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How to ensure LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the workplace

How to ensure LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the workplace

Fostering LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the workplace is about more than just being morally responsible. Creating happier, healthier workplace environments for employees offers advantages for companies, too. An inclusive workplace, free from LGBTQIA+ discrimination, also ensures that all employees feel safe and supported.

LGBTQIA+ workplace inclusion is very much needed — research conducted by the Human Rights Campaign found stunning results. A Workplace Divided: Understanding the Climate for LGBTQ+ Workers Nationwide uncovered that nearly half (46%) of workers are closeted at their jobs. More than half (53%) say they’re subjected to gay or lesbian jokes at work. Perhaps the most alarming result of all, nearly a third of respondents (31%) are depressed or unhappy at their jobs due to employee discrimination or harassment. Considering employees are the cornerstone of any successful organization; they must be recognized and valued accordingly.

LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the workplace isn’t just “being fair.” Having a positive, healthy, compassionate environment where inclusivity is prioritized and normalized can help you harness the full potential of all your employees. 

Sexual orientation and gender identity shouldn’t negatively impact anyone who works for you — and with some of the simple tips here, you can ensure it doesn’t. Read on to learn how to unlock the full potential of your workforce by focusing on LGBTQIA+ workplace inclusion. 

Why LGBTQIA+ inclusion matters in the workplace

LGBTQIA+ inclusion is essential to creating a diverse, equitable environment that supports all employees and helps them thrive. Although inclusivity will benefit the people working for you, your entire organization can see tangible results from your efforts, too—inclusion can increase employee satisfaction, enhance innovation and creativity, and drive overall business success.

Much research links LGBTQIA+ inclusion with things like: 

  • Greater job commitment
  • Improved health outcomes
  • Enhanced job satisfaction
  • Increased openness about identity
  • Improved workplace relationships
  • Reduced workplace discrimination
  • Increased productivity 

Benefits for employees

  • Improved mental health and well-being: Inclusive workplaces foster a sense of belonging and acceptance that can dramatically improve LGBTQIA+ employees’ mental health. People who feel safe, supported, and accepted can be more engaged in their roles and, ultimately, more productive. 
  • Increased job satisfaction and loyalty: Inclusion can improve the overall worker experience, and some studies show experience directly contributes to a stronger commitment to an organization. 
  • Enhanced authenticity and self-expression: When employees feel safe enough to bring their whole selves to work, it can have a very positive impact. Allowing people to express their true selves also gives them the confidence to contribute unique perspectives and ideas that can drive innovation. As such, firms should strive to uplift their employees and promote gender expression.

Benefits for employers

  • Attract top talent: New research suggests more than a third of Gen Z students and recent graduates (36%) identify as LGBTQIA+. Expectations of workplace inclusivity will be increasingly in demand, as highly sought-after job seekers can afford to be more selective about where they’re willing to work. The study surveyed more than 2,000 students around the globe and found that an astounding 83% of respondents will seriously consider a company’s LGBTQIA+ policies and initiatives before taking a job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Gen Z will make up a projected 30% of the workforce by 2030. In short, if you want to attract the best, focusing on inclusivity is vital — studies already show that companies embracing LGBTQIA+ inclusion are luring top talent. 
  • Stellar company reputation: We know that inclusivity in the workplace improves company and brand reputation. This can effectively attract customers, investors, a workforce, and partners who appreciate diversity and want to work with, for, or support brands that share similar values.   
  • Drive revenue: A study done in partnership with GLADD found that consumers are 2x more likely to buy from a brand or company that publicly supports and is openly committed to protecting and expanding LGBTQIA+ rights to prevent LGBTQIA+ discrimination.   
  • Increase engagement and productivity: Inclusive workplaces can boost morale and engagement, which can lead to higher productivity rates. 
  • Reduce turnover: Research by Deloitte discovered that employees who don’t believe they work for a company that cares about their well-being are 2x more likely to leave their jobs. 
  • Legal and compliance benefits: Inclusivity goes beyond just something you should do because it’s “the right thing to do.” There are legal ramifications for not complying with anti-discrimination laws today, especially those related to human rights and gender equality.

Legal framework for LGBTQIA+ inclusion

Implementing inclusive policies in your workplace will help you meet the requirements of the laws and regulations created for LGBTQIA+ protection. To accomplish this, you should have a basic understanding of important discrimination legislation.

