Skip To Content

How To Create A More Inclusive Environment For LGBTQ+ Employees

Transgender flag held up by a crowd of people.

Originally published on Forbes

Around half of LGBTQ+ Americans live in states that do not prohibit employment discrimination, which means they can legally get married one day and be denied a job the next. Approximately two-thirds of self-identified LGBTQ+ Americans say they have experienced discrimination in their personal lives, and roughly half report being closeted at work. To many, it may seem like Obergefell v. Hodges guaranteed equality, but this is nowhere close to the reality. If you, your managers and your organization feel the fight for equality has already been won, you will not take the necessary steps to truly create an inclusive workplace.

With four out of five Gen Z employees saying they would not work for a company that doesn’t share their values, values-driven companies are going to continue to win in the marketplace. Attracting great talent in this environment is very difficult, and in order to get the very best of the best, it’s important to have strong company-wide values. But be warned: Rainbow washing—the act of only supporting the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month—leads to backlash and resignations because people can sense when your motives are insincere. You should be fully supportive year-round, and if not, don’t jump on our Pride.

As business owners and managers, we set the tone for our entire company. And while we cannot change the world overnight, we can be on the front lines of progress by ensuring that Pride is a way of life rather than a moment in June. Here are four concrete ways to create a more inclusive environment:

Make it clear that your company is an affirming workplace.

To ensure that LGBTQ+ employees feel safe and empowered at work, be upfront and open about your values from day one. There should never be an inkling of doubt in anyone’s mind that you (and your company) fully support the LGBTQ+ community.

From the products you create to the policies you implement, there are countless ways to champion and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. This might mean talking more openly about nondiscrimination policies during interviews, publishing blogs and social media posts that show your solidarity and encouraging open dialogue across your organization. You can also send anonymous staff surveys or hire an external evaluator to conduct focus groups on how to improve your company’s equitable practices, both internally and with clients. Work alongside your team and implement changes as needed to make sure that everyone can bring their true self to work without fear.

Commit to ongoing education for yourself, managers and the entire company.

One in 10 American employees say they have heard their supervisor make negative comments about LGBTQ+ people. To create a safe workplace, inclusivity can’t just be your personal value; it needs to be woven into the fabric of your entire organization. Lead by example and make it clear that there is no room for derisive jokes or demeaning comments in your company.

Talk with your HR team about how to keep employees of all levels updated on resources and guidelines that foster greater acceptance and understanding. For example, this could include going through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s LGBT Inclusion Hub for Small Businesses with your leadership team.

Make it a companywide practice to use inclusive language.

As you work toward creating a more tolerant work community, be mindful of your own subconscious barriers and biases. One of the best places to start is to think about whether the word choices you use in day-to-day workplace communication make others feel included or ostracized. Start simply by making an effort to use phrases like “hi everyone” instead of more gendered expressions like “hi guys.”

You can also refer to resources like the Conscious Style Guide, which provides information about how to use more conscious, inclusive language in written and spoken communication. Use these insights to create job descriptions, company emails and social media posts that are free of gendered or exclusionary language.

Make it safe for people to embrace their true identities at work.

Diversity is a strength, and having team members from varied backgrounds will empower your company to create better products and more authentically represent the world we live in. Show that your commitment goes beyond lip service by implementing inclusive workplace practices. This might include encouraging employees to share their pronouns or creating gender-neutral restrooms and dress codes. You might also want to look over your company’s nondiscrimination policies to see if anything needs to be updated.

Most importantly, promote members of the LGBTQ+ community throughout your organization—not as symbolic figureheads but as key decision-makers. Through listening to and learning from your team, you can cultivate a stronger work environment and help LGBTQ+ workers feel safe and supported. In turn, this ensures that Pride is a lifelong movement rather than a once-a-year moment.

Written By:
June 30, 2022