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Leading with Pride: Creating a Company Culture of LGBTQ+ Inclusivity and Support

Leading with Pride: Creating a Company Culture of LGBTQ+ Inclusivity and Support

June 2023


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Each year, Pride Month is observed in June to honor and uplift the LGBTQ+ community, which includes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and other identities.

Here at Stanton Chase, our mantra is simple: love is love. We steadfastly defend the right of every individual to embrace their true identity, irrespective of gender or sexual orientation.

This Pride Month — and all those that follow — Stanton Chase chooses love as our guiding principle. We uphold the conviction that every human being is entitled to love, be loved, and treasure the person or people they hold dear.

We hope the insights shared in this article inspire you to cultivate an inclusive and accepting workplace where LGBTQ+ individuals can flourish, feel secure, and find happiness.

Happy and diverse employees bring value to organizations. After all, if you want to innovate, you need many people, but if you want to create breakthrough innovations, you need a diverse group of people.

The Current Landscape for LGBTQ+ Professionals in the Workforce

In today’s world, it is easy to assume that the circumstances for LGBTQ+ employees have significantly improved. Regrettably, the statistics reveal a contrasting narrative involving exclusion, prejudice, and unjust obstacles constructed to prevent LGBTQ+ individuals from ascending to management and executive positions.

  • 40% of US employees believe their companies should do more to hire members of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • 38% of LGBTQ+ employees faced workplace harassment.
  • Half of LGBTQ+ workers are not out to their supervisors, while 26% are not out to any coworkers.
  • 34% of LGBTQ+ workers left jobs due to their employers’ treatment of them.
  • 15% of LGBTQ+ women and 30% of LGBTQ+ men believe their sexual orientation will negatively affect their career advancement.

By cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment, businesses can enhance their operational and financial performance, giving them a competitive edge.

  • Firms with over 30% female board representation experience higher year-over-year (YoY) revenue compared to their less gender-diverse competitors.
  • There is a 25% higher likelihood of above-average profitability observed in top-quartile gender-diverse companies compared to fourth-quartile firms.
  • LGBTQ-inclusive companies have greater employee commitment, job satisfaction, productivity, and more altruistic workplace conduct.

What Executives Can Do to Cultivate a Culture of LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Their Organizations

As the driving force behind a company’s operations, goals, ethos, and vision, executives play a crucial role in shaping an organization’s culture. This is particularly true when it comes to fostering LGBTQ+ friendly environments, where change must begin at the top and be spearheaded by executive leadership.

To promote a culture of LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace, executives can take several key steps:

1. Lead by example

One way executives can promote an inclusive environment is by familiarizing themselves with accepted language within the LGBTQ+ community and avoiding language that may be harmful or offensive.

For instance, when inquiring about a colleague’s holiday plans, executives can ask about their significant other or partner rather than assuming they have a husband or wife. Similarly, when discussing someone’s plans on World Family Day, using inclusive language such as asking if they are spending time with their parents, rather than specifying a mom or dad, can make a difference.

In the workplace, inclusivity can also be demonstrated through everyday language. For example, replacing phrases like “good morning, ladies and gents” with more inclusive alternatives such as “welcome, everyone” or “good morning, team” can help create a welcoming atmosphere. This approach is particularly beneficial when addressing large groups.

Additionally, pronouns are crucial in respectful communication. Some individuals may, for example, prefer gender-neutral pronouns like “they.”

2. Review company policies, company resources, and presentations

Executives should create a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory behavior, reflected in all company resources. Company policies should also use gender-neutral language, such as “Chair” instead of “Chairman.” Additionally, company policies should outline a practical process for employees to report any discrimination based on gender or sexual identity, with tangible consequences for those found guilty.

To foster respect and understanding for diverse genders, sexualities, and sex characteristics within the community, executives should ensure that company materials and presentations portray the LGBTQ+ community’s diversity through photographs and illustrations.

Reassessing dress codes to avoid restrictive or exclusionary guidelines, such as specific attire for men and women, is also crucial to prevent discomfort for those who do not identify with traditional labels.

In presentations and internal emails, executives must be mindful of pronouns and titles, too. Rather than using traditional titles like “Mr. Smith,” inquire about an individual’s correct title.

3. Champion LGBTQ+ inclusive recruitment strategies

LGBTQ+ inclusive recruitment starts with creating inclusive job advertisements. To ensure all applicants feel welcome, it’s essential to use gender-neutral language and avoid gender-specific pronouns. For example, rather than writing, “We’re looking for a CFO who can conduct himself as an expert in the industrial industry,” choose “We’re looking for a CFO who is an expert in the industrial industry.”

