Take Action for LGBTQ Inclusion at Work

Having a robust diversity and inclusion policy that offers support for all employees is good business. 

Take Action for LGBTQ Inclusion at Work

As Frédéric Martel points out in Global Gay, anything but traditional gender orientations are still quite dangerous in some countries; even in countries where members of the LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer) community have rights. Despite phenomenal progress, including the legal protection of same-sex marriage in the United States and an increasing number of other countries, the United Nations is just beginning to make progress on preventing violence against LGBTQ citizens and pushing for their human rights. The LGBTQ workforce is more diverse, “less white and less male” than it was 20 years ago, so it’s time for companies to update their inclusivity policies to reflect increasing gender diversity in the workforce.  

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Global Gay

French journalist Frédéric Martel details gay culture worldwide and explores the battles for LGBT rights.

Frédéric Martel MIT Press
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Gender Beyond Male and Female

In their article “Diversity is Just the First Step, Inclusion Comes Next,” Boston Consulting Group notes that 95% of Fortune 500 CEOs are male. Understandably, 78% of white, non-LGBTQ males feel quite comfortable with corporate cultures as they are.

Image of: Diversity Is Just the First Step. Inclusion Comes Next.
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Diversity Is Just the First Step. Inclusion Comes Next.

Having a diverse workforce isn’t enough. You must ensure that everyone feels comfortable enough to speak up.

Frances Brooks Taplett, Matt Krentz, Justin Dean and Gabrielle Novacek The Boston Consulting Group
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But millennials and generation Z employees, regardless of how they personally identify, demand a more inclusive and welcoming corporate environment than ever before. Inclusivity and diversity, as Boston Consulting Group outlines in “A New LGBTQ Workforce Has Arrived,” directly benefit a company’s bottom line. Workplace diversity and inclusion increases employee satisfaction and retention, boosts innovation and customer satisfaction, all adding to the bottom line. 

Image of: A New LGBTQ Workforce Has Arrived – Inclusive Cultures Must Follow
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A New LGBTQ Workforce Has Arrived – Inclusive Cultures Must Follow

Companies must go further to support LGBTQ employees – to enhance retention and the bottom line.

Pierre Dupreelle, Jeff Lindquist, Simon Pellas, Gabrielle Novacek and Nathan Micon The Boston Consulting Group
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In addition to basic inclusion issues such as non-discriminatory hiring practices and covering a same-sex partner through an employee’s insurance policy, Boston Consulting Group recommends implementing five initiatives: 

  • Support LGBTQ employees in their self-identity. Allow them to choose the pronouns they prefer. 
  • Support “intersectional allyship” by fostering discussion of potentially sensitive subjects including gender. The idea is to increase awareness and respect for differences and consciousness of what gender discrimination looks like.
  • Incorporate equity and inclusion goals into key performance indicators (KPIs) and link those to bonuses so leadership models inclusive behavior. 
  • Select an ombudsman, a point person who deals with instances of discrimination.
  • Encourage gender-neutral language throughout the company. Respect and use the pronouns your employees select for themselves. 

Despite progress…most LGBTQ employees do not feel truly included in the workplace.

Boston Consulting Group

Beware Bias 

Having biases is part of human nature. People have a natural affinity for others who are like them. It’s also human, unfortunately, to substitute stereotypes for people who are different. Acknowledging that bias exists is a good first step towards eliminating it. Studies show how unconscious bias can creep into the hiring process. Authors Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan suggest in The Inclusion Dividend that you review the places from which you recruit employees. Expand the net by diversifying the pool of potential candidates. For instance, change up the media you place ads in. 

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The Inclusion Dividend

Promote diversity and inclusion to ensure your business’s success.

Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan Bibliomotion
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If an employee does not feel welcomed to be her full self, it will not be long before she takes her talent to another organization, one that will accommodate her.

Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan

In Expand Beyond Your Current Culture, author Leslie Short reminds readers that achieving diversity and inclusion goals takes honest self-reflection on the part of leaders. Don’t approach diversity goals as a matter of checking boxes. Proactively offer diversity and equity training. Hire a consultant to evaluate your company’s D&I (Diversity & Inclusion) policies. Demonstrate company integrity through transparency and respect for the contributions of everyone. 

Inclusion is not a problem to solve but an opportunity to seize.

Leslie Short

Top talent will only stay in companies where they see people who look like them promoted to leadership. As author Josh Bersin says in Elevating Equity, the feeling of inclusivity should permeate the organization and be a part of every candidate’s career journey. Integrating DEI (Diversity Equity Inclusion) practices is a cultural transformation. Target and Hilton are two large companies that integrated inclusion as part of their business growth strategies. This is where it will have the most impact, rather than as an adjunct policy rolled out by HR. By integrating DEI as a business function, companies declare their long-term commitment to social equity.

You can’t drive bias out of the person, you have to drive it out of the process.

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Elevating Equity

Design a diversity, equity and inclusion program that will yield positive results within and beyond your organization.

Josh Bersin Josh Bersin
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Listening Is the Most Important Thing 

Listening is the basis for successful business outcomes, says Bersin. It is the foundation for authenticity, for collaboration, and for inclusiveness and equity. This translates down to the line to better retention, engagement and satisfaction. Unfortunately, DEI skills are often the lowest-ranked competencies for HR professionals. 

In “Fixing the Flawed Approach to Diversity,” the Boston Consulting Group reports the results of a survey of 16,500 diverse employees to see which DEI policies work best. Only 25% of those surveyed feel any benefit from current DEI initiatives. They say leaders continue to underestimate the challenges to diverse employees. Without management buy-in on inclusivity, employees are hesitant to bring up problems. Younger managers – under 45 – are more sensitive to these problems.

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Fixing the Flawed Approach to Diversity

Ready to harness the benefits of a diverse company? Better make sure your diversity initiatives are effective.

Matt Krentz, Justin Dean, Jennifer Garcia-Alonso, Frances Brooks Taplett, Miki Tsusaka and Elliot Vaughn The Boston Consulting Group
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The biggest obstacle to inclusive change is that companies don’t always take action when the need arises. The most successfully inclusive companies keep the conversation going beyond initial training, giving employees real-world experience utilizing their emerging cultural competency. 

Organize Affinity Groups 

Many organizations encourage “affinity groups” to help extend a voice and a sense of inclusion to LGBTQ employees. This is a way to reduce the barriers LGBTQ workers might feel, but aren’t sure how to address. Affinity groups: 

  • Help organizations understand employee experiences, especially if patterns are emerging based on the group they identify with. 
  • Help organizations identify issues that may need to be addressed. 
  • Help organizations better engage with all employees. 
  • Foster networking and mentorship opportunities. 
  • Help organizations be sure group perspectives are included in branding and strategy. 

Inclusive Leadership

In How to Be an Inclusive Leader, author Jennifer Brown tells the story of the embarrassment suffered by a Fortune 500 company when they were sued for anti-gay comments. The data show that inclusivity policies give companies a competitive edge with customers, investors and employees, including 28% increased revenue, a doubling of net income and 30% greater profit margins. 

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How to Be an Inclusive Leader

Equality is an admirable concept. But equity is what counts: establishing a level playing field for all.

Jennifer Brown Berrett-Koehler Publishers
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Kaplan and Donovan outline these tactics for inclusive leaders: 

  • Understand your own “insider-outsider” memberships. Be mindful of whatever privileges you may enjoy and use them for good.
  • Make sure your actions align with your intentions of inclusive leadership. Focus on “true meritocracy.” It starts with strategy and vision, where diversity and inclusion is a company value and the aspiration of equity pervades operations.
  • Most of all, inspire others with your clear vision for inclusivity. Have the courage to be disruptive if that’s what it takes to change established ways that are out of step with today’s world. 

