With only a few days left in June, Corporate America will begin removing all their virtue signaling flare for PRIDE month. And, while these predominant companies have played a vital role in the progress of LGBTQ+ rights, visual support is not enough. Many companies continue to fall short of full inclusion for their LGBTQ+ employees. More than 53% of these employees continue to hide their identity in the workplace due to fear of harassment, discrimination and hostility at work. LGBTQ+ people of color are 20% more likely to experience discrimination compared to their white LGTBQ+ counterparts. Trangender employees are especially vulnerable to discrimination with 27% of those surveyed saying they were not hired, passed over for promotion, or fired due to their gender idenitiy or expression.
Harassment in the workplace for LGBTQ+ employees continues to make the workplace a hostile environment. Offensive jokes based on sexual orientation or gender identity are still common in many workplace environments. LGBTQ+ employees are also still being singled out and the target of bullying behavior from those who disagree with who they love and how they choose to express themselves. Oftentimes, when confronted, their coworkers may try to pass it off as “just having fun,” or claiming it was “just harmless fun.” Allowing this sort of behavior at any level within the organization creates an unsafe work environment for all LGBTQ+ employees. When the values a corporation or business espouses does not match their actual work culture, they have failed to follow through their own company policy of being LGBTQ+ inclusive.
So, then the question becomes, how does a company go about creating an inclusive environment? First and foremost, recruit LGBTQ+ candidates. Advertisements should be clear and welcoming for LGBTQ+ applicants and recruiters should acknowledge and discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) during interviews. New staff should attend DEI discussions and training seminars. Spread LGBTQ+ awareness through social media and other networking platforms like LinkedIn.
Develop LGBTQ+ talent throughout all levels of the organization. Establish mentoring programs to match participants across gender, race, age, and sexual identity. An organization with a diversified workforce across all levels will draw on the talent and different perspectives each employee brings to the company. Not only will this improve the company’s accountability, but it also improves the ability to provide services and resources to diverse audiences and, hopefully, inspire employees to think beyond their own cisgender lived experience.
Promote a zero-tolerance harassment and bullying policy. Make it clear that employees will be disciplined or fired for going against it. Encourage and protect victims and those who have witnessed inappropriate workplace behaviors to come forward and report it. Bring in LBGTQ+ DEI consultants to hold seminars for employees. Their voices are the only ones that should be elevated when providing training and seminars on how to be more inclusive.
Consult with or hire an LGBTQ+ DEI consultant on how to identify areas for action and improvement within your organization. Make sure to not only highlight the company’s areas of strength, but recognize areas of weakness with room for improvement. Review the appropriateness and language of all internal policies. Make room for and recognize non-traditional families, create a more inclusive dress code that avoids gender stereotyping, and review internal communication for language and imagery that draws solely on heteronormative families and relationships. Go a step beyond to openly acknowledge traditional practices and policies that are no longer inclusive. A big part of embracing DEI is admitting mistakes, honestly displaying empathy, and the willingness to change for the better.
Provide workshops and training to educate employees. It is not up to the LGBTQ+ employee to educate their coworkers how to be more inclusive. These workshops should not be considered a one and done event. With new research and understanding of DEI, comes more information to be presented and shared. This will keep the topic close to everyone’s mind as an active reminder that they work at an inclusive workplace. Encourage employees to participate in PRIDE events to show allyship towards their LGTBQ+ colleagues, too.
Furthermore, companies that wish to truly embrace LGBTQ+ friendly work cultures should also consider separating from clients who promote anti-LGBTQ+ agendas. This sort of move will not come easily and will have some financial fallout associated with it; however, in the long run should lead to more opportunities and financial recovery. Consider donating towards organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project, and Trans Lifeline.
Remember, regardless of what policies a company implements, if they lack the follow through to recruit, hire, and promote LGBTQ+ employees then they have failed to truly embrace LGBTQ+ inclusivity. To truly embrace this new workplace culture, it must start from the head of the company through actions and words. The company needs to continuously communicate and seek out feedback from their LGBTQ+ employees and hire LGBTQ+ DEI consultants.
For more information, please check out the websites listed below:
HRC Glossary of Terms
A New LGBTQ Workforce Has Arrived
Trans Women of Color Collective
Transgender Law Center
Trans Justice Funding Project
Bisexual Resource Center
Trans Youth Equality Foundation