It’s June – which means it’s officially Pride Month! While it’s great to acknowledge our LGBTQ employees this month, it’s even more important to recognize the many obstacles they continue to overcome on a daily basis. Now is just as important as ever to be loud, be proud, and act as allies to the LGBTQ community in whichever ways we can. Many LGBTQ members of the workforce feel as though they cannot be their true “authentic selves” at their jobs. They feel forced to hide who they really are. This can change if we introduce the right non-discrimination policies. In this blog post, we are going to discuss why we should be encouraging authenticity in the workplace and how to turn our work environments into LGBTQ-friendly safe havens for our employees.
Let’s cut to the chase: LGBTQ employees still face discrimination in 2021 – and in large numbers across the globe. While 21% of European LGBTQ employees reported discrimination in the workplace, 36% of American LGBTQ employees reported the same. Additionally, nearly half of LGBTQ employees are closeted at work. These numbers are even worse for members of the LGBTQ community who identify as people of color, women, or disabled. In China, things are much worse for LGBTQ employees, where a whopping 95% of employees remain closeted at their jobs.
Transgendered employees around the world face even bigger obstacles at their jobs. State laws stripping rights away from transgendered individuals have made it even harder for trans people to work authentically in the U.S. Many countries around the world are following America’s lead. 90% of trans employees reported either workplace discrimination or felt they needed to hide their identities in order to do their jobs. In Europe, a shocking six times as many transgendered individuals have experienced assault at their jobs compared to cis-gendered members of the LGBTQ community.
When looking to see LGBTQ representation among industry leaders, the numbers continue to look bleak. In a recent survey, only 11% of managers identified as either gay or lesbian, while none of the respondents identified as trans or non-binary. This same study shows that LGBTQ employees only make up a mere 7% of senior executive roles, with LGBTQ women faring much worse in every step of the management pipeline. LGBTQ employees feel that they need to work harder than other employees to overcome professional obstacles…and the numbers agree.
But we can fix this! We can improve these figures by implementing and enforcing new LGBTQ policies. These policies will really help create safe spaces where LGBTQ employees can be themselves.
Why Authenticity Matters
Authentic diversity enhances productivity, increases creativity, and sparks innovation. The companies that put effort into their D&EI programs are the ones that often experience global success. These companies also create loyal teams who want to contribute towards what they are doing. LGBTQ employees that feel comfortable “coming out” in their work environments are more productive, more open to connecting with the rest of their team, and experience better physical and mental well-being. Putting an emphasis on authenticity being embraced in your office alleviates the fear of “onlyness” in LGBTQ employees – meaning they will feel less stress being the “only” one on their team that is quite like them. If you long for an innovative and diverse company, then ensuring that your work environment is a safe space for LGBTQ employees to be their authentic selves is a must.
Normalizing and encouraging authenticity in the workplace will also lead to less bias. Discrimination against LGBTQ individuals also shows that resumes are an inaccurate determinant of individual skills. Hiring managers often make decisions based on their own biases – whether they realize it or not. Studies show that when resumes and cover letters from openly gay and lesbian candidates are presented to decision-makers, these candidates are often seen as having worse social skills, less competence, and are deemed less hirable than their heterosexual counterparts despite having the necessary skill sets to be qualified. Male-dominated industries like the STEM sector are also losing tens of thousands of valuable and talented LGBTQ employees due to LGBTQ bias. Instead, these workers are leaving STEM industries in order to work in industries that are more accepting.
Of course coming out still carries a degree of risk. This is especially dependent on one’s location, culture, or even industry. However, not coming out carries a degree of risk as well. You may risk not living up to your full potential. You may also feel trapped out of fear of being your authentic self. It’s always great to create a safety plan in case coming out doesn’t go as planned. Look at your company’s non-discrimination policy before coming out to see if it will protect you from possible harassment. Coming out to a small group of co-workers first might also be a good way to slowly come out if you are having reservations.
While it’s important for any LGBTQ person to assess any potential risks of coming out at work, there are a number of ways that you and your team can alleviate these possible dangers by creating a safe space for LGBTQ employees.
Creating Safe Spaces for LGBTQ Authenticity
LGBTQ initiatives need to be actively promoted and recognized all 365 days of the year – not just in June. You cannot just change your company’s Instagram logo, hang up a pride flag, and call it a day. What are you actively doing every day of the year to ensure inclusivity and to encourage authenticity? Creating LGBTQ-inclusive policies is your first step towards a welcoming work place. Other great ways to ensure an equitable workplace are to create gender-neutral bathrooms, introduce an LGBTQ-friendly dress code, and to offer transgender-inclusive medical benefits such as covering costs related to transition surgeries if you have the ability to do so. Additionally, you can create LGBTQ mentorship programs in order to fill any LGBTQ leadership gaps you might recognize.
Be Transparent from the Very Beginning
You should also be open about your LGBTQ policies in the interview process. Potential hires may be too afraid to ask questions about your inclusivity policies during their interviews. They might be afraid that their sexual orientation or gender identity could lose them the opportunity. Acknowledging what you are doing to combat bias and create an inclusive workplace for your team is really important. It allows LGBTQ hires to feel comfortable being themselves right out of the gate. Additionally, encourage team members to openly display their pronouns in emails and job profiles. This allows trans and non-binary employees to authentically express who they are without judgement from their teammates.
Authentic Policies for Authentic People
A great way to encourage authenticity in the workplace is by creating an LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination policy. Be sure to include wording that relates to both gender identity and gender expression. Do not assume that you don’t need these policies simply because you don’t have visible or “out” LGBTQ employees. Remember that nearly half of all LGBTQ employees remain closeted at work out of fear. Creating and enforcing these policies gives these employees the green light to be themselves at work.
While including your LGBTQ team members in the creation of these policies is necessary, this shouldn’t fall entirely on their shoulders as “spokespersons” for the community. Creating LGBTQ-inclusive environments needs to be a team effort. LGBTQ employees should be involved in creating policies or even leading these projects, but the teams should be diverse. Are there no open or “out” members of your team? This could be a wake-up call regarding your company’s inclusivity efforts or its lack of diversity.
LGBTQ individuals often experience multiple forms of marginalization within their communities, their schools, and even their own homes. Creating flexible work policies such as a remote work environment, flexible hours, and paid leave help these employees have a good work-life balance. Many LGBTQ individuals are ostracized by their own families and are forced to rely on “chosen family”. The more flexibility they have, the easier it is for them to do their job.
Most importantly, bigotry and workplace harassment due to an individual’s sexual orientation or identity should be called out by the rest of your team when it’s happening. Allyship is equally as important as policy. You have even more of an obligation to call out this behavior if you are a supervisor or manager. Remember that policy is enforced from the top down, and employees will lead by example. Incorporating all of these ideas into your company’s policies really helps to encourage authenticity. They allow us to create a safe space for LGBTQ employees to be their true selves without fear.
It’s July 1st…Now What?
While it’s great to see so many different companies celebrate the LGBTQ community in June, all of the shiny rainbow imagery shouldn’t be blinding us from the fact that there is still a great amount of work that needs to be done every single day of the year before LGBTQ employees have full equality in their workplaces. It is up to us to create welcoming office environments that encourage people to be their authentic selves. Not only do we need to embrace the power and knowledge that comes from diversity, but we must celebrate it on a daily basis. Authenticity matters.
Bryq revolves around kicking bias to the curb in workplaces around the world. It is of the utmost importance for us to provide an inclusive workplace to the LGBTQ members of our team, and we feel that it is our mission to help other companies be able to create diverse and colorful teams through our product and our mission. We hire people, not resumes – and we love and accept people for exactly who they are. Be true. Be you. Happy Pride!