Three Ways to Create an Inclusive Work Environment for LGBTQ+ People

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Three Ways to Create an Inclusive Work Environment for LGBTQ+ People

building an inclusive workplace

Monday, June 15, 2020, was a historic day in LGBTQ+ history in the United States. On that day, the United States Supreme Court ruled by a majority that LGBTQ+ people are protected under the 1964 Civil Rights Act on the basis of sex. The Bostock v. Clayton County Supreme Court decision was a powerful affirmation of the rights of LGBTQ+ people across the country, not just in employment, but in housing, education, healthcare, and public accommodations. Various states across the nation have also passed laws providing sundry protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

As state and federal policies slowly become more egalitarian, the equally important work of implementing the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) lives in transforming our workplace cultures. 

But what does diversity, equity and inclusion mean? Here’s how we define these principles: 

  • Diversity is the process of ensuring that all identities are accepted and embraced in our workplaces. This can include, but is not limited to, identities rooted in sex, religion, race, ethnicity, gender identity, ability, country of origin, educational attainment, and sexual orientation.
  • Equity is taking those identities and honoring them through fair and just treatment, particularly those identities that have been historically mistreated or oppressed. 
  • Inclusion is the moral mandate that we invite everyone—regardless of identity—into respectful collaboration and the acknowledgement that by celebrating and welcoming a rich and healthy mix of experiences, we are best positioned to succeed in our work. 

Now that we know what the DEI principles are, here’s how we can incorporate them into our workplaces. 

Learn from History

The history and lived experiences of LGBTQ+ people is steeped in a rich and vibrant movement to realize equity and justice for sexual and gender minorities. While this movement has made great strides, those strides have come at an incredible cost. For example, did you know that anti-sodomy statutes in America date back to the 1600s? It wasn’t until the early 1960s that steps were taken to adjust these laws; in 2003, the United States Supreme Court invalidated anti-sodomy laws in the last 14 states that still enforced these laws. The rights of transgender people are still under attack as we’ve seen an uptick in oppressive “bathroom bills” that attempt to strip away the rights of transgender people in public spaces. In states across the nation, there are still battles being waged to ensure that transgender people are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve, not only within our culture, but in the spirit of the law. Knowing this history, understanding the historical trauma inflicted on LGBTQ+ people, will go a long way in creating a workplace culture that prioritizes empathy and equity for sexual and gender minorities. 

Develop a Values Statement 

A values statement is a document that summarizes the key principles that encapsulate the ethos of an institution. While a mission statement provides the “North Star” that guides the direction of the institution, the values statement is a declaration of how we will get there, not just for external stakeholders, but for staff and consultants within the firm. A values statement is a litmus test, it is the standard that the institution’s human resources department and senior leadership use to hold workplace culture accountable to the staff. In many job descriptions, there are non-discrimination and equal opportunity statements that illustrate an institution’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. These statements are a small, but pivotal aspect of the overall values statement of the firm. They are a public commitment to doing the impactful DEI work that will foster a rich and vibrant culture that not only is accepting, but successful and productive. 

Review the Three Ps: Programs, Policies, and Practices 

A strong human resources best practice is evaluating three vital aspects of workplace culture. Here are the pivotal questions we must ask: 

  • What programs are we providing for our LGBTQ+ staff members to ensure the affirmation and respect of their identities? Does our healthcare program provide coverage for such benefits as in-vitro fertilization, gender affirmation procedures, and mental health services tailored for sexual and gender minorities in parity? If our firm offers subsidized legal services for staff members, do those programs cover civil rights complaints, navigating the adoption process, or other services that LGBTQ+ employees may need support with? 
  • Are there policies in place to support LGBTQ+ staff members who may lack equitable access to resources? Is there an LGTBQ+ working group that is empowered to bring suggestions to human resources and senior leadership that are of importance to group members? Are there specific policies and processes in place that allow LGBTQ+ people to speak openly with human resources representatives about issues of concern in the workplace? If our institution has an endowment that is maintained through investments, have we screened our investments to ensure that the firms we invest in do not have anti-LGBTQ policies or have donated to anti-LGBTQ politicians? Are there specific “screens'' in place to ensure that the endowment is making ethical investments that align with the mission, vision, and values statements? 
  • Are our practices a true reflection of a commitment to the DEI principles? Do we walk the proverbial talk? Are LGBTQ+ employees invested in and promoted at the same rate as their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts? Do we provide an open space for LGBTQ+ staffers to celebrate their identities (e.g., Pride month activities; Transgender Day of Visibility; Transgender Day of Remembrance)? 

These suggestions are merely a starting point and should be tailored to the unique circumstances of the workplace. A fully inclusive—and dutifully lived—DEI program requires building and maintaining a culture of care and a willingness to have courageous conversations that expose inequity, lift up the inherent power and dignity of all identities that we bring into the workplace, and commit to doing the work of celebrating diversity. 

Translucent Resources is committed to this journey. Please join us!