5 Ways to Be More LGBTQIA+ Inclusive at Work

Dedicating time to LGBTQ inclusivity (among other inclusion efforts)

by Elle Mason

As many of us know, June is PRIDE month – a month dedicated to the affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual/Aromantic/Agender individuals. While it has become much more commonplace for businesses to recognize PRIDE – often by denoting a rainbow flag in the physical or digital presence of the business, the actual experience of LGBTQIA+ individuals often falls far short of acceptance and inclusion.

In fact, research from McKinsey has discovered:

  • LGBTQ+ women are underrepresented at every stage of corporate management, and fare worse than their male peers.
  • LGBTQ+ women – particularly women of color – are highly likely to be the “only” person of their sexual orientation, gender, and race or ethnicity.
  • LGBTQ+ people experience much more harassment, micro-aggressions, and other forms of inappropriate comments at work.
  • LGBTQ+ people often as though they can’t openly talk about themselves, their lives outside of work, and like they have to prove their competence more so than peers.
  • Transgender people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are more likely than cisgender people to view their gender as a barrier to future advancement – and they are also twice as likely to be subjected to demeaning comments and sexist jokes.

Beyond the impact on these experiences on their psyche, emotional state and morale – this exclusion also presents a massive loss for organizations and these employees bring their own unique strengths, motivations and positive impact to environments. For example:

  • LGBTQ+ people are more likely to aspire to leadership positions – with women in particular being motivated by the potential of being a role model to others like them and having a positive impact on the world.
  • When they’re out of the closest, they are often happier, view their workplaces more favorably, and have more supportive managers.

It’s absolutely critical for HR to lead the charge in creating a workforce that doesn’t simply tolerate – but creates welcoming and belonging for LGBTQ+ employees, and to and continue dedicating time to LGBTQ inclusivity (among other inclusion efforts) and benefits.

Five ways to start and encourage LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the workplace from the top-down

1.) Structural Support and Sponsorship: What resources or ERGs are available to LGBTQ+ employees? Is health care coverage inclusive of trans people? Are transitioning employees eligible for any form of leave? Are employees able to use the bathroom that they feel the most comfortable in? Are HR systems equipped for changes to gender, pronouns, names and the like? Are there mentorship or other sponsorship programs from senior to junior colleagues? All of these are strategies that can be used to create a supportive environment at the systems-level. After all, people can be friendly and treat each other with kindness – but if the very essence of the organization is still lacking inclusion, LBGTQ+ will constantly bear the brunt of that.

2.) Reducing the Isolation: It’s notable how many LGBTQ+ employees felt like they were the “only” one at their organization – after all, having no one who shares your identity or experiences can be isolating. HR teams and leaders can prevent this at the recruitment level – through efforts such as blind resume screenings to reduce bias and intentional efforts to broaden the candidate pool and incorporate LBGTQ+ people into the funnel.

3.) Being Swift with Inappropriate Behavior: Given the prevalence of sexual harassment and other forms of inappropriateness that LGBTQ+ employees are experiencing, leaders must be swift and firm about responding to these incidents. Employees must understand that there are consequences and that the business will not tolerate harassment and mistreatment of LGBTQ+ employees – and this includes customers, too. To support this, leaders can start with trainings that demonstrate what sensitivity, support and awareness look like, in addition to including a clear channel for reporting any incidents, micro-aggressions or other misbehavior safely.

With GoCo’s built-in team feedback tool, employees can express private or public thoughts and concerns easily to their managers or assign feedback to specific people and ensure that they are being heard.

And with GoCo’s upcoming Anonymous Workflows feature, employees can provide feedback, report inappropriate or offensive behavior, and more, while remaining completely anonymous. GoCo’s workflows empower employees to speak up without pressuring them to disclose any information they do not want to.

4.) Promote Inclusion: Many people might be surprised by how heteronormative an environment can be, and how that can make people feel like they have to hide. For example, automatically assuming the gender of someone’s significant other or spouse. A question like “Is your husband coming to the Christmas party?” to a new female employee could seem harmless to some – but it puts LGBTQ+ people in a position of constantly having to “come out” – solely because someone assumed their orientation in the first place. Similarly, remote work (and the inevitable glimpses into our home lives) has also resulted in less privacy. Being intentional about promoting inclusivity in settings like this can go a long way.

5.) Reviewing Policies and Procedures: HR leaders can review the current policies and procedures to ensure inclusion. For example: Are the dress codes inclusive? Are LGBTQ+ employees included under the anti-harassment policies? Best practices can also include trainings and guidelines around gender-transition guidelines and thoughtful and intentional communication.

GoCo’s digital HRIS gives a lot of the power around personal information, files and preferences back to the employee. Employees are able to change their preferred pronouns, personal information, and add custom notes all on their own within the HR software. This is important because your employees should feel in control when it comes to the information they disclose, whether that be their preferred names, preferred pronouns, or additional documents.

Ultimately, creating a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ employees more than sending a PRIDE email and adding a flag to the logo. It’s about creating an environment that moves beyond tolerance to celebration and support – and it starts with our leaders.

See how GoCo can simplify your HR