LGBTQ+ in the Workplace

Hayley Busby

30 Jun 2020

The first Pride was a riot.

On June 28th, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn in New York, demanding to do sex verification checks on trans women. A spontaneous protest broke out with Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera at the forefront of it all.

We’ve come a long way since that night, yet the truth is, it’s still illegal to be a part of the LGBTQ community in 71 countries, conversion therapy still exists and, recently, The Trump administration announced it is eliminating an Obama-era regulation prohibiting discrimination in health care against patients who are transgender.

Stonewall found that a third of LGBTQ staff in the UK (35%) have hidden that they are LGBTQ at work for fear of discrimination. And, for someone who spent 11 years of their life hiding who they were I can tell you now, it’s mentally draining.

I think it’s safe to say that everyone yearns to be accepted and to feel a sense of belonging. So, why wouldn’t all businesses want to create a diverse, inclusive space where their employees can bring their full selves to work? So they can truly thrive and produce their best work?

When employees feel included, they’re more likely to be positively engaged within the organisation which ultimately leads to their loyalty.

Regardless of our race, religion, sexuality or gender, we are all equal and businesses have an opportunity to support and empower each and every one of us. The Love has no Labels video has always stuck in mind as the perfect way to remind us that we are all human.

When I finally came out to my mum, she was upset. Not because she had the sudden realisation that I wouldn’t be with a guy, but because I hadn’t came out to her sooner. She didn’t want me to feel as though I had to hide who I was, or that I couldn’t talk to her about my life.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky to have a supportive family behind them.

A friend of mine had to grow up knowing his family wouldn’t accept him anymore the moment he did come out. His aim in life was to become financially stable so he could move out and be who he truly is. Having a job would do this for him; it would change his life for the better.

According to a 2012 study at UCLA Law, 46% of homeless LGBTQ youths ran away because of family rejection and 43% were forced out by their parents. If all businesses showed their support for their LGBTQ employees, they could be just the support network they’ve always needed.

Despite the sadness we might be feeling at home, we spend the majority of our adult lives in the workplace – and many young people find their tribes and friends at work throughout their twenties and thirties – so it makes sense that we would look for an environment that accepts us. It’s just as important for our employers and colleagues to support us than it is for our families and friends.

There are many things businesses can do to reduce workplace discrimination and support their LGBTQ employees. The points below have been taken from Glassdoor and more info on all of them can be found here:

  1. Develop a Clear Mission for Supporting LGBT in the Workplace
  2. Take LGBT Discrimination Seriously
  3. Develop Support Programmes for LGBT Employees
  4. Promote Allies of LGBT People
  5. Get Support from Senior Staff
  6. Support the Local LGBT Community
  7. Offer LGBT-Friendly Benefits
  8. Foster a Gender-Neutral Environment
  9. Keep Track of Success
  10. Support Transgender Employees

At Harvard, we have ChimeQ which offers everyone across Chime’s agencies the chance to build connections across the diverse LGBTQ+ community within the 2,500 Chime global workforce. Through events we are given the chance to learn from experts, share personal experiences and meet with likeminded colleagues. This to me was so important because it gave a clear signal from day one that I could be completely myself coming into work every day.

The benefits of creating an LGBTQ+ friendly workplace are in many cases immeasurable, but in an article by People Scout it is said that by creating an inclusive environment you can reduce stress and anxiety for your LGBTQ+ employees, improving their overall health and increase job satisfaction.

Some might even say it attracts some of the best talent around 😉