insights and knowledge. This can create a safe space in the organisation for people to raise concerns, be able to ask questions and encourage positive and constructive conversations and ideas on how to increase inclusivity.

Remember that education is not a one-off event for inclusivity; it serves as an ongoing practice.

Make Wellbeing a Priority

Wellbeing can be lower for LGBTQ+ employees. These employees are less likely to say that their work positively impacts their health compared to heterosexual workers. As a result, monitoring wellbeing can be an important aspect of the organisation’s inclusivity work.

Having wellbeing support and training can help all staff who may face stress and anxiety, but it is crucial to ensure your wellbeing offering is appropriate and supportive to many different employee groups.

Create a Style Guide

Language can be powerful in making people feel included or excluded. Organisations can help build inclusivity at every step by creating a guide of inclusive terms that feel on-brand for the organisation. For greater inclusivity, you may want to poll your team on the terms they feel most comfortable with so they feel empowered and included rather than stigmatised or alienated.

Another aspect of the style guide could be the support with pronoun normalisation. Employees that feel comfortable adding their pronouns to email footers and bylines can help to show respect for identity. However, it is important to recognise that this respect runs both ways, and there may be people that do not feel comfortable sharing their pronouns.

Avoid Tokenism

Inclusivity is not just for Pride month, yet some organisations will only focus on LGBTQ+ support during Pride. Employees (and customers) will quickly see the difference between organisations that embody inclusivity and those that only use Pride as a marketing strategy.

Tokenism can be especially damaging to those who feel welcome initially and then realise they may be in harmful environments if the organisation doesn’t have a fully inclusive set-up.

Again, a clear organisational policy which is actively used and adjusted can be the starting point from which year-round inclusivity events and support can flourish.

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