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: This landmark federal law originally prohibited employers from discriminating against workers based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In 2020, the Supreme Court extended protection to include sexual orientation and gender identity, further safeguarding rights and safety of the LGBTQIA+ community. 
  • The Equality Act: Although passed in the House, The Equality Act remains held up in the Senate. This act restricts discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. If fully passed, it will offer explicit anti-discrimination protection for LGBTQIA+ people in multiple areas of their lives — including employment.
  • State and local laws: Many states and municipalities have legal protections in place to prevent discrimination against LGBTQIA+ employees. All companies are required to stay up-to-date and informed about the rules in their area.
  • Executive orders: Various executive orders are in place to protect LGBTQIA+ employees. For example, in 2014, President Obama signed Executive Order 13672, prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. 

9 Best practices for LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the workplace

Several practices can significantly enhance well-being when it comes to LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the workplace. Celebrating Pride Month at work is a powerful demonstration of this commitment, fostering a culture where everyone feels valued and respected. However, LGBTQIA+ inclusivity doesn’t stop there. The following simple yet effective strategies will ensure you’re providing the most equitable and inclusive work environment possible.

1. Develop inclusive policies

The first step is to develop inclusive non-discrimination policies that explicitly outline expectations for accepting sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. This will help to foster a respectful and supportive workplace climate. 

All policies on inclusion should address the importance of:

  • Zero tolerance for harassment 
  • Equal benefits for all
  • Healthcare coverage that includes mental health access

2. Implement DEI training

Implementing DEI training focused on LGBTQIA+ inclusion is pivotal. It reinforces the importance of gender inclusivity in the workplace, educating employees on biases against all gender identities and expressions. Training can also help educate people on the issues LGBTQIA+ employees face. Such initiatives help create a workplace environment where everyone can thrive, ensuring that inclusivity extends beyond sexual orientation to embrace all aspects of gender.

It can also reinforce the importance of things like:

  • Using inclusive language
  • Understanding microaggressions
  • Supporting LGBTQIA+ colleagues and coworkers

3. Ensure support for LGBTQIA+ employees

Providing valuable support for LGBTQIA+ employees is crucial for fostering an inclusive workplace. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and mental health resources play a vital role in this effort.

  • Employee resource groups (ERGs): ERGs offer LGBTQIA+ employees a supportive community where they can share experiences, seek peer guidance, and collaborate on initiatives that promote inclusivity. These employee resource groups can also serve as a platform for advocating for policy changes and raising awareness about LGBTQIA+ issues within the organization. 
  • Mental health resources: Access to mental health services is essential for the well-being of LGBTQIA+ employees. Platforms like Talkspace provide online therapy for employees to help them navigate personal and professional challenges. By offering these resources, companies demonstrate their commitment to the mental health and overall well-being of their LGBTQIA+ staff.

Investing in these support systems not only helps LGBTQIA+ employees feel valued and understood but also contributes to a more cohesive and productive work environment.

4. Foster an inclusive culture

Inclusivity is built from the top down. Getting buy-in from leadership will be crucial to creating a culture that accepts and supports all employees. Leader commitment to inclusivity can result in an entire organization following in action. 

Ways for leadership to promote inclusivity include:

  • Acknowledging LGBTQIA+ events
  • Recognizing Pride Month
  • Celebrating contributions of LGBTQIA+ employees
  • Encouraging open discussions about diversity and inclusion

5. Cultivate allyship

Creating allies begins with education. The first step is showing non-LGBTQIA+ employees how to support others. People should be willing to advocate for fairness and inclusive policies and challenge discriminatory behaviors they witness. Allyship training can promote a welcoming and safe space for LGBTQIA+ populations.    

6. Provide gender-neutral facilities

Providing gender-neutral facilities is essential for creating an inclusive environment that respects and supports all employees. By offering restrooms and other facilities that are accessible to everyone, you demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity and respect for individual identity. This is particularly important for employees who identify as transgender, non-binary, or gender non-conforming. Ensuring that all staff members have access to facilities where they feel safe and comfortable not only enhances their well-being but also fosters a more harmonious workplace. Your efforts in this area show a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, setting a positive example for others to follow.

