Making the Workplace Safer for LGBTQ+ Employees

By Amy C. Waninger

Why Should Companies Show They Value LGBTQ+ Employees?

Employers know that employees need to bring their full selves to work if they are to contribute at the highest levels. At the same time, research tells us that half of LGBTQ employees are still in the closet at work. (Source: Human Rights Campaign).  Many companies have created Resource Groups or a Diversity Council to provide a sense of community and safety for LGBTQ and other underrepresented employees. Even so, most companies’ LGBTQ professionals are still holding back, struggling to present themselves authentically, and leaving trust (and talent) on the table.

How Can Companies Make Their Workplaces Safer for LGBTQ+ Employees?

  •         Include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in your non-discrimination policies.
  •         Allow employees to self-identify as LGBTQ and track the retention, performance, promotion, and satisfaction of these employees as a group.
  •         Provide equitable benefits for LGBTQ employees.
  •         Provide training to all employees, and especially to managers, to ensure your workplace is inclusive.
  •         Be careful what behaviors you tolerate. Encourage employees to be bystanders who say “We don’t do that here” when someone makes a derogatory comment about any group of people.
  •         Offer specific training to help emerging and aspiring LGBTQ+ leaders see the unique value they bring to the workplace. “Out & Outstanding: Authentic Leadership Strategies for LGBTQ Professionals” is one such program.

How Can Companies Be Intentional About Recruiting LGBTQ+ Talent?

­Organizations like Reaching Out MBA make it easy for employers to connect with highly motivated, high-potential LGBTQ talent. At Reaching Out MBA’s annual conference, dozens of employers woo potential employees in a trade show-style recruiting session.

How Can Colleagues Show Support for Their LGBTQ+ Peers?

If you seek to be an ally to the LGBTQ community, speak up. If you admire the courage it takes to come out at work, say so. Don’t delete your sister’s wife or your uncle’s boyfriend from your family’s stories or speak about them in hushed tones. Your LGBTQ colleagues are constantly watching you to see if you’ll supportive or hostile to them. When someone does come out to you, ask simply, “How can I support you?” Then give them the support they have asked for. That’s what makes you a true ally.

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