We live in a time where equality is rightly being increasingly celebrated, but worryingly nearly half of LGBTQ+ employees still don’t feel confident opening up about their sexuality in the office.
Among many other factors, they fear being stereotyped, losing friends and suffering homophobic and transphobic abuse at work.
According to the American College Health Association, 10% of all university graduates identify as LBGTQ+.
That’s why, when it comes to winning the war for talent and attracting the best talent to your organization, it’s more important than ever to create a culture of acceptance, equality and inclusivity.
If you feel your company has room to improve when it comes to supporting LBGTQ+ staff, here are five things to consider.
The most important and obvious thing is to make sure that your company builds a culture that is totally supportive of, and welcoming to, LBGTQ+ employees at work.
Make sure that you have an anti-discrimination stance that promises to fight on behalf of LGBTQ+ employees who face abuse or harassment at work.
You can also implement changes to your working environment, such as adjustments to restrooms and preferred pronouns that benefit transgender workers.
Consider, too, making sure that you provide benefits such as parental and adoption leave to LGBTQ+ employees.
In 2011, Coca-Cola began offering transgender-inclusive health insurance, and in 2015, they offered to assist with the cost of taxes imposed on US employees whose same-sex spouse or partner was enrolled in health benefits but who lived in a state that didn’t recognize same-sex marriage.
For more information, have a look at LGBTQ+ advocates, The Human Rights Campaign toolkit.
Positive change needs to come from the top. Leaders and managers must be able to identify and deal with evidence of homophobia and transphobia in the workplace, and HR and People teams need to be able to train them to spot it and deal with it swiftly, effectively and appropriately.
Not only should leaders be trained to handle complaints of sexual discrimination and harassment, they must also be taught to recognize conversations that overstep boundaries.
As well as encouraging leadership to support employees effectively, it’s important to make sure LGBTQ+ employees feel confident speaking out when they need to and have a voice within the company.
Amazon has a LGBTQ+ community called Glamazon, that gives workers a space to share experiences and support each other formally and informally.
Microsoft’s GLEAM community facilitates similar support, encouraging members to interact through programs such as talks, lunches, sporting events and more, and Google’s Gayglers inform organizational policy.
For advice on setting up an LGBTQ+ employee network group, see advocacy group, Stonewall’s guide.
Often, the most common instances of discrimination in the workplace are the hardest to notice. For instance, using language that favors heterosexual people (e.g. referring to ‘husbands and wives’ instead of just ‘partners’) can create a climate that makes LBGTQ+ people feel less welcome.
Once employees can recognize unconscious biases, encourage them to speak out when they notice them in the workplace, and to talk openly about their experiences of facing them. That way, everyone can play a role in ensuring LBGTQ+ employees have a level playing field.
As well as supporting your organization’s LGBTQ+ community, look beyond your four walls. From collaborating with gay rights organizations, to sponsoring Pride events, showing the world that your company doesn’t just support LBGTQ+ initiatives, but is a proud and diverse employer for all employees, sends a powerful message.
PayPal, for example, cancelled their $3.6 million-dollar expansion into North Carolina in solidarity with the community after the state passed the ‘bathroom bill’, limiting bathroom options for transgender people.
If you haven’t got the budget for sponsorship or events, consider simple tactics like inviting in speakers in from LGBTQ+ charities.
As an employer, it’s up to you to create an environment where everyone feels safe and supported, and where employees can be open about their sexuality without fear of abuse or discrimination.
Not only will an inclusive environment help you to attract top talent – it’s more likely to keep them, too.
Find out more about what employees really want. Download our research from 3,500 employees ‘Why your workforce isn’t working’.