Everyone has a right to live life without discrimination and employers are responsible for treating their employees and job candidates fairly. Businesses across the world have taken significant steps to improve the policies and culture to ensure that their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBT+) staff and customers are treated equally. However, not every LGBT+ person feels supported in the workplace or while applying for jobs. Many people receive negative comments, hesitate to report bullying or to express their gender identity.
In their LGBT in Britain Work Report, Stonewall highlights the key challenges that LGBT+ staff face in the UK. Issues such as facing barriers to recruitment and promotion, and workplace harassment and bullying affect nearly one in five of our LGBT+ colleagues. These numbers are not an exception, but rather indicate a wider global trend. For example, Out And Equal, a nonprofit organization dedicated to achieving LGBT+ workplace equality, estimates that in the US, one in four LGBT+ employees have experienced employment discrimination in the last five years. In addition, the transgender unemployment rate is currently three times higher than the national average.
”In the US, one in four LGBT+ employees has experienced employment discrimination in the last five years. ”
“Situation of LGBT people in the workplace can be very difficult, especially for trans people – you can’t always see sexual orientation, but being trans is often very visible. That’s why trans people have little possibility of working in services, for instance, but they have a much better chance of being recruited to an IT company. They face difficulties in obtaining proper education, followed by difficulties in obtaing well-paid job later in life. For example, 13% of employees in the EU feel discriminated at work because of being LGBT”, highlights Magda Swider from Campaign Against Homophobia.
Discrimination at the workplace and lack of reporting mechanisms make LGBT+ staff feel less confident and often leads to resignation. Therefore, employers not only have an obligation to protect their staff from discrimination but it is also good for their business to do so, most importantly, if they are willing to attract and retain diverse talent. In the next paragraphs, we will discuss proactive steps that employers can take to build an inclusive workplace environment.
“Discrimination at the workplace makes LGBT+ employees feel less confident and often leads to resignation. Employers not only have an obligation to protect their staff – they also should do it to attract and retain diverse talent.”
Include LGBT+ people on your diversity agenda
First and foremost, LGBT+ people need to be included in the Inclusion and Diversity agendas. In countries where same-sex marriages have been legalized, and LGBT+ rights are progressing, many companies wonder whether they should still provide support for the LGBT+ community. Similarly, many businesses struggle to recognize their role in supporting their staff and end up without the right policies and programs in place. In his article, Matt Kidd stresses that by excluding LGBT+ people from inclusion plans, organizations might unintentionally signal that the contribution of LGBT+ diversity to the workplace is less valuable than that of other underrepresented minorities. Pride Month is a good opportunity to review your Inclusion and Diversity programs and to magnify conversations about equality.
If you are an employer looking to audit your progress towards LGBT+ inclusion, here are a few steps to begin with. Stonewall suggests starting with developing clear zero-tolerance policies and communicating them to your employees and customers. In this way, you will ensure transparency and a clear route to reporting any harassment cases. Other recommendations include running a company-wide and managerial D&I training, supporting LGBT+ role models and putting special focus on trans inclusion. When it comes to hiring and promotion, make sure to include your equality commitments in all job postings and to train your recruitment team to raise understanding about where discrimination can occur. LGBT+ candidates may be deterred from applying if a company does not appear inclusive, for example by binary use of gender in application forms requiring to tick boxes that don’t allow for a spectrum of identities.
“Some of the solutions to better LGBT Inclusion are: conducting anti-discrimination training, creating Employee Resource Groups, supporting civil society organizations, maybe even participating in external events important to a given community, in this case in Prides. But the most important of all is implementing a policy of equal treatment that is understandable for all employees and that includes concrete solutions”, sums up Magda Swider from Campaign Against Homophobia.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution so make sure you have done a thorough analysis of your organizational needs before starting out!
”The most important issue of all in creating an inclusive workplace is implementing a policy of equal treatment that is understandable for all employees and that includes concrete solutions.”
Unlock the potential of remote work for LGBT+ inclusion
Although remote work might not be the answer to all of the challenges that LGBT+ people face at the workplace and job market, it is definitely one of the tools supporting improved inclusion. As an employer, it is important to remember that proposing remote as the only solution to including your LGBT+ employees might cause the opposite effect. However, while looking at opportunities that remote work might create for the LGBT+ community, we were impressed by conclusions from the team at Flexjobs after they cross-referenced the best companies for LGBT+ workers listed by DiversityInc. It turns out almost all offer work flexibility! This is no coincidence.
One of the reasons is that remote work has proved to improve the psychological safety of workers. Cindy Nguyen from Infinite Red makes an excellent point about how a remote work environment helps with mitigating the impacts of workplace bias and creates a space where employees are truly respected. She mentions that while working remotely, employees can truly focus on being productive and delivering their best work, rather than worrying about looking presentable or adhering to the dress code. This is a challenge that can be addressed with the right workplace policies and training but at the same time, flexible working can be an additional opportunity to ease the stress and pressure for LGBT+ employees, i.e. trans employees who are transitioning.
“I believe that remote working can be helpful for enabling greater flexibility for LGBT communities, this could be both for getting into work and for staying engaged in the workplace. Remote working may be particularly useful when LGBT people are transitioning or dealing with mental health issues, but also in a more general sense as it creates a safe space to carry out a job without having to worry about the other factors which intersect within the typical workplace.” – says Sarah Brown, specialist on LGBT+ issues.
Another barrier that LGBT+ staff might face is being denied promotion due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. Remote work equalizes opportunities for promotion among all staff in the long run due to higher transparency and accountability. And even though this is a solution that impacts positively the whole company, it can have a magnified positive impact on the LGBT+ staff.
”Remote work equalizes opportunities for promotion among all staff in the long run due to higher transparency and accountability. ”
Remote work can also help attend to specific health needs of LGBT+ staff. For example, the correlation between experiencing mental health issues and the LGBT+ population is high. This needs to be accounted for in the workplace. Sarah Brown adds that remote work could help with playing a positive role in relieving some of these issues. It can help those suffering from mental health issues stay engaged in the workplace without the excess stress coming from some of the barriers mentioned above.
Our commitment at Remote-how
As an organization focused on remote work, we will always try to explore the opportunities that remote work creates. However, we believe that the narrative should always remain focused on how to make every work environment more inclusive for all, not just for everyone from a distance.