Understanding “Queer” Terminology
LGBTQ is an acronym that is used with respect to the sexual orientation and/or gender identity of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and the “Q” can stand for Questioning or Queer. Additional acronyms that expand on LGBTQ multiply as we get a deeper understanding on what human sexual and gender identity means. Queer may be thought of as an umbrella term to describe a community rich in sexual and gender diversity.
Essentially, the sexual orientation of a person refers to their emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attraction to others. Gender identity refers to a person’s inner sense of being a woman or a man, regardless of their biological birth sex.
Understanding what LGBTQ Inclusion Means
LGBTQ employees have been called “invisible minorities” in the workplace. That’s because many LGBTQ employees choose not to disclose their LGBTQ identity for one reason or another. As a result companies may not be aware of the diversity that actually exists in their workplace. They may also not understand the needs of their LGBTQ employees and the challenges they face.
Job satisfaction and commitment are strongly linked to higher productivity, higher profitability, lower absenteeism, and lower turnover. When there is discrimination in the workplace, those benefits to the company are eroded. Not understanding the details of a person’s sexuality or gender identity isn’t as important as showing them the respect they deserve in the workplace.
With this added level of respect, LGBTQ employees may continue to work in an inclusive and open workplace, even if more lucrative or otherwise more beneficial job opportunities exist in other companies that are perceived to be less inclusive.
Best Practices for Building a Diverse Workplace
The efforts of most companies to create an inclusive workplace typically focus on creating gender and ethnic diversity. The inclusiveness of the organization relating to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Intersex, Transgender, Queer, Asexual and Allied employees often receives little attention. As more and more members of the LGBT+ community become more open about their diversity, it is becoming increasingly important for companies to focus on building a Queer inclusive workplace.
Executives who understand the bottom-line benefits of diversity in all its forms should be eager to build a LGBT inclusive workplace.
Best Practices for Building an LGBTQ-Inclusive Workplace
Many companies have attempted to address LGBTQ inclusiveness by implementing anti-discrimination policies. However, creating an environment that is inclusive of LGBTQ employees requires more than policies. Building an inclusive workplace means fully and fairly including LGBTQ employees in recruiting, development, networking, advancement, and leadership opportunities. It also means creating comprehensive programs and policies that are carried out with strong support by senior management.
Here are a few best practices to consider when building an inclusive workplace.
- Increase awareness
It’s understandable that the general workforce is not aware of LGBTQ issues. It helps to create an environment where employees feel free to discuss these issues and increase their awareness. However, remember that not everyone is interested in increasing their awareness.
- Use diversity training to dispel myths and stereotypes
Corporate diversity training has been helpful with race and gender inclusion. It can be just as effective for LGBTQ inclusion.
- Use inclusive communication throughout the organization
This is a very subtle effort that yields valuable results. By simply using inclusive language in all corporate communications, LGBTQ employees feel included and non-LGBTQ employees absorb the corporate intention of inclusion. Efforts include acknowledging Pride Month and encouraging LGBTQ employees to bring their partners or spouses to company events.
- Create and enforce anti-discrimination policies and procedures
Creating and enforcing anti-discrimination policies and procedures is absolutely essential. It is the bedrock of inclusion.
- Add LGBTQ identity in diversity metrics
As a part of diversity efforts, many companies keep track of the percentages of and progress of African Americans, Hispanics, and women. LBGTQ employees should be included in those calculations.
- Assist LGBTQ employees with building support networks and finding mentors
Support networks and mentors play an important role in the job satisfaction of minorities within an organization.
- Support career advancement of LGBTQ employees
Minorities of all kinds deal with the issue of the lack of advancement. They often watch co-workers in the majority group get promoted before or instead of themselves. Actively supporting the advancement of LGBTQ employees sends a strong message of inclusion.
There are many more activities and behaviors that will help build an inclusive LGBTQ workplace. By applying the best practices listed above, any company will have made a huge step in the direction of inclusiveness.