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Kait
Community Manager
Community Manager

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Submitted by Goodera

We all know that being your authentic self is the only way to flourish and thrive in today’s world. Now imagine if you couldn’t. Not because you wanted to and didn’t know how, but because you were forced to do so. What if you had to add an extra layer to your life every time you went to work? What if you had to pretend to be someone else just to eat lunch in the cafeteria? What if you had to keep part of yourself hidden while meeting a client? How would you feel?

 

This is the ground reality across corporate America, where 40% of LGBTQ+ workers haven’t come out at work. Among out at work, 54% hide the fact from clients and customers, trading the closet at home for the cubicle at work. If the ‘New Normal’ has to live up to its reputation as the new era of fairness, equity and justice, we must create a more contemporary culture of LGBTQ+ inclusion.

 

An actionable plan for a more inclusive LGBTQ+ workplace culture can be whittled down to three basic tenets: empathy, understanding, and engagement. While these aren’t radical new approaches, their implementation is what sets them apart. The time for half measures and big promises eschewing affirmative action has passed. Instead, it is time to be bold, equitable, and proactive in our approach to LGBTQ+ D, E & I at the workplace.

 

  • Let’s take a look at Empathy first.

 

To be more empathetic, we must understand that empathy and sympathy aren’t mutually interchangeable. In the corporate context, this translates to reviewing and creating new policies for LGBTQ+ individuals, especially if they are women, BIPOC, Latino, persons with disabilities, and/or AAPI.

 

For example, LGBTQ+ women comprise 2.3 percent of entry-level employees yet comprise only 1.6 percent of managers and even smaller shares in leadership positions. In such cases, LGBTQ+ inclusion cannot come at the cost of gender parity. So while we work to include one group, we mustn’t inadvertently exclude another.

 

Showing empathy also involves starting a dialogue that makes employees aware and sensitized to topics that affect the LGBTQ+ community that cis-gender and non-LGBTQ+ employees sometimes take for granted. Again, pronouns are a great place to start.

 

Using the appropriate pronouns such as they/them/theirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his, or even zie/zir/zirs across internal and external modes of communication can let LGBTQ+ and non-binary employees feel seen. Given the generational shift among the workforce that skews towards pronoun-conscious millennials and Gen-Z, this small step goes a long way towards building purpose and loyalty among new employees.

 

  • You need to follow up empathy with Understanding.

 

Even among the LGBTQ+ community, queer and trans folx are some of the most misunderstood. According to a survey on global attitudes toward transgender people conducted in 16 countries, 30% of respondents worried about exposing children to transgender people. In addition, only 40% would use the correct pronouns when addressing them. With misconceptions and misunderstandings, inclusion will always be an uphill battle unless organizations encourage understanding and start a conversation among the ranks.

 

One way to achieve this is by investing in programs—such as affinity groups, LGBTQ+ networks, paid internships, or formal mentorship opportunities—aimed at LGBTQ+ employees. Even then, these conversations shouldn’t be confined only to Pride Month or LGBTQ+ History month; actual progress means inclusion, empathy, and understanding for every letter of the abbreviation 365 days a year. That is where engagement comes in.

 

  • Using employee engagement to amplify understanding

 

More than 60 percent of LGBTQ+ respondents to a global survey reported needing to correct colleagues’ assumptions about their personal lives. Engagement, primarily through volunteering, can bring these conversations to the forefront in a safe space free of judgment. It also let’s new hires know that they have entered a culture of acceptance and tolerance, which can create a strong emotional anchor for retention and loyalty.

 

Goodera and its non-profit partners have created a host of meaningful activities  supporting the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month 2022 as part of our #ShowSomeLove campaign. These opportunities cover in-person, hybrid, and virtual activities that teams of employees or ERGs can undertake to support local and global LGBTQ+ communities.

The benefits of a new culture of LGBTQ+ D, E & I speak for themselves…

 

In his book, ‘The Economic Case for LGBT Inclusion, economist and author M.V. Lee Badgett says that business hostility toward the LGBT community costs countries up to 1 percent or more of their GDP. So, of course, we cannot argue the economic sense of letting employees be their authentic selves at work but a culture of LGBTQ+ inclusion also comes with a few salient benefits.

 

  1. For starters, it fosters creativity as diverse teams show higher productivity, higher creativity, lesser groupthink, and even higher innovation potential than teams consisting of people with similar backgrounds.
  2. Diversity and Inclusion can open up business opportunities as organizations that employ LGBTQ+ employees will have an inherent advantage when designing products and services to cater to their niche needs.
  3. Diversity creates an environment conducive to networking. These networks eventually translate into an inclusive work culture and not just a diverse one.

Building empathy for LGBTQ+ employees, understanding them, and engaging the workforce to include them is no longer a metric of vanity but one of success. Research has shown that teams with greater diversity and inclusion experienced a 14.4 percent gain even when the S&P 500 saw a 35.5 percent decline in stock performance. So what would you rather have employees focus on in our increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world? Bringing out their best or hiding their authentic self? The answer to this question will determine our successes or failures in the new normal.