Happy (belated) Pride month! Given that up until last week more than half of U.S. states provided no official employment protection for workers on the basis of LGBTQ+ identity, it’s critical that we follow that victory with concrete steps towards making our workplaces truly inclusive for all employees. There are so many different identities and lived experiences within the LGBTQ+ community though; how do you ensure you’re supporting and meeting everyone’s needs? We’ve outlined some of the issues you should consider in this post.
The fight for LGBTQ+ rights has been advanced by leaps and bounds in recent decades, from the long but ultimately victorious fight for marriage equality to the aforementioned Supreme Court decision that finally afforded LGBTQ+ employees equal protection under the law. While these are undoubtedly extremely important steps, there is still a great deal of work to be done. The current administration has rolled back a number of protections and rights for transgender people, and as of 2019, 16 states still had anti-sodomy laws on the books.
While there are obviously still a number of structural barriers preventing equal access and opportunity for LGBTQ+ folx, there is nothing preventing most companies from building a more inclusive environment and championing LGBTQ+ employees. In order to do so, organizations must consciously build LGBTQ+ inclusion into all aspects of the business across policy, training, and culture. From adding preferred pronouns to email signatures and company profiles, to allocating resources towards increasing the number of LGBTQ+ hires, there are myriad ways to advance inclusion and improve the workplace for LGBTQ+ employees.
On the policy front, one of the key steps you can take is to articulate clear guidelines around harassment and discrimination specific to LGBTQ+ folx. While a blanket policy might be sufficient to meet the needs of many of your employees, in the absence of LGBTQ+-specific guidelines, it can be easy for valid claims to be disputed and for LGBTQ+ employees to be denied the support and protection a truly inclusive workplace should provide. Be explicit about what anti-LGBTQ+ behaviors, language, etc. will not be tolerated, and provide well-defined processes for employees to lodge a complaint. It should go without saying, but it is imperative that you then follow up on complaints swiftly, transparently, and with the discretion required to respect the harmed employees’ wishes.
Another key step towards making your workplace more inclusive and welcoming for LGBTQ+ folx is to ensure that your benefits package includes programs and services tailored to LGBTQ+ lifestyles. Offering healthcare that provides choice of physicians, mental health services, transition support, etc. is imperative if you want to back up your words with action. Family planning and reproductive care should be inclusive of all gender identities and family structures, and life insurance must account for the same. If you’re unsure of whether your current benefits package is meeting the needs of your LGBTQ+ employees, simply ask them. Invite them to identify gaps in your benefits plan, then take steps to fill them. More so than changing your company logo to feature a rainbow theme during Pride Month, ensuring that your LGBTQ+ employees are safe and healthy will truly contribute towards building a more inclusive workplace.
In addition to policy changes, your culture must also be supportive of LGBTQ+ team members. Offer opportunities for employees to learn about the many identities and individuals who comprise the LGBTQ+ community. Ensure that everyone knows that LGBTQ+ discrimination will not be tolerated. Highlight the many talents and successes of your LGBTQ+ employees through employee spotlights on your website, or panel events where they can share their experiences. Implement targeted LGBTQ+ hiring initiatives to increase representation within your company. Identify LGBTQ+ professional organizations and nonprofits in your city and support them whether through donations, volunteering, promotion, or other means. Create an employee resource group to build awareness of LGBTQ+ issues within your organization and provide a space for your LGBTQ+ employees to connect and collaborate.
No matter what you do, start by listening and learning. Make sure you understand the challenges that LGBTQ+ employees face at your company and in the workplace in general so that you can respond in a way that is sensitive, supportive, and effective. If you’d like a partner as you strive to build a more inclusive workplace, don’t hesitate to give us a shout at email@example.com. Whether it’s help with standing up an LGBTQ+ employee resource group, or connecting you to consultants who can assist with other needs, Workrowd is here to help ensure that every organization can work towards greater inclusion for all employees in a way that’s both compassionate and data-driven. Let us know how we can support.