LGBTQ+ in the workplace: Employer view

May, 2023

It's important to find an inclusive employer that values it's staff for who they are and what they can bring to the workplace. Hear from some employers about what they do to support their LGBTQ+ staff

What should students look for when applying for jobs?

Annie Gainsborough, senior consultant at Gradconsult

Students and graduates often ask me 'should I come out during an interview?' No one can take this very personal decision for you, but understanding more about the job you're applying to can help.

To assess whether a workplace is right for you:

  • go beyond their website and head to social media. Look for blog posts or team members' LinkedIn profiles
  • find out if they run diversity initiatives (e.g. Stonewall's Diversity Champions, LGBT+ mentoring or working groups)
  • ask if they support other people’s events/initiatives/LGBTQ+ awareness days.

Depending on your needs, some other things to spot include:

  • the use of pronouns in emails or team bios
  • whether they empower other underrepresented groups
  • if they have LGBTQ+ information in their policies
  • gender neutral toilet facilities
  • if they do these things all year round and not just in Pride month.

LGBTQ+ friendly organisations will understand (or seek to understand) the unique skills and experiences you have to offer. And if you have questions, pick up the phone/send a message - most employers will be happy to have an informal chat before you apply.

What should co-workers be doing to support their LGBTQ+ colleagues?

Hayley Vaughan, supervising associate, EY

At EY we encourage a strong sense of belonging, with that comes curiosity to discover and discuss the perspectives of others. To support your LGBTQ+ colleagues, you can reach out and try to ask questions to understand their perspectives and lived experiences. You'll find that most people are open to discussing their experiences, so long as the questions are coming from a place of sincerity and an open mind.

To show visible support all year round, co-workers can add the LGBTQ+ flag to their email signature, together with their preferred pronouns. This might feel like a small thing to do but goes a long way to show others that you are recognising and acknowledging this.

If your company has rainbow lanyards available (or other supporting merchandise) why not be a visible ally? This creates a sense of safety to an otherwise invisible minority group.

Finally, if you see/hear anything that may be inappropriate - call it out. It might seem obvious, and the simplest way to show your support. However, sometimes it's easier said than done. It takes active listening and speaking to LGBTQ+ people to educate yourself and recognise things that are hurtful and harmful to us and wider LGBTQ+ communities.

How do you educate your staff about embracing diversity in the workplace?

Matt Tudball, senior editor, Recycling at ICIS

We have more than 30 Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) covering 12 areas of inclusion such as multicultural, mental health and menopause. Each group holds virtual education events ranging from informal chats to specialist external speakers, and each employee has 16 ERG hours that they can use to attend these events.

Having a personal element to an event can really help get engagement. If you have a person who you know or you've worked with for many years telling you their story, it has a much stronger emotional impact, and people are more likely to retain the learnings from that event because they can relate them to someone or something they know. Having a trans or non-binary colleague explain the emotional impact of misgendering, for example, can really drive the message home.

We also ensure that our ERG SharePoint sites have plenty of internal and external resources that people can access at their leisure. This allows people to really dig into areas of interest, or where they have larger knowledge gaps, but under their own steam and their own level.

How do you support your LGBTQ+ staff and the communities in which you work?

Helen Robinson, diversity and inclusion community engagement manager, AutoTrader

Our LGBTQ+ network reaches over 200 individuals from across the business, including both those that identify as LGBTQ+ and allies too. They not only provide a social space for one another, but a safe space too. They actively educate our wider business on issues affecting the community, and focus on the development of our LGBT+ colleagues. And upcoming event will be in collaboration with our women's network, around 'understanding and supporting trans women' focusing on the experiences of trans women and supporting them both in and out of the workplace. 

By working closely with our wider people and culture team our networks have a positive impact on recruitment, policies, and learning and development opportunities.

Throughout the year, our networks work closely with the communities in which we operate in, including having close relationships with charities such as Manchester Pride, the George House Trust and the Proud Trust. Our network has done a number of fundraising initiatives throughout the year including a hike up Snowdon.

How have things changed for the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace in recent years?

Eddy Turner, marketing associate, Uptree

The transition to remote working due to the pandemic has raised concerns for the visibility of LGBTQ+ employees. According to the CIPD report Inclusion at Work Perspectives on LGBT+ Working Lives LGBTQ+ employees find it harder to maintain working relationships and job satisfaction.

In a post-pandemic society, it is important for organisations to maintain inclusive policies and practices. Employee resource groups offer the opportunity for groups to network and share experiences, they have been found to facilitate support and bolster job satisfaction.

54% of LGBTQ+ staff felt that equality policies do not protect trans people in the workplace. With the recent ban on conversion therapy being exclusionary of trans people, their feeling of unease is unlikely to stop at the workplace. This stresses the need for robust policies and a work culture that protects all.

Organisations are evolving to create a more inclusive workplace culture for LGBTQ+ employees, putting in place anti-discrimination policies. Studies have shown how LGBTQ+ people still face discrimination at work. Developing diversity and inclusion practices takes frequent reviewing and an organisation-wide desire to learn.

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