LGBT inclusivity in the workplace

What can com­pan­ies do to provide a safe envir­on­ment for their employ­ees, regard­less of their gender iden­tity or sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion? LGBT work­ers face a num­ber of chal­lenges that can hinder their pro­ductiv­ity and work­place sat­is­fac­tion.

In 2018, a study com­mis­sioned by Voda­fone with over 3,000 respond­ents found that 41% of young­sters went back in the closet in their first job, in spite of being out in their per­son­al lives. Look­ing to the mana­geri­al level, only three CEOs of For­tune 500 com­pan­ies have come out as gay or bisexu­al. The HRC Found­a­tion in the US reports that 53% of LGBT work­ers have heard jokes about gay or les­bi­an people, plus 41% trans­gender-spe­cif­ic jokes.

Where­as for Finnish employ­ers LGBT diversity policy may simply mean attend­ing to pride events yearly, their UK coun­ter­parts are tak­ing a much more stra­tegic approach. Being seen as a diverse and inclus­ive com­pany can be a power­ful employ­er brand­ing tool, and not only for the queer can­did­ates them­selves. The best, most innov­at­ive ideas don’t come from talk­ing to people that are just like ourselves, but from con­sid­er­ing dif­fer­ent per­spect­ives and points of view.

One of the con­crete steps that some of those fore­run­ners have taken is the devel­op­ment of employ­ee net­works. That’s the case of Barclays Spec­trum, Coop Respect or GLEE PwC, cov­er­ing bank­ing, retail and con­sult­ing indus­tries respect­ively. All those ini­ti­at­ives join forces under the Open For Busi­ness coali­tion, under the motto Inclus­ive, diverse soci­et­ies are bet­ter for busi­ness and bet­ter for eco­nom­ic growth. Anoth­er not­able example is the UK char­ity Stone­wall, who devel­ops a Work­place Equal­ity Index that assesses com­pan­ies’ achieve­ments and pro­gress on LGBT equal­ity.

On a prac­tic­al level, there are many things com­pan­ies can do to foster an inclus­ive work envir­on­ment. Simple steps can be the eval­u­ation of intern­al and extern­al com­mu­nic­a­tion and lan­guage use or the spe­cif­ic men­tion to same-sex part­ners in occu­pa­tion­al health and insur­ance mat­ters. A step fur­ther could be the sup­port of trans­ition­ing at work for those employ­ees who start to express their gender con­sist­ently with their gender iden­tity.

Are we going to see sim­il­ar ini­ti­at­ives in Fin­land in the future? My hope is that these kinds of indexes can become as rel­ev­ant as, for example, the Great Place to Work is. For now, I can encour­age com­pan­ies to make sure their employ­ees bring their true self to work.