QS Community Board

Work Life & Safety June 5, 2018

Down with Discrimination: Fostering a Culture of LGBTQI Inclusion at Work

Katherine E., Editor

Everyone deserves to work in an environment that feels safe, where they can take pride in what they do and trust the coworkers and leaders they work with. Despite the inclusion of LGBTQI rights in the workplace by many organizations, discrimination at work is still a difficult reality for many LGBTQI people. The implications of not being an inclusive organization have other ill effects, too. Be a leader and support and promote LGBTQI diversity and inclusion in your workplace.

So what business does sexual orientation have in the workplace anyway?

While sexual orientation is a very personal matter, it’s also an inherent part of a person’s identity. If an employee doesn’t feel safe or comfortable expressing their identity at work, the negative implications can be heavy:

  • Employee Well-being Is Harmed. Many LGBTQI employees suffer from mental health issues (e.g., anxiety, depression) related to workplace bias and discrimination. Suicide rates are also higher among the LGBTQI community. Many LGBTQI employees hide or choose not to reveal their sexual orientation at work because they fear that coworkers will either treat them differently, alienate them or react in other negative ways (e.g., retaliation, loss of employment).
  • Business and Employee Potential and Performance Suffers. Simply put, discrimination is bad for business. Don’t waste employee potential. Companies who choose not to embrace diversity risk losing talent and valuable resources to competitors and other more inclusive companies. Successful organizations value different ideas, thoughts and experiences. These are considered business advantages that promote innovation and enhance business growth.

How can employers support LGBTQI inclusion at work?

There are many ways organizations can foster LGBTQI workplace inclusion. Here are a few ideas:

  •  Include formal, written anti-discrimination and harassment policies that address homophobia. While many organizations say that they support LGBTQI rights, many haven’t taken the steps to address these issues officially.
  • Educate and train ALL staff on diversity and inclusion awareness. Support a specific zero-tolerance policy on the abuse and harassment of LGBTQI employees. Managers and leaders should receive specific training to confidently and professionally handle issues related to interaction and respect of team members. Promoting and supporting LGBTQI inclusion and diversity efforts will fall short if they aren’t backed by management and senior leaders.

QuickFact: Since 2016, 89% of Fortune 500 companies have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation.

  • Offer fair benefits to employees. Are the benefits your organization offers relevant to LGBQTI employees and dependents (e.g., health insurance, family policies)?
  • Actively recruit and hire diverse candidates. This includes clearly communicating your organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion when advertising new job openings.
  • Monitor and manage staff diversity: Take measures to understand your staff and their needs. Collect data to review and analyze workplace demographics and the impact of gender and sexual orientation on retention, career progression, promotions, etc.

LGBTQI Inclusion Benefits Everyone

Ensure that the employees in your organization are accepted for who they are and that they see themselves represented in the workplace and environment around them. By fostering diversity and LGBTQI inclusiveness in your workplace, leadership creates a welcoming, supportive environment; employee wellness and productivity thrive, and organizations and communities are strengthened.

For more information on equal opportunity and inclusion at work, browse the QuickSeries® library of guides, including Equal Opportunity: Creating Diverse and Inclusive Federal Workplaces.

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