LGBT inclusivity in the workplace


LGBT inclusivity in the workplace

What can companies do to provide a safe environment for their employees, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation? LGBT workers face a number of challenges that can hinder their productivity and workplace satisfaction.

In 2018, a study commissioned by Vodafone with over 3,000 respondents found that 41% of youngsters went back in the closet in their first job, in spite of being out in their personal lives. Looking to the managerial level, only three CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have come out as gay or bisexual. The HRC Foundation in the US reports that 53% of LGBT workers have heard jokes about gay or lesbian people, plus 41% transgender-specific jokes.

Whereas for Finnish employers LGBT diversity policy may simply mean attending to pride events yearly, their UK counterparts are taking a much more strategic approach. Being seen as a diverse and inclusive company can be a powerful employer branding tool, and not only for the queer candidates themselves. The best, most innovative ideas don’t come from talking to people that are just like ourselves, but from considering different perspectives and points of view.

One of the concrete steps that some of those forerunners have taken is the development of employee networks. That’s the case of Barclays Spectrum, Coop Respect or GLEE PwC, covering banking, retail and consulting industries respectively. All those initiatives join forces under the Open For Business coalition, under the motto Inclusive, diverse societies are better for business and better for economic growth. Another notable example is the UK charity Stonewall, who develops a Workplace Equality Index that assesses companies’ achievements and progress on LGBT equality.

On a practical level, there are many things companies can do to foster an inclusive work environment. Simple steps can be the evaluation of internal and external communication and language use or the specific mention to same-sex partners in occupational health and insurance matters. A step further could be the support of transitioning at work for those employees who start to express their gender consistently with their gender identity.

Are we going to see similar initiatives in Finland in the future? My hope is that these kinds of indexes can become as relevant as, for example, the Great Place to Work is. For now, I can encourage companies to make sure their employees bring their true self to work.