Oct 13, 2020

Ways to Support LGBTQ+ Employees

Corporations in the US have helped to advance LGBTQ+ rights and to highlight the community through initiatives that include offering public support through marketing campaigns, creating corporate structure changes, sponsoring Pride events, and forming employee support groups. TD Bank, for example, has created its own Pride Network for its employees. And in support of the June 2020 Supreme Court’s decision protecting the LGBTQ+ community from workplace discrimination, 206 corporations signed an amicus brief advocating the decision. 

Despite the forward momentum, there are still challenges for the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace. Many tend to feel isolated due to the lack of representation in higher positions. For example, research from McKinsey shows 2.3% of LGBTQ+ women in the workforce are entry-level employees, compared to only 1.6% of those in more senior positions. 

Supporting LGBTQ+ employees is crucial to ensure that they feel safe going to work and for your organization to be seen as a safe space for all—your company relies on the well-being of the people who work there.

Becoming a Bias Interrupter

When it comes to supporting LGBTQ+ employees, one of the most important first steps is to diversify your pool of employees so they can feel less alone. It also helps to build trust among the leaders of a company. This diversification means implementing organizational structures and practices that eliminate bias.

Eliminating bias isn’t going to be easy or quick—the point is to recognize how bias has played into the hiring process within your organization and yourself as a leader. Insist on actions that promote fairness in hiring and interrupt bias when it comes to screening qualified candidates. 

Inclusivity doesn’t stop at the hiring stage—it extends to all areas of your business. Let’s not forget about existing employees. How are they being supported? 

According to the Harvard Business Review, bias plays out at work in 4 ways: 

  1. Some groups need to prove themselves more than others. 
  2. Certain behaviors are accepted from some groups and not others. 
  3. Women are often questioned regarding their commitment because of their family obligations. 
  4. Some marginalized groups are pitted against each other based on the way they align themselves with the company culture.

In order to eliminate bias, these 4 factors need to be addressed. Otherwise, your efforts to support your employees may fall flat.

6 Ways to Support LGBTQ+ Employees 

These actions are simple, but they’ll profoundly impact the way your business outwardly supports all employees. Keep reading and think about how you can implement these strategies into your best business practices today.

1. Ensure a Diverse Pool of Candidates

Be clear that you’re interested in diversity—-not just hiring one person from the LGBTQ+ community, whether you’re hiring an outside consultant or a full-time employee through your HR department. 

The chances of your company hiring people from a wide range of backgrounds are much higher if the pool of candidates has plenty of finalists who identify as LGBTQ+. Explicitly stating in your job description that you’re looking for more diverse candidates will hopefully encourage members of the LGBTQ+ community to apply to work for your company. You’ll also need clear and objective criteria for rating all applicants.

For example, you and your team can create a rubric based on certain job titles a candidate held, the years of experience someone has, or a specific qualification for the role in question. Then you’ll need to ensure everyone mandates this approach to hiring. 

2. Be Wary About Referral Hiring

Referrals are great, especially from reliable employees. It could help you hire people who are loyal and contribute meaningfully for years to come. However, referrals can be problematic if your company isn’t diverse. In other words, your employees may not realize their pool of acquaintances isn’t diverse, which in turn perpetuates implicit bias.

Instead, reach out to colleges and professional associations that serve or include LGBTQ+ community members to work together to recruit employees. 

3. Use Skills-Based Questions in Interviews

Asking the same interview questions of each candidate—questions that relate directly to the job will eliminate as much bias as possible. Plus, it ensures that all candidates are assessed equally and fairly during the interview process.

To do so, look at the job description you created and outline the skills necessary for the role. Each question you create needs to directly assess the desired skills and knowledge you’re looking for. 

For instance, instead of asking if a candidate is comfortable using a piece of software, ask how they would complete a specific task or command within that software. You could even present a challenge that a candidate will eventually encounter and ask how they would handle it. 

4. Create an Atmosphere of Accountability

Even if you outline exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate or skills for a role, everyone in your organization must hold each other accountable to ensure that processes and systems to encourage inclusivity are met.

It could be as simple as sharing job descriptions to everyone on your team or coming up with a list of interview questions that everyone agrees to. Getting leadership and others in the company bought in and excited about these changes will ensure your LGBTQ+ employees feel seen and supported. 

5. Create Policies That Eliminate Inappropriate Behavior

Creating and implementing policies to eliminate inappropriate behavior will ensure a safe work environment for everyone, especially LGBTQ+ employees. These policies should aim to address and prevent demeaning behaviors and microaggressions.

Some of these policies may include additional training for employers to recognize implicit biases and how to respond to behavior that isn’t inclusive of all employees. It can get as specific as creating spaces for employees to receive training and support around LGBTQ+ specific challenges, such as pronoun use. Employees should also have an avenue for reporting inappropriate behavior in a safe and effective manner.

As a leader, it’s also important you set the tone regarding inclusive behavior. 

6. Create Structures that Support LGBTQ+ Employees

In addition to training, specific programs need to be in place to support LGBTQ+ employees. This includes creating structures or policies granting leave for employees who are transitioning, ensuring that HR forms include inclusive options for listing employees’ disclosed pronouns and genders, and all-gender bathrooms. 

Support structures can also include working with other organizations, like health insurance companies, to ensure employees’ healthcare policies cover LGBTQ+-specific health issues. Plus, working with HR to create dedicated resources for all LGBTQ+ employees will go a long way in supporting them, both professionally and personally. 

Your LGBTQ+ Employees Need You

Now is a great time to look within yourself as a leader and at your business as a whole to see how you can provide a more inclusive and supportive work environment for your LGBTQ+ employees. After all, the backbone—and ultimately, the success—of any thriving organization is its team members, so ensuring that everyone is well-supported will ensure the best possible chances of your company’s success.

About the author

Sarah Li Cain
Sarah Li Cain
Sarah Li Cain is a finance writer and a candidate for the Accredited Financial Counselor designation whose work has appeared in places like Bankrate, Business Insider, Financial Planning Association, Investopedia, Kiplinger, and Redbook. She’s the host of Beyond The Dollar, where her and her guests have deep and honest conversations about money affects their well-being, and Podcasting Q&A, a branded podcast from Buzzsprout.

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