In recent years, diversity training has become an important topic in the workplace. As it covers gender, age, and ethnicity, you may wonder why including additional training on LGBTQ+ inclusivity is necessary. To some, these topics may seem commonplace, but it is crucial to make sure that everyone in your company feels heard, valued, and respected. You never know where the best talent is going to come from, and employees need to feel safe to work at their highest capacity. Companies that are diverse and inclusive have more engaged employees, outperform their competitors, and are better at problem-solving.[i] In honor of Pride Month, we are recognizing the importance of an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace and offering suggestions on how you can accomplish this in your office.
What does LGBTQ+ signify?
First, let us define the acronym. LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning.[i] The “+” at the end of the acronym includes other various sexual orientations and gender identities, like non-binary, asexual, pansexual, and aromantic. These terms are used to describe a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2016, approximately 4% of the United States workforce listed themselves as identifying with the LGBTQ+ community.[ii] As of 2022, this percentage has increased to 7.1%.[iii] Although this amount has risen over the years, recent studies show that over 50% of LGBTQ+ workers choose not to disclose their sexual orientation.[iv] Disclosing sexual orientation is one’s personal choice, and completely up to that individual. Simultaneously, it is important to acknowledge the reason why a large percentage of LGBTQ+ workers do not wish to disclose their orientation due to fear of judgment, reprisal, and criticism.
Barriers to identifying as LGBTQ+ in the workplace
Individuals who do not wish to disclose their orientation at work are afraid that they might miss out on promotions, suffer discrimination, or they will be treated differently. These sentiments are valid, as for decades corporate America has been represented by heteronormative standards. As the demand for social justice and change grows exponentially, this fear of self-identification poses real challenges for company leadership. In 2002, only 13 employers earned a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which rates workplaces on LGBTQ+ equality; in this year’s report, 517 out of 5,228 major brands received a perfect CEI score.[vi] Supporting and attracting diverse employees has a strong business case, too. A recent report found that the U.S. economy could save $9 billion annually if organizations were effective at implementing diversity and inclusion policies for LGBTQ+ staff.[vii]
How to make your workplace more LGBTQ+ friendly
Here are four ways your company can do to ensure that all employees feel comfortable, respected, and included in your company culture and workforce.
- Standardize Parental Leave Policies. Parenting is always a challenge, no matter who you are and how prepared you are. Companies that have more than 50 employees are required to offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave as part of the Family Medical Leave Act. Other states may offer Paid Family Leave (PFL), which is paid leave for child bonding. The amount of time for PFL varies between states, as well as the amount you are paid – it is a percentage of your normal salary. Often, businesses offer women more paid leave to bond with a new child than they do for fathers. This both sets a standard that women are expected to bear the brunt of childcare, which is outdated and unfair, as well as making it more difficult for couples of the same gender. Businesses should offer the same parental leave to all employees, regardless of their gender. By standardizing leave policies, it makes a statement that your company values all employees, regardless of how they identify and their titled role as a parent. At Prestige, we provide up to 4 weeks of paid parental leave, regardless of gender.
- Change Your Hiring Strategies. Certain hiring strategies contribute to sexual orientation discrimination, whether it is intentional or not. For example, transgender people report high rates of unemployment and very low earnings.[viii] Gay men earn 10% to 32% less than similarly qualified heterosexual men.[ix] Sometimes, job titles and job descriptions drive away potential talent due to the presence of gendered wording. This is a form of unconscious bias – prejudice or unsupported judgments in favor of or against one thing, person, or group. A tip to make a job description gender-neutral is in place of gendered pronouns, like he/she, you can use they/them instead. Prestige makes sure that all of our job postings are written as such when interviewing a potential candidate. We also ask for their preferred pronouns to make them as comfortable as possible.
- Create a Strong Culture of Inclusiveness. Creating an inclusive culture requires action, and not only by offering annual training. So that leaders understand their roles and responsibilities, you should offer extensive employee leadership training in this area. Prestige offers mandatory training to managers and their employees. Managers are offered training first to discuss issues on a leadership level and then they create the curriculum that needs to be included when speaking to employees. You can also update your employee policies to reflect that your organization will not tolerate negativity or harassment towards anyone for any reason. Additionally, you can offer insurance coverage to domestic partners as well as legal spouses, which is something we do here at Prestige. Another way you can make your employees feel more comfortable is by including your personal pronouns in your email signature. Prestige also includes a nonbinary selection in onboarding forms so that everyone feels included. Even if you are cisgender, meaning that your gender identity corresponds with the gender you were assigned at birth, by normalizing pronoun preferences you can help the LGBTQ+ community feel accepted and supported.
- Support Events. Every year, there are events in countries around the world to celebrate and show support for the LGBTQ+ community. Pride parades and festivals are the biggest and most well-known. By getting involved, and by sending information about these events so that your staff members can volunteer, you are demonstrating a commitment to LGBTQ+ rights and to diversity in your workplace. Prestige offers an additional PTO day to all employees so that they can volunteer at an organization of their choice. Offering a PTO day for volunteer work gives your employees an extra incentive to get involved in their community as they don’t have the hardship of wondering when they can participate.
An inclusive workplace makes your company a better place for all
Overall, creating an LGBTQ+ friendly workplace strengthens the inclusiveness of DEI. Aside from optimizing the workplace and moral culture of the corporations, by not encouraging an inclusive company culture employers miss out on attracting and retaining top talent. One’s sexual orientation does not correlate with their work ethic. Day by day, actions can be taken to eliminate those stigmas and create a safe space for LGBTQ+ workers. Prestige is working every day to create ways to make sure everyone feels included and that we are doing as much as we can for our internal employees, our clients, and our community.