Challenging our established norms is never easy, especially in the workplace. In many offices, LGBTQ+ staff finds themselves on the periphery of the group with coworkers and colleagues. According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, 46% of LGBTQ+ workers are closeted at work. Additionally, 59% of non-LGBTQ+ workers claim that it is unprofessional to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace. This shows that those outside of the heteronormative culture in many offices struggle to find authenticity with colleagues. Below are some steps you can take to transform your workplace into an inclusive, inviting, equal space for all employees.
Promoting a safe, equitable work environment for LGBTQ+ employees can be split into three major considerations: policy, culture, and daily inclusion. By adopting a three-pronged approach, you will establish continuous learning and improvement for employees and leadership alike.
The first concerted policy effort you can make company-wide is to include LGBTQ+ protections in your non-discrimination policies. These protections should explicitly protect individuals from all sexual orientations and gender identities. This is an important step to take to promote inclusion within employees. This policy should be included in job announcements, your website, and all hiring materials. By adopting and enforcing LGBTQ+ protections from the moment you enter the public sphere, you reinforce the message that your company is a safe space for all.
Another important step in creating an equality-driven workplace is to create a company culture that celebrates inclusion and belonging. By fostering a sense of authenticity, employees will not have a fear of discrimination while at work. There are many ways this idea can be put into practice. One commonly used practice is the introduction of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). ERGs are groups of volunteer employees with shared identities, life experiences, or special interests. Some examples of ERGs are LGBTQ+, race and/or ethnicity, women, people with disabilities, or veterans. By providing groups where employees are encouraged to show up as their authentic selves, your company is creating a safe space for all groups within your organization.
The last step in this process is establishing a work environment with intentional daily inclusion. There is a myriad of ways to organically include all workers. One important aspect of this step starts in senior leadership. Executive-level employees should make an intentional effort to communicate the company’s values to all employees through their words and actions. Leaders should speak proudly about their workforce and truly mean it. Further, marketing and branding should be reflective of the diversity within employees. Employees should ask themselves, ‘Do I feel represented in my company’s public profile and marketing?’. If the answer is no, there should be a concerted effort to make that change.
In summary, this three-pronged approach to creating an equality-driven organization is a great place to start but is not all-encompassing. Each company should be able to look introspectively and identify areas to improve upon when evaluating its inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community. Below are a few resources to help you determine how to improve your workplace equity.