The job recruitment process itself can also be modified to eliminate any bias. This can be achieved by evaluating resumes and bios without including names, pictures, or references to the applicant’s family situation.

Job advertisements and postings present an excellent opportunity to emphasize your company’s dedication to diversity and inclusion, too. A simple statement like, “We invite diverse candidates and candidates from historically marginalized groups to apply. We offer a safe and inclusive space,” can make a significant difference.

To make job postings more LGBTQ+ friendly, mention benefits packages that cater to the diverse needs of all employees, such as same-sex partner benefits, transgender-inclusive healthcare, and parental leave for all parents.

You should also consider partnering with local or national LGBTQ+ organizations to promote job opportunities and gain expertise in creating a welcoming work environment. These organizations value the support, and your LGBTQ+ employees (and candidates) will appreciate your efforts to promote allyship. It’s crucial to remember that there are still far too few organizations that practice LGBTQ+ inclusivity, so every step you take in this direction makes a difference.

4. Create employee resource groups, safe spaces, and offer diversity and inclusion training

A single discriminatory employee can undermine a company’s inclusive culture, especially when it comes to LGBTQ+ colleagues. To combat this, diversity and inclusion training, specifically addressing LGBTQ+ sensitivity can be beneficial

LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion training should cover appropriate terminology, concepts like gender identity and sexual orientation, and help employees confront their own biases. Incorporating activities, discussions, and real-life scenarios can make this training more effective, as well as including information about legal rights and protections for LGBTQ+ individuals. Inviting LGBTQ+ speakers to share their experiences can also promote empathy and understanding.

While diversity and inclusion training is a step in the right direction, employee resource groups (ERGs) and safe spaces can further help LGBTQ+ employees to feel truly welcome.

ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups that promote a diverse and inclusive workplace by connecting employees with similar backgrounds or interests. An LGBTQ+ ERG typically provides support, networking opportunities, and resources for LGBTQ+ employees while fostering awareness and allyship among all staff members. ERGs can also offer mentorship, skill-building workshops, and leadership opportunities, helping LGBTQ+ employees advance in their careers and contribute to the company’s success.

Safe spaces are designated areas within a workplace where employees, particularly those from marginalized groups, can openly discuss their experiences and concerns without fear of judgment or retaliation. These spaces provide a confidential channel for LGBTQ+ employees to voice their concerns, allowing companies to identify areas for improvement and implement necessary changes.

5. Be an ally and celebrate Pride

For the skeptics among us, displaying rainbow logos in June might appear as a superficial gesture rather than an impactful action for LGBTQ+ individuals facing discrimination. It’s true that these logos alone cannot stop the injustices faced by the LGBTQ+ community. However, they can apply societal pressure to encourage the acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals. When prominent companies and figures stand as allies, a ripple effect occurs, sparking conversations worldwide, much like this one.

We must be the change we wish to see in the world. If you have ever faced discrimination due to your gender, race, background, or beliefs, you understand the pain and dehumanization it brings. By actively voicing your support for the LGBTQ+ community, you can help prevent others from enduring similar experiences. While a rainbow logo may not change the world, it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

Companies Need Diverse Executives Who are LGBTQ+ Allies

Creating an LGBTQ+ friendly workplace starts with ensuring representation in management, executive teams, and on the board of your company. Actions speak louder than words, and genuine acceptance means providing LGBTQ+ individuals with opportunities for career growth and respecting their contributions.

Incorporating LGBTQ+ individuals into your leadership not only demonstrates a strong moral stance, but also introduces valuable insights for serving LGBTQ+ customers, developing inclusive products and services, and fostering a positive work environment for all employees.

“Actions speak louder than words, and genuine acceptance means providing LGBTQ+ individuals with opportunities for career growth and respecting their contributions.”

At Stanton Chase, we are committed to promoting change within the C-suite, boards, and management teams. We have witnessed firsthand how our clients achieve increased market share and accelerated growth by embracing diversity in their leadership. Diversity not only adds flavor to life but serves as the key ingredient for a thriving, successful company.

If you need assistance in diversifying your C-suite or board through active executive search or succession planning, click here to connect with one of our consultants.

About the Author

Kristof Reynvoet serves as Stanton Chase’s Global Chair. He holds a Master’s in Applied Economics from Ghent University (Belgium), a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Marketing from Vlerick Business School, and an Executive MBA from Kellogg Business School (Northwestern University, US). He began his professional career in the fast-moving consumer goods and chemical industries, where he held various commercial roles.

As of the publication of this article, Kristof recently celebrated his 5th wedding anniversary with his husband. Additionally, Belgium, his home country, recently marked the 20th anniversary of its first same-sex marriage.

Click here to learn more about Kristof.

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