In recent years, the call for inclusivity and diversity has become an integral part of workplaces. Among the many groups advocating for change, the LGBTQ+ community has appeared as a powerful force in reshaping workplace dynamics. However, there is a striking dearth of knowledge on the number of employees who identify as LGBTQ+ as well as how they may feel more comfortable being themselves at work, despite ongoing conversation around LGBTQ+ rights and inclusion in the workplace.
While many major firms celebrate Pride Month as an opportunity to commemorate the community, establishing a truly inclusive culture requires a year-round commitment. For the LGBTQ+ community, the pandemic served as a turning point since it caused isolation and made the gradual shift to a mixed work style more challenging. A focus on LGBTQ+ inclusion has become increasingly common in organisations' HR and diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I) initiatives over the past few years. In order to build a more equal and just society, it is crucial to put in place robust and long-lasting mechanisms for community inclusion.
Practise what you preach
Organisations should take the following proactive, considerate, and calculated steps for a long-term commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Sensitisation sessions and training: We can tackle unconscious bias through dialogue by conducting sensitisation sessions and webinars by speakers from the community itself to which the queer members can relate to. Lack of awareness and resistance to change should be further tackled through mandatory sensitization programs.
Forming groups and communities: Various types of groups can be formed to extend support and solidarity for the queer community. For example, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can be formed to bring together allies and create a safe space for dialogue. Grievance and redressal committees should be formed to accept anonymous complaints that can protect the identity of people too. Moreover, we can also have counselling facilities to ensure good mental health of the community.
Pay parity and policies: Employers must ensure pay parity and queer-friendly policies. Both insurance policies and policies related to paternity and maternity leaves should be gender-neutral keeping in mind the overall needs of the community.
Onboarding experience: Community members who join an organisation frequently experience gender dysphoria because the majority of onboarding apps only identify males and females as genders. This can be fixed by giving them the option of "others" and letting them specify their preferred pronouns in order to make them feel included.
The role of leadership
Leaders across the organisation need to reaffirm their commitment to inclusion. They must therefore take time to listen to the community, discuss the benefits of diversity with the employees, and create a strategic plan that exemplifies the company's philosophy on diversity. Most importantly, modelling behaviour as leaders is important because employees are more likely to follow suit.
Inclusion in healthcare
Queerphobic and discriminatory behaviour practices such as misgendering or denial of access to medical care are still prevalent in the public health system. We must ensure that inclusive healthcare, insurance policies, and mental health programs are customised to the unique needs of the community. This has become even more important ever since the pandemic, as the queer community was one of the most affected sections- mentally and sociologically.
DE & I foster innovation
I foresee technology to be an emerging catalyst that holds the potential to bridge the physical, social, and psychological gaps for the queer community as it is used in a lot of HR engagements. Likewise, technology can be used to develop online training modules that educate employees about LGBTQ+ issues, terminologies, and best practices for creating an inclusive workplace. It can also help community-specific groups to run digitally, giving employees a place to voice ideas, support each other, and increase civic engagement. Furthermore, data analytics can also assist in discovering prejudice and discriminatory practices inside an organisation by analysing metrics relating to promotion rates, performance reviews, or employee feedback.
An inclusive culture fosters a sense of belonging, psychological safety, and career development opportunities for employees. Including varied ideas and perspectives from a diverse set of people improves employee morale and decision-making. This, in turn, has a huge positive impact on not just the technological innovation of the company, but also on environmental and social innovation. Diversity promotes nonlinear innovative thinking that can fuel a lot of ideas. Thus, a direct relationship between diversity and business performance can be seen, which can be measured in terms of profitability, retention of people, and healthy work culture.
A culture of belonging for all
By supporting inclusive businesses, pushing for change in their own workplaces, and getting involved in community projects, leaders and employees must step up to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Diversity goes much beyond merely the gender split. Let us concentrate on the five pillars of diversity: age, gender, parenthood, sexual orientation, and Persons with Disabilities (PwD). Love should never mean having to live in fear, everyone deserves to express themselves and their individualities without shame and compromise. With one intentional step at a time, we can achieve our goal of building a truly equitable society.