An inclusive culture nurtures social cohesion and well-being, which translates to better collaboration and teamwork. Differences can lead to “creative abrasion” for more innovative solutions. An open culture encourages people to give voice to their best ideas and diplomatically challenge other ideas in the spirit of finding what’s best. To lead a diverse and inclusive culture, get to know the different people within your organization.

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Beyond diversity, leaders aim for equity. Leaders can become “inclusivity advocates” by paying attention to who’s not in the room or at the table and changing that. Educate yourself and your colleagues about inclusivity policies.  

Inclusion Is a Transformative Change 

As Brené Brown and Aiko Bethea point out in their podcast on “Inclusivity at Work,” the desire to change is not sufficient to reach diversity and inclusion goals. That is the work of deep, transformative change. Kaplan and Donovan say consider your culture’s transformation a four-phase journey:

  • First gather data via surveys, interviews and meetings.
  • Next, incorporate this data into developing a strategy that fits with your business strategy. The result will be a plan to roll out your inclusion policies organization-wide. One of the actions you can take in this phase is to establish a “diversity council.”
  • The third phase focuses on implementation of the strategy. Engage all employees through training, development programs, affinity groups and effective communication. The goal is to make inclusivity a part of daily life at work.
  • Finally, you will go through a “measurement and recalibration” phase, assessing the success of your inclusion program and making adjustments where necessary.

A Diversity Council made up of members from various departments will guide the way through the development of strategy. A Diversity and Inclusion department (D&I) facilitates implementation. Some companies hire a chief diversity officer (CDO). Both D&I and HR work together as a “task force” to implement change. Follow through with outreach communications and advertising via the marketing department. 

By taking action to cultivate a more inclusive culture – by instituting broad organization-wide policies and improving the hundreds of daily interactions that make up an employee’s work day – companies can move toward getting the best from all of their people.

Boston Consulting Group

Recognize and reward the leaders within your company who architect inclusive practices, and facilitate the spread of those programs throughout the organization. Have a firm anti-discrimination, anti-harassment policy there is no doubt you will uphold, and encourage all employees who witness instances of discrimination or insensitivity to say something. Reward the behavior you’re trying to create in performance reviews and with bonuses. 

Continue Expanding Your Inclusion Efforts

In Marketing Beyond the Gender Binary, Nick Monroe and Dipanjan Chatterjee writing for MIT Sloan Management Review challenge companies to update their ideas about gender, because their customers surely have. Wellness and cosmetics companies are leading the way with gender inclusivity in their marketing efforts. Mastercard implemented a “True Name” policy where nonbinary and transgender people can utilize the name they choose on their card, even if they haven’t legally changed it, aligning their inclusivity goals with the “four axes of marketing (product, place, price, promotion).” Younger customers, especially, take notice and appreciate the effort. 

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Marketing Beyond the Gender Binary

Brand marketers who embrace new gender concepts will understand – and serve – their customers better.

Nick Monroe and Dipanjan Chatterjee MIT Sloan Management Review
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Other brands are introducing gender-neutral clothing to their lines. Toy companies are developing gender-neutral choices. Customers already resent pricing based on gender differences, what’s become known as the “pink tax,” and brands are changing to align with their expectations of equity. 

Brands can no longer rely solely on outdated tropes to connect with increasingly diverse, empowered consumers.

Nick Monroe and Dipanjan Chatterjee

Marketers will need to update their sampling and research methods to better reflect changing concepts of gender. As Simha Mummalaneni and Jonathan Z. Zhang point out in “Maximizing the Benefits of B2B Supplier Diversification,” supplier diversity programs increase competition among suppliers. It pays for large businesses to proactively cultivate a diverse community of small business vendors.

Proactively including small and diverse businesses in government and large company procurement processes is a win for buyers, for diverse business owners and their employees, and for economic and social progress.

Simha Mummalaneni and Jonathan Z. Zhang

Next Steps

Check out the following channels to find out more about diversity and inclusion in the workplace:

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