The AltoPartners Guide to Diversity and Inclusion : What your LGBTQIA+ employees wish you knew

September 21, 2022
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What your LGBTQIA+ employees want you to know

Practical advice on delivering on your DE&I commitments

This week we spoke to peers who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. This is what they told us about their experience of feeling marginalised in the workplace and what smart leaders can do to prevent it from happening.

  1. Attitudes flow from the top. Diversity – in all its forms – needs to be discussed and mandated at Board level, facilitated by an outside specialist if necessary. HR needs your support to drive diversity and create a more equitable workplace.
  2. Language matters: Make sure that policy writers understand the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity and that HR policies reflect the nuances of the terminology. If in doubt, there are plenty of online resources, such as The APA style guide, to ensure that official documents and policies are written inclusively.
  3. Take PRIDE – sign up to and support local and international advocacy and support organisations for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Intersex communities, such as The Human Rights Campaign.
  4. Ensure that company documents – such as job or study applications, healthcare, and pension fund administration forms – have more than one option when it comes to gender, and not just male and female.
  5. Review benefits to ensure that significant others and dependents of LGBTQIA+ employees receive equal and fair treatment in the event of death, severance, or disability.
  6. Call out disparaging, anti-LGBTQIA+ (i.e., homophobic) remarks from managers, co-workers, clients, or customers, whether the comments are made innocently, jokingly, or maliciously.
  7. Acknowledge partners, spouses and significant others by name and include them in office functions and events to which partners have been invited.
  8. Ensure that your sexual harassment policy is sufficiently broad to deal with all forms of sexual harassment in the workplace. This should be obvious, but judging by the feedback we received, it is still necessary to point out that it is not OK to take a prurient interest in the mechanics of a co-worker’s sex life, regardless of how they identify.
  9. Assign gender-neutral bathrooms.
  10. Don’t categorise or define people by their sexuality. For example, “I’ll ask our gay designer, he’s brilliant at layout.” The employee’s sexuality is irrelevant.
  11. Train managers to spot (and deal with) micro-aggressions from co-workers after colleagues ‘come out’ at work.
  12. Many employees ‘cover’ at work because they feel the need to fit into a cis-gendered environment. Their social media presence may reflect a very different identity. Take your cues from how your employee presents themselves at work, and don’t out them to their colleagues if they are not ready or willing to do so themselves.
  13. Speak up against any lingering signs of heterosexual, cisgender privileges and assumptions. In addition to auditing your HR and admin policies, this includes explaining to co-workers that saying things like “You don’t act/ sound gay” or “You’re too pretty to be a lesbian” is deeply offensive and inappropriate.
  14. Don’t assume single colleagues are straight.
  15. Make it clear that verbal or physical assault of LGBTQIA+ workers by co-workers will be treated with the same seriousness as any violence in the workplace.
  16. Allow employees to add preferred pronouns to their email signatures.

Share your diversity experiences and dilemmas here - let’s see how we can help.