7. Promote respectful communication & language

Communication and language used should always be inclusive and respectful. This goes for both written and oral communication. Presenters should be aware of the words they use, and handbooks, signage, policies, and benefits packages should be reviewed through an inclusive lens to ensure there’s sensitivity in the materials. 

Promoting respectful communication and language starts with education on:

  • Using correct names and pronouns
  • Avoiding assumptions about gender or sexual orientation
  • Being mindful of the impact of words

8. Engage with LGBTQIA+ community

Building healthy, supportive, solid relationships with the LGBTQIA+ community demonstrates a commitment to inclusion. To start, try connecting with organizations and participating in community events in your area. 

You can also look for ways to:

  • Establish sponsorships 
  • Create partnerships
  • Find volunteer opportunities

9. Have intentional recruitment diversity strategies 

To build a truly inclusive workforce, it's essential to have intentional recruitment diversity strategies in place. Start by reviewing your recruitment process to ensure it’s designed to attract a diverse pool of candidates. Use inclusive language in all job postings to make them welcoming to everyone, regardless of background. 

Other effective ways to create a more inclusive hiring process include:

  • Advertising in LGBTQIA+ media: Reach out to diverse communities by placing job ads in publications and websites that cater to LGBTQIA+ audiences.
  • Training hiring managers: Train your hiring managers to recognize and counteract unconscious biases. This will ensure a fair evaluation of all candidates.
  • Using diverse hiring panels: Include individuals from various backgrounds on your hiring panels to bring different perspectives to the selection process, which helps in making more balanced decisions.

Support Your LGBTQIA+ Employees with Talkspace

The simple truth is that LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the workplace is non-negotiable in today’s climate. The multifaceted effort takes dedication, determination, and a willingness to educate and act—but it is possible. 

When you implement some of the practices discussed here, you’re doing your part to support members of the LGBTQIA+ workforce and celebrate gender diversity in the workplace. It’s more than being an ally to this dynamic population in the office. Mental health resources from Talkspace can be essential in creating an inclusive workplace where every employee feels valued and respected. Inclusivity isn’t just about compliance — it’s about creating a space where everyone thrives. 

Request a demo today to learn how Talkspace can help you support LGBTQIA+ employees and make inclusivity a powerful part of your culture. 

Sources:

  1. “A Workplace Divided.” n.d. Human Rights Campaign. https://www.hrc.org/resources/a-workplace-divided-understanding-the-climate-for-lgbtq-workers-nationwide
  2. The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. 2020. “The Business Impact of LGBT-Supportive Workplace Policies - Williams Institute.” Williams Institute. July 13, 2020. https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/impact-lgbt-supportive-workplaces/
  3. Zhenjing, Gu, Supat Chupradit, Kuo Yen Ku, Abdelmohsen A. Nassani, and Mohamed Haffar. 2022. “Impact of Employees’ Workplace Environment on Employees’ Performance: A Multi-Mediation Model.” Frontiers in Public Health 10 (May). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2022.890400
  4. “New Research: Gen Z LGBTQ+ Students & Graduates Want Inclusive Workplaces.” 2024. myGwork. February 15, 2024. https://www.mygwork.com/en/my-g-news/mygwork/new-research-gen-z-lgbtq-students-graduates-want-inclusive-workplaces
  5. “Projections Overview and Highlights, 2020–30.” 2021. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. October 2021. Accessed June 5, 2024. https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2021/article/projections-overview-and-highlights-2020-30.htm
  6. Staff, U.S. Chamber. 2023. “Better Business: The Benefits of LGBTQ+ Inclusion in the Workplace.” U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. October 18, 2023. https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/corporate-social-responsibility/better-business-benefits-lgbtq-inclusion-workplace
  7. “Business and LGBTQ+ Rights in the U.S.” 2022. https://www.edelman.com/sites/g/files/aatuss191/files/2022-12/Top%20Insights_Business%20and%20LGBTQ%2BRights%20in%20the%20U.S._FINAL.pdf
  8. “Research Shows Workforce Experience Drives Loyalty and Retention.” 2023. Deloitte Insights. January 3, 2023. https://www.deloittedigital.com/uk/en/insights/perspective/workforce-experience-by-design.html
  9. “Summary: H.R.5 — 117th Congress (2021-2022).” 2021. Congress.Gov. 2021. Accessed June 5, 2024. https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill

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