Updated: Jun 15
Workplace safety and inclusivity can play a big role in empowering the queer community.
It is no secret that people who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community are prone to heighten social, financial and political problems. One of the main problems faced by them is the lack of inclusivity and difficulty in workplaces. LGBTQ people experience a range of issues from isolation, discrimination, underrepresentation and increased difficulty in the hiring process. Fear of homophobia, exclusion, and being passed over for promotions and job interviews are still very real for many LGBT people. The opportunities are endless for any business that wants to promote diversity, but change will not come overnight. This pride month, let’s take a look at how workplaces can be safe places for their queer employees.
Let’s look at how employers and employees can benefit from more safe and inclusive spaces:
A diverse & accepting community for all employees
Increase in employee motivation, productivity and morale
Builds a progressive, diverse image of the brand
Increased clientele due to the ethical and inclusive reputation
Improves employee and employer relationships
Increased organizational flexibility and ability to learn from people on all levels
Here are a few steps that businesses can take to ensure that the workplace is safe and healthy for queer employees-
1) Changes in Everyday Practices
The challenge companies face is assimilating people from various backgrounds and gender identities to feel included in the overall company culture. Small behaviour and language changes such as gender-coded language can help diverse individuals feel more included. Education is key, as is the desire to embrace people for who they are, not who they love. Organizing seminars, lectures and events that highlight such practices is key to ensuring that this practice of inclusion is understood by everyone in the company.
2) Policies That Take Discrimination Seriously
Employers should make it a priority to revisit and update their policies to be more inclusive to their LGBTQ+ employees. In addition to their policies, they should consider implementing diversity or pride days dedicated to celebrating employee differences. The same goes for other employees who are not respectful of these policies and the repercussions that will follow. It’s crucial employees understand that discrimination, harassment, bullying, intimidation, etc. will not be tolerated.
An example of this can be, If an employee is transitioning, consider offering a coach or appointing an individual as a means of support. This individual will be there to assist and listen to the transitioning employee. Moreover, companies might want to update their current medical plans and sick leave policy to include transitioning employees.
3) Revisit the hiring process
The current recruiting strategy should be revisited to ensure LGBTQ applicants aren’t excluded. Evaluate the current language used in job descriptions and replace any gender-coded terms with neutral language. Normalizing gender-neutral terms, so as to make queer applicants and employees more comfortable is key. Understanding the concept of pronoun preferences, how to address a transgender person or a person during their transition and queer terms should be mandated practices. For example, instead of using the term “ladies and gentlemen”, switch to “respected employees". Or, provide an option for people to include their preferred pronouns.
4) Support and Assistance for LGBTQ employees
Mentoring, employee networking groups, seminars, and conferences all go a long way in becoming a more inclusive place to work for LGBT employees. Training on LGBTQ inclusion should not be a once-and-done event. At the least, it should be required for all new hires as well as on an annual basis. You can also support employees with measures such as climate surveys, LGBTQ competency training, and employee resource groups (ERG). When conducting annual discrimination and sexual harassment training, companies should include training on LGBTQ.
Small steps to ensure inclusion, eradicate discrimination and promote support for the LGBTQ community can go a long way. A company that can pledge its support to employees irrespective of their skin colour, gender or sexuality stands to benefit hugely; firstly, by creating a sense of empowerment among employees and secondly by setting an industry standard that can pave the way for change across society.
(Also Read: Sustainability is a club, and you’re not invited.)
Kurter, H. (2020). Here Are 4 Ways Companies Can Make Workplaces More LGBTQ Inclusive. https://www.forbes.com/sites/heidilynnekurter/2020/10/18/here-are-4-ways-companies-can-make-workplaces-more-lgbtq-inclusive/?sh=1faf310062a3
Ellsworth, D., Mendy, A., & Sullivan, G. (2020). How the LGBTQ+ community fares in the workplace. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/how-the-lgbtq-plus-community-fares-in-the-workplace
Qvist, B. (2014). Challenges for LGBT people in the workplace and how to overcome them. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/lgbt-employees-discrimination-in-the-workplace-talkpoint
10 Ways to Support LGBT Employees. (2020).