How to embed an LGBTQ+ inclusive culture in the workplace
June has been Pride Month – an opportunity for individuals and businesses alike to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community and explore ways that can reassure them that their voice will be heard.
Showing support should not just stop at re-colouring the company logo for the month. Businesses need to actively embed a diverse and inclusive culture within the workplace, where everyone’s wellbeing is prioritised.
It is against the law for companies to discriminate against individuals based on their gender or sexual orientation through the Equality Act 2010. Despite this, a study conducted by charity Stonewall last year found that more than a third of LGBTQ+ employees hide their sexual orientation in the workplace for fear of potential negativity and scrutiny. An unhappy workforce can cause significant issues for a company and a clear message from management about the importance of diversity can help LGBTQ+ employees to feel more secure at work.
When we have a more diverse workforce, we are better able to understand the impact of decisions on all individuals. Without this, we can become narrow in our thinking, and we can assume that if there is no negative impact on us, there is no negative impact on anyone. The consequences of that can be unintended but detrimental – maybe we will lose talented people or worse, we’ll end up in a tribunal situation.
Being an employer of choice
If you ask the youngest generation of workers out there, school leavers or graduates, what they want from an employer, you probably won’t be surprised to know that diversity in the workforce comes up as a key factor. We live in a technological world where information is available at everyone’s fingertips instantly and those who have grown up in the internet age have a different world view to those growing up even 30 years ago. They will have new expectations for what an employer should be like and that means to attract the best talent, you need to meet those expectations.
Seven tips for creating an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace
- Understand your people – getting to know your colleagues will help ensure you effectively cater to any needs LGBTQ+ employees may have. Colleagues who are better understood will be happier and more productive.
- Learn about LGBTQ+ issues – increase your understanding and awareness of gender identity and issues unique to LGBTQ+ people. Ask your LGBTQ+ colleagues about issues in the workplace that they find challenging and ask them to suggest ideas that could help improve the working environment for all.
- Get senior management support – The culture from your organisation is led from the top and is driven by the actions and behaviours of its leaders. Senior colleagues within your organisation should help implement diversity initiatives and actively communicate their support for LGBTQ+ inclusion and other diversity activities.
- Evaluate your business values and culture – does your business have a culture and set of values that enable diversity and equality to thrive? If not, you may to need rewrite your business values so that they focus on an inclusive and diverse workplace for all. Diversity can help to attract talent and foster innovation.
- Review your workplace policies and communicate them – review your workplace policies and ensure these policies explicitly mention how you as an employer support LGBTQ+ people within your organisation. You could also develop LGBTQ+ specific policies – for example, a policy on transitioning at work with guidance for employees who are transitioning, line managers and human resources. Your workplace policies should establish a strong sense of inclusion and anti-discrimination so that all employees know what diversity and inclusion looks like in the business and what is not tolerated in the workplace.
- Develop an LGBTQ+ network – you could set up a network group specifically for LGBTQ+ employees. They can help advise you on things that work well for them in the workplace and areas where you could consider a new approach. You should also encourage colleagues who don’t identify themselves as LGBTQ+ to support the LGBTQ+ network. These colleagues can work with the LGBTQ+ network to champion diversity in the workplace. The LGBTQ+ network can help implement diversity initiatives and build awareness – e.g., through talks and events.
- Promote your organisation as LGBTQ+ inclusive – ensure that your LGBTQ+ inclusive information is accessible on your website especially on pages where you advertise job opportunities or have employee testimonials for you as an employer. Communicate your LGBTQ+ good news stories on social media – e.g., sharing employee stories or reporting on LGBTQ+ workplace initiatives.
Embedding an LBGTQ+ inclusive culture at AdviserPlus
Emily Charlesworth, Senior HR Adviser at AdviserPlus, is a founding member of Inclusivity+, AdviserPlus’ Diversity, Equality and Inclusion working group. Here she explains why she decided to get involved and what the working group aims to achieve.
I am one of several colleagues who have come together to promote Inclusivity+, our Diversity, Equality and Inclusion working group. While, the group is relatively new, we have laid some great foundations so that we can build on the positive climate that we have already within AdviserPlus.
Our work spans reviewing existing policies and processes to remove any unconscious bias, looking at ways that we can involve internal communities, and planning activities that colleagues can take part in to promote and educate key issues that we could all benefit from learning more about. Our mission is to create a diverse, safe and thriving work environment so that individuals can feel equal, included and celebrated within the AdviserPlus community.
Our beliefs as a group
- Awareness – we believe that raising awareness in practical ways such as highlighting key events, promotes diversity.
- Fairness – we believe that all individuals have a right to be treated fairly and equally.
- Respect – we believe that AdviserPlus should be an open and safe space for all.
- Inclusive – we believe that we should celebrate everyone’s unique differences throughout the business.
- Knowledge – we believe in sharing knowledge to educate others on topics and issues relating to diversity, equality and inclusion.
- Success – we believe that the outcomes we deliver will allow others to thrive.
Pride month is particularly important to me due to my experience with my own sexuality. I identify as pansexual (sexual, romantic, or emotional attraction towards people regardless of their sex or gender identity) and I’m in a straight-presenting relationship with my husband; because of this I’ve experienced discrimination from people who do not understand my sexuality – being called ‘attention seeking’, ‘promiscuous’ and just wanting to be ‘a unique snowflake’.
It’s unfortunate that these types of comments and attitudes are still prevalent in the world, but that is why it is so important to ensure that Pride gets the recognition it deserves.
During Pride Month, we have put together a series of communications about the history of Pride to share with colleagues. While I was familiar with Pride, it has been great to really spend some time remembering the people who came before us and the difference they made to the movement. Reflecting on people such as Marsha P. Johnson and all the work she did for the community is so important to see how far we have come, but also work on what more we can do now.
I have always found AdviserPlus to be welcoming, and the formation of Inclusivity+ is a real opportunity to make sure that all our colleagues, clients, and any other people we work with know that this is a safe and inclusive business, and that we celebrate everyone’s differences in a way that brings us all together.
Our Learning Solutions team has produced a webinar which goes into more detail about managing diversity in the workplace. To watch on demand, click here.