To mark the start of Pride month, Rachel Waterman, Director of Operations at the LGBT Foundation, shares her thoughts on creating a more LGBT inclusive workplace.
When it comes to workplace diversity, organisations from local councils to companies such as Barclays and Deloitte have made significant steps to ensure they create an environment that supports its LGBT employees.
The statistics speak for themselves. In 2016, the Financial Times highlighted evidence which showed that companies that look to positively embrace and embed LGBT policies regularly outperform their rivals.
When it comes to workplace diversity, we have undoubtedly seen significant strides in the past 10 years. Since its inception in 2005, Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index has firmly established its status as a key standard for a whole host of organisations, from universities to government departments keen to highlight their commitment to the development of an LGBT inclusive workplace.
However, recent research from Stonewall revealed that more than a third of LGBT staff have hidden their sexual orientation at work because they were afraid of discrimination, and almost one in five LGBT staff (18 per cent) have been the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues in the last year because they’re LGBT.
So what positive steps can leaders take to break down the barriers often faced by LGBT people?
This is by no means a small undertaking and requires a clear commitment from the top down to develop an environment and policies that support all workers and embrace diversity. Below are some positive steps you can take to make your workplace more LGBT inclusive.
- Support LGBT events at national and local level. This may appear like a small gesture but recognising local pride events and key awareness days such as the Trans Day of Visibility (31 March) and the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (17 May) sends out a clear message that you are a leader that values what diversity brings to your workplace, and supports your LGBT communities.
- Support your LGBT staff networks (or set one up if you don’t have one). Look to support and develop a network for LGBT employees and allies who will champion LGBT diversity.
- Monitor sexual orientation, gender identity, and trans status. This will help you to get a clear picture of the nature of your workforce and ensure that your organisation is doing everything it can to create an inclusive environment. It will also help you monitor progress and celebrate your successes by tracking things such as number of employee grievances and LGBT hires and promotions.
- Prioritise workplace equality and diversity training and make sure it includes LGBT awareness. Education is a key part of any movement towards organisational and cultural change. A range of organisations including LGBT Foundation offer courses that help.
- Build links with local LGBT organisations and groups. Making connections with your local LGBT support organisations and networks will not only allow you to make some valuable contacts but can also provide a great source of support and advice on a range of LGBT related issues from sexual health to introducing LGBT positive policies.
- Introduce gender neutral toilets. Looking at the idea of introducing gender neutral toilets is a significant step in ensuring that your office is a welcoming workplace for everyone. If this seems unusual at first, remember that you probably have a gender neutral toilet in your home!
- Reconsider your dress code. By reviewing dress codes to move away from gender specific guidelines you can help people feel more comfortable.
- Don’t make assumptions about colleagues’ sexual orientation, gender, or trans status. And don’t be surprised if a colleague discloses they are LGBT. After all, 5-7% of people are!
- Constructively challenge inappropriate comments. This could include comments such as ‘that’s so gay’. Use these as a teachable moment to help your workplace and colleagues grow.
- Celebrate LGBT role models – Use your regular staff communications to highlight the stories experiences and great work being done by your LGBT colleagues.
And finally remember if you need help that there are a whole host of LGBT organisations that can offer support and advice to help you make your workplace an LGBT friendly workplace.
LGBT Foundation offers LGBT Training for a range of companies looking at building awareness and understanding of LGBT issues to create a more inclusive workplace for your employees and clients, as well as advice and support. For more information call 03453 30 30 30 or visit www.lgbt.foundation.
*LGBT Foundation uses LGBT in its broadest sense to include all of the communities we serve.*