Cultivating a Queer-Friendly Culture in the Workplace

Though it is still a hard pill to swallow, we have to address the fact that discrimination continues to be a way of life for a lot of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) employees. A well-written piece by GLAAD’s Michaela Krejcova explains that over 40% of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals have gone through employment harassment and mistreatment at some point in their professional lives. We have not even mentioned the 90% of transgender people who have experienced the same ordeal – if not worse. In essence, this is not only bad for LGBTQ workers, but also bad for companies as a whole.

Indeed, more and more businesses across the United States, as well as around the world, have put a premium on the rights of the LGBTQ community. As a matter of fact, as of 2018, 93% of Fortune 500 companies have already enforced non-discrimination policies involving their employees’ sexual orientation; 85% of these include gender identity. The majority of these firms even provide added transgender-inclusive and domestic partner benefits.

An example of the above is Barilla, an Italian conglomerate that drives the culture of diversity and inclusivity from top to bottom. After its chairman Guido Barilla made anti-LGBTQ comments on a radio program in 2013, the company did a complete turn around and worked to improve its internal structure to be more LGBTQ-friendly. Eventually, Barilla earned the top score on the Human Rights Campaign’s corporate equality index.

This prime example shows an excellent human resource organizational model we can consider on par with some of the Fortune 500 companies. There were even many notable successes in the past, which includes receiving a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, as well as UN Women’s Empowerment Principles engagements just to name a few.

So why is it important to practice this in the office?

The Advantages and the Disadvantage of an LGBTQ from a Financial Perspective

An LGBTQ-inclusive office environment nurtures a productive workplace. Members who are openly happy and gay are – more often than not – more dynamic and more creative, considering most of them have no mental distractions that would limit their capacity to work. Thankfully, however, this increase in productivity also translates to their “straight” peers. On the whole, a happy workspace is a productive workspace.

Another important point to make is that the LGBTQ community worldwide has about $790 billion in purchasing power. Aside from having that kind of money to spend, there is also this notion that they can and will switch products or services because a particular company is supportive of their community. This basically suggests that being inclusive and supportive of their rights can be advantageous from a business standpoint.

Of course on the other side of the spectrum, being a member of the LGBTQ community still involves exercising a significant amount of patience, especially when it comes to their aforementioned finances. In a feature by Marcus, investment adviser and proud LGBTQ member Jill Schlesinger claims that, based on her own experience, members of her community endure more required steps when planning for certain financial and legal decisions. And considering laws vary from state to state, depending on where they live, there is an inevitable fear that anti-discrimination laws may or may not protect their rights.

Now despite of these personal – somewhat prejudicial – beliefs, we are pretty sure we do not want to add fuel to the fire. We, as thought leaders, HR practitioners, and business decision makers, would like to be part of the solution; the movement to eradicate preconceived ideas and foster inclusivity for all. Let us look at some other practical ways to embrace an LGBTQ-inclusive workplace.

Change Our Hiring Strategies

Even if we are not actively or consciously discriminating, there might be a couple of messages on our fine prints that say otherwise. Whether on job postings or the actual recruitment process, it is vital we go over all information available and make the necessary adjustments. It is also imperative that we branch out beyond our usual demographics, and maybe partner with LGBTQ employee networks or organizations in our area.

Build Networks

An article on Glassdoor explains that championing LGBTQ’s rights also involves creating networks. Intuit’s HR person, for instance, shared how they came up with a Pride Network to “drive education and awareness, and raise funds that will benefit community organizations such their local food bank.” The same article also shared how even the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) encouraged the establishment of ANGLE or the Agency Network for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Officers and Allies.

Offer Training

This training can focus on gender sensitivity or anything that revolves around the core subject. Given the fact that most employees will not read every bit of detail in those long policies, why not present them with ample teaching classes to further their awareness. With this, they can absorb these policies in a more efficient and more hands on way.

In Conclusion

As much as we would like to say otherwise, discrimination in the workplace is still alive and kicking. But the good news is a lot of us are taking the initiatives to – at the very least – lessen this and make everyone feel welcomed. As the CEO of Talent Culture recruitment agency Meghan Biro said: “Employees engage with employers and brands when they’re treated as humans.”

Inclusivity is something that needs to be found in all aspects of our society, not just in the workplace. For further reading on the importance of encouraging diversity and inclusivity, read our piece on ‘The Importance of Belonging to a Diverse and Inclusive Wellness Space’.