As we head into Pride celebrations, many employers are motivated to reflect on their own journey towards a more diverse and inclusive workforce and their support of the LGBTQ2+ community.
Positive attitudes towards the LGBTQ2+ community have increased over the past decades. The celebratory tone of present-day Pride parades draws support from diverse communities, organizations, and allies. However, almost 30% of LGBTQ2+ identified respondents in an In & Out study, reported experiencing discrimination in Canadian workplaces as opposed to only 2.9% of the general population. This fact may be contributing to why many LGBTQ2+ identifying people choose not to come out to their work colleagues.
The inability to be one’s authentic self is a major obstacle in creating a sense of belonging in the workplace. Studies suggest that when employees feel that they need to hide fundamental aspects of their identity they are not able to do their best work. However, comfort with being out at work has been linked to greater psychological safety, improved sense of empowerment, and greater confidence in taking creative risks. Having an inclusive workplace in Canada, where LGBTQ2+ employees feel respected as productive and valuable members of the team has also been correlated to a positive increase in productivity (up to a 22% increase according to one study).
Creating an LGBTQ2+ inclusive workplace can help attract and retain employees from equity deserving groups. This is particularly true among younger generations where the incidence of people identifying as LGBTQ2+ is significantly higher than among older generations – 1 in 6 Gen Z adults according to one recent study.
Consider these strategies to help create a more inclusive workplace:
Actively promote inclusivity in the work environment – Take opportunities, like Pride celebrations, to publicly acknowledge your organization’s commitment to creating an LGBTQ2+ inclusive work culture. Seek out opportunities to ensure all members of your team feel valued, respected, and heard – including employees who are from the LGBTQ2+ community. Be mindful that not all members of the LGBTQ2+ community will feel safe to share their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Avoid assumptions and don’t pressure people to divulge private, sensitive information.
Recognize that language matters – Understanding LGBTQ2+ terminology is a helpful step towards understanding colleagues who identify with the terms. Inclusive and supportive workplaces relieve colleagues from sexual and gender minorities from the burden of educating others. These organizations recognize the importance of education in other forms – such as training and creating a culture of continuous learning. Use of correct names and pronouns shows employees they are valued and respected – this is particularly important to people whose gender identity or gender expression may be different than the gender they were assigned at birth. Be mindful to use them and apologize if you make a mistake.
Address homophobic and transphobic behaviour – Encourage education and training to help identify and address homophobic or transphobic behaviour. Ensure leadership is engaged to help set the right tone throughout the organization.
Support and sponsorship of LGBTQ2+ employees – When employees do share their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the workplace, ensure your team is prepared to support them. Some organizations have sought additional training for managers to better support LGBTQ2+ team members. Other organizations have paired LGBTQ2+ employees with sponsors to support their career progression in effort to help address systemic barriers that have led to the underrepresentation of LGBTQ2+ community members in workplaces and leadership.
A number of helpful resources can also be found online, including:
Virtual ProPride – A series of panel discussions hosted by Pride at Work Canada this June and July – open to all, when they will explore the experiences of LGBTQ2+ employees and job seekers and strategies to create advancement in the following areas:
- Creating Authentic Spaces: A Gender Identity and Gender Expression Toolkit to Support the Implementation of Institutional and Social Change – This thorough resource was created by The 519, a City of Toronto agency committed to the health, happiness and full participation of the LGBTQ2+ communities.
LGBTQ2+ Terminology – This list of some of the most common terms offers a starting point to understanding LGBTQ2+ identities and issues.
At a time when the benefits of diversity within teams has become well documented, creating an inclusive culture that welcomes LGBTQ2+ employees is critical to ensure that they not only feel a sense of belonging but that they have the opportunity succeed as their authentic selves.
Take time this summer to consider what your organization can do to make this a reality.
To engage in dialogue, we invite you to connect with Amorell Saunders N'Daw, Partner and EDI Lead with KBRS.