November 14, 2022
After same sex marriage became legalized on June 26, 2015, the world began to transform faster than ever before. Companies added the rainbow to their corporate palette, gender reassignment surgeries showed up on employee benefits packages, and same sex couples started their own families through adoption and surrogacy. Despite the progress, there are over 300+ anti-LGBTQIA bills today in America alone.
As a member of the LGBTQIA+, I am fiercely passionate about creating inclusive environments where all employees can thrive and deliver work that reflects the diversity of the world. RAPP recognized my passion and sent me to the 2022 Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada—an annual gathering of over 5,000+ business leaders, LGBTQIA+ employers, LGBTQIA+ employees, and other participants to discuss best practices, network, and take part in training sessions.
After attending training sessions and networking with DEI and HR professionals, marketing executives, and government employees, I began to feel unstoppable (the theme for the summit). And I’m honored to share insights and best practices that you can use to unleash the power of the LGBTQIA+ community in your workplace, home, and in own community.
- Assess psychological safety in the workplace
Hiring LGBTQIA+ talent is easier when your external public relations is strong. Unfortunately, many companies neglect their internal public relations efforts. Thus, resulting in workplaces that lack equity and inclusion. Before LGBTQIA+ employees report concerns to managers and HR, providing an external resource—like a licensed organizational psychologist— is a good approach to help uncover employees’ feelings of psychological safety. By taking a preemptive approach, you’ll create a psychologically safe environment for employees to grow. And yes, your company will save more money in the long run because it’s very expensive to keep hiring and training new employees.
- Use Self-ID programs to understand employee journeys
Most companies use Self-ID programs—the practice of collecting employee demographic and psychographic data—to develop DEI programs and budgets. What companies miss out on is the ability to get a deeper understanding of specific identities within the LGBTQIA+ community. During the conference, LGBTQIA+ speakers continuously challenged the phrase “bring your authentic self to work,” and for very good reason. What if an employee hasn’t publicly announced their identity? What if they are unsure of what their pronouns are? What if an employee is afraid of being judged for being asexual? Self-ID programs, when designed with the right enablement strategy, can give your employees a chance to build their story as they experience it. And your company will have invaluable data that can inform decision making.
- Give Employee Resource Groups more funding
During breakfasts and lunches, I sat at round tables with six strangers. They spoke about their careers. When I head the phrase “For my gay job, I…” my head turned. Many attendees came on behalf of the Employee Resource Group (ERG) or Business Resource Group (BRG) they lead and are often not paid for their time—hence the phrase gay job. In fact, many attendees fought for the resources to attend the conference. If you want to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, invest in a greater budget for DEI. Two employees are often not enough to create systemic change that betters the business. And it is unrealistic to expect volunteers to be solely responsible for your company’s DEI. By giving ERGs more funding, they have the power to support business units, resulting in BRGs.
- Hire LGBTQIA+ leaders. Then hire even more.
The diversity puzzle isn’t complicated. Focus on inclusion. Inclusion is action, and actions get us closer to diversity and equity. Hire LGBTQIA+ leaders. Without inclusion, you don’t hear voices. The best way to improve inclusion is through representation. Use a 1:1 ratio; for every cis gendered heterosexual leader, there should be another LGBTIA+ leader. An inclusive workplace will naturally retain a diverse workforce.
- Accelerate LGBTQIA+ employee career growth
There are currently only a handful of openly proud LGBTQIA+ chief executive officers and vice presidents at Fortune 100 companies. Go beyond LGBTQIA+ mentorship programs. Create grants and scholarships at your company for LGBTQIA+ employees to cover the cost of graduate school. Empower your talent acquisition teams to uncover career barriers LGBTQIA+ employees have faced. Then partner with executives to create individual and systemic change.
- Empower all employees to become an advocate for diverse identities
An employee’s preferred pronouns reflect their story, their truth, their power. By using someone’s correct pronouns, you communicate respect for them. And everyone is worthy of respect. By continuously misgendering someone, you exhibit passive transphobic behavior. In many cases, misgendering can create gender dysphoria. The best way to understand dysphoria is by putting your right shoe on your left foot and your left shoe on your right foot. Walk around for a bit. The feeling is not fun. When certain people are forced to identify with their biology, they feel the same way. If employees have been impacted by microaggressions, empower them to collaborate with HR and DEI to develop workshops for your company. Create an incentive program for employees to dissociate biology, gender, and identity. For example, when an employee receives positive feedback for being an ally, give them a personalized medal and a rewards card.
- Ask employees if the company’s benefit package is inclusive
Many companies offer benefit packages. Unfortunately, many do not empower LGBTQIA+ employees throughout their entire family-building journey. For example, the “I” in LGBTQIA+ stands for intersex—a biological identity that refers to people who are born with genitalia, and then develop other traits that doctors cannot easily classify as pertaining to male or female. Hormone therapy is a key part of treatment for intersex employees and can be lifesaving in some scenarios. Unfortunately, many companies exclude hormone therapy from their benefits package. It can be counterproductive to assume what your LGBTQIA+ employees need. If you spend more time and resources understanding the needs of your own LGBTQIA+ employees, you’ll figure out what programs, policies, and budgets are needed to design an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive.