Recently a careful reader of my website noted that a blog published in 2017 on the topic of LGBTQ+ in the workplace was outdated in 2021. I turned to my fellow HR consultant and diversity specialist Stan Kimer for assistance. Stan graciously agreed to write a new blog post on the subject.
Our goal in sharing this article is to provide small business owners and managers with tools you can use to create more inclusion in their workplace. At a time when recruitment is so difficult and many employees are tempted to leave, being a good place to work for a diverse workforce is a business imperative. You might also think it’s the right thing to do. And I would agree with that too!
The LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Plus) community globally continues to become more visible. It represents an increasing segment of our workforce, customers, and clients. Due to the shift in culture, a higher percentage of the younger generation is free to self-identify as LGBTQ+ people and allies. Full support of the LGBTQ+ community is an increasingly important part of the Millennial and Gen Z worldview.
To succeed in getting the best talent and serving an increasingly diverse and LGBTQ+ informed world, here are 10 steps to fully supporting LGBTQ+ in the workplace, employees, and customers. Of course, this list is not exhaustive but it’s a good place to start!
- Create a non-discrimination statement that includes the phrases “sexual orientation” and “gender identity and expression.” In 21 states, including Virginia, the law protects sexual orientation and gender identity. Those statements should be part of compliant employment policies. In other states, including those statements in your policies will send a message of voluntary inclusion.
- Provide education around LGBTQ topics in your diversity and inclusion training. This should go beyond the basics of supporting gay and lesbian people to include information on transgender and non-binary people. Educate workers on how to be a respectful ally to the LGBTQ community and what allyship looks like in practice.
- Enforce a zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination and harassment to include gender and sexual orientation. If employees (including senior managers and executives) make disparaging comments under the guise of a joke, engage in anti-LGBTQ+ behavior, address the behavior, and provide education. If the behavior continues, do not hesitate to take stronger actions including dismissal. This kind of strong support speaks volumes to the LGBTQ+ community and allies.
- Assure that your LGBTQ+ employees are provided equitable access to career development and promotions. This can include providing access to leadership development and job opportunities, sending LGBTQ+ employees to industry conferences, providing mentorship, and providing public profiles of any out LGBTQ+ executives or senior leaders. These actions demonstrate that LGBTQ+ employees in your organization can indeed break through the “lavender ceiling.”
- Encourage the formation of an employee resources group (ERG) for LGBTQ+ employees and allies. Or if you have a diversity council, assure LGBTQ+ representation on it.
- Consider equitable access to all employee benefits. This may include things like offering domestic partner health benefits, transgender affirming health coverage, family planning benefits such as fertility and adoption services for same-gender couples, etc.
- Include a robust LGBTQ+ component in your advertising and publicity campaigns. This can include targeted advertising to the LGBTQ community by featuring same-gender couples and LGBTQ community symbols in LGBTQ-oriented print and online vehicles. Take another step and feature a same-gender couple in your mainstream advertising. This sends a strong signal to the LGBTQ consumer that your company views us as part of the mainstream. Also, provide LGBTQ diversity sensitivity and communications training to your sales and marketing personnel that will be interacting with or preparing sales information for the LGBTQ consumer, and assure any advertising and marketing agencies you engage are LGBTQ-informed.
- Sponsor and encourage your corporation’s participation in LGBTQ+ community organizations and events. For some organizations, that can include sponsorships of national groups such as the Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG, GLSEN, Out and Equal Workplace Advocates, etc. At the local level, support the local LGBTQ community center and local Pride events.
- Include LGBTQ+ owned businesses as part of your supplier diversity program. Support the economic progress of the LGBTQ+ community at large. The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) is the certifying body for LGBT-Business Enterprises and provides programs for companies to engage with prospective LGBTQ suppliers.
- Keep on top of the fast-evolving nature of the LGBTQ+ world. Just like you are doing by reading this article, continue to educate yourself. In my practice as a Diversity Consultant, I have noticed the emerging interest for non-binary people and the use of pronouns. It’s a hot topic on which many organizations are seeking to educate their workforce.
As you develop and execute a robust strategy around LGBTQ+ support, may it bring fantastic results such as recruiting and retaining the very best talent, and in better serving your customers and clients.
Stan C. Kimer, owner of Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer, is a nationally recognized consultant on all areas of diversity with a deep expertise in LGBTQ+ matters. For four years, Stan served as IBM’s corporate global LGBT diversity manager, during which time he expanded IBM’s LGBT initiatives global and established IBM’s policies for supporting transgender employees. Stan can be reached at 919-787-7315, firstname.lastname@example.org