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Diversity | PREMIUM CONTENT

Opening the doors wider for LGBTQIA+

Jun/16/2022 / by ANJALI BINDRA PATEL

In their book “Conscious Capitalism,” John Mackey and Raj Sisodia talk about doing what is right because it’s right. Conscious businesses, they say, have a simple but powerful belief: the right actions undertaken for the right reasons generally lead to good outcomes over time. They treat their stakeholders well because it is the right, humane, and sensible thing to do and because humanity is also smart business practice.
The authors take this analysis a step further by asking, “How would I feel if what I’m doing right now is written up on the front page of The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal?”[2]
It’s a solid question to ask. For example, during Pride Month, organisations customarily post about their commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community, which is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. But what happens once Pride Month ends? How can organizations support the community year-round?

Should I walk in the room and leave the gay out of the room, or leave the black out of the room? For most of my career, I’ve had some variation of this question. I think the way to talk about being black and gay is to talk about being whole, being a whole being[1] ~ Robert O’Hara

The work begins long before an employee steps into their first day on the job. Employers give strong signals about whether a workplace will be inclusive through their cultural “artifacts”: the wording of a job description, the visuals on a website, and the gender denominations on the application form are just some signals employers give off even before an employee starts at a company.

How can we aim to build a more inclusive workplace for the LGBTQIA+ community? Below are some best practices employers can consider:

  • Use personal pronouns. Using someone’s correct personal pronouns is a way to respect them and create an inclusive environment, just as using a person’s name can be a way to respect them. (she/her/hers, zi/hir, they/them/theirs, etc). Learn more about personal pronouns here: Why Pronouns Are Important (lakeforest.edu)
  • Recruit inclusively. To attract a diverse slate of candidates, start with sharing your organization’s inclusive practices through your website and genuine relationship building at career fairs and community forums. When you share job postings, ensure the postings use gender-neutral language and advertise your same-sex benefits for health and family leave. 
  • Update Your Policies. Employers should ensure that all anti-harassment, bullying, and nondiscrimination policies include LGBTQIA+ individuals. Review other policies, including the dress code expectations and family leave policies, to ensure they are equitable for all employees.
  • Invest in Learning and Development for Diversity and Inclusion. Diversity and inclusion training can be an essential step for existing employees and new hires to enhance efforts to build an inclusive environment at work. Some topics to incorporate include using gender-neutral language, recognizing and disrupting implicit bias, effective allyship, and formulating inclusive policies at work.
  • Share real stories. See if employees are willing to share their perspectives on how they have experienced inclusion and belonging at work. Maybe an employee came to your organization because of its inclusive leave and benefit policies, or perhaps they have a story about allyship on their teams. Highlight your wins. Nothing speaks louder than an authentic human voice. 
  • Be an ally. Share stories about how you have worked to build inclusive practices at work. What challenges did you face? How did you overcome them? What steps have you taken to help LGBTQIA+ employees thrive?
  • Promote Sponsorship. There’s a saying that says a mentor is someone who talks to you, while a sponsor is someone who talks about you and advocates for you when you are not in the room. The impact of effective sponsorship can’t be understated. Sponsors can help their LGBTQIA+ employees by advising them and creating opportunities to get involved in high-profile and high-visibility projects. These opportunities are crucial to employee retention, promotion, and belonging and show a visible commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community. 
  • Recognize and Reward Progress. It can be tempting to announce ambitious, multi-year diversity and inclusion goals, but it’s equally important to celebrate small wins that have shown clear progress. Did your company roll out diversity and inclusion training for employees? Rework job descriptions to use gender-neutral language? Start an LGBTQIA+ affinity group? Celebrate those wins!

Our journeys towards building more inclusive environments should be ongoing. Diversity and inclusion efforts aren’t about finding a quick fix and moving on. Instead, think of diversity and inclusion as something we work to incorporate into our everyday lives as a matter of habit. Sometimes, the work will be challenging, but if we remain resilient and move forward in solidarity, we can create the change we want to see in our workplaces and in ourselves.

Anjali Bindra Patel is a lawyer, certified diversity executive, and author of Humanity at Work

[1] O’Hara, Robert, “Artist Interview with Robert O’Hara.” Interview by Tim Sanford, Playwrights Horizons, accessed November 10, 2014, https://www.playwrightshorizons.org/shows/trailers/artist-interview-robert-ohara/.

[2] John Mackey and Rajendra Sisodia, “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business” (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2013), 209.