Value of LGBTQ+ Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace & Changes that are Needed for Organisations to Adopt more Holistic Approaches

This month is Pride month, and this is an important time for us all to reflect on the progress that has been made to make our societies and businesses more LGBTQ+ inclusive, it is also a time for us all to acknowledge and discuss that we still have a lot to do. There is greater demand than ever before for organisations to become more socially responsible, equitable and diverse. Diversity and inclusion is no longer a moral imperative it is also a business imperative, and organisations are increasingly connecting diversity and inclusion to their business strategies. This business imperative is supported by a large body of established evidence and theory which shows that greater diversity and inclusion within the workplace positively impacts on organisational and employee performance. This is as a result of for example:

  • How EDI influences the psychological contract and/or employment relationship between an employer and employee. Where organisations get their diversity management strategies right it can strengthen the relationship between the employer and employee, because it deepens the level of trust between the two parties and signals that the employer recognises and values every constituent. This positively influences the level of employee engagement, morale and productivity.
  • How greater diversity at the executive level influences employee performance. The signaling effect (where someone conveys a message or information about themselves to another party), a greater understanding of the value and impact, and the fact that these organisations have a higher prevalence of progressive management programmes increase motivation, satisfaction, and productivity.
  • EDI’s impact on an organisation’s reputation, customer base and reach. Greater workplace diversity enables organisations to better represent and serve the demographic of their local communities, which leads to developing more inclusive services and products.

Each diversity characteristic is unique, and if we examine sexual orientation recent research shows that greater LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion within the workplace have an impact on employee and organisational performance.

  • LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to study a creative or social science subject at university and can thus play an important role in driving an organisations creativity capability, which is key to enable the development of knowledge and innovation.
  • Research has shown that 80% of LGBTQ+ individuals indicated that inclusion and more specifically LGBTQ+ inclusion is critically important when choosing an employer. Organisations that have a strong inclusion reputation are the most attractive to these prospective employees.
  • Similarly, LGBTQ+ employees are 13 times more likely to quit a job. This is because the negative feelings associated with incidences of workplace discrimination or bias are experienced as a deeper visceral level. As a direct consequence, it is key for organisations to develop and implement strong inclusion strategies, in order to both attract and retain these talents.
  • There is a strong connection between inclusion practices that promote openness and LGBTQ+ employees mental health. This is important because research estimates that around 60% of LGBTQ+ people are not openly out within their workplace due to fear of discrimination, verbal and physical abuse and harassment. Organisations that are more open and have supportive LGBTQ+ policies report lower incidences of harassment and discrimination and improved psychological health and wellbeing within their LGBTQ+ employees.

Despite this evidence there is still a disconnect between the academic theory and what is happening in practice at the organisational level. Equal and fair treatment is not taking place in reality. In fact, there has been far less research done on diversity characteristics such as sexual orientation, disability and neurodiversity than other protected characteristics like gender.

According to the Institute of Student Employers which investigates how employers’ value and prioritize the different diversity strands, sexual orientation is often regarded as one of least important areas.

  • Research that shows that the way in which we (people) categorise or define ourselves has not been fully mapped out or understood for sexual orientation. This alters our behaviour, attitudes and understanding of this diversity characteristic. There are particularly large gaps in the understanding of what is Queer, Non-Binary and/or Trans. The way in which we socially and culturally define and categorise identities is too rigid and over-simplified and this results in a lack of understanding.
  • Moreover, the legal framework across the globe protecting LGBTQ+ individual is highly fragmented and, in many countries, it is still illegal to be LGBTQ+. We have seen a recent rise in LGBTQ+ free zones in parts of Europe such as Poland and a reversal of legal protections for this community. This connects back to how we as society view different diversity characteristics and the legal environment and frameworks plays an important role in shifting societies attitudes and behaviour.

Addressing this theory practice gap is important as organisations need to fully understand each diversity characteristic and recognise that each strand is unique in the way it, influences an organisation’s inclusion strategy. It is critically important that, as practitioners and, diversity champions we are continually challenge both individuals and organisations perceptions and behaviour towards different diversity characteristics. Changes need to take place at the government, education and/or legal level for micro level organisational changes to be more effective and widely implemented. This makes Pride more important than ever as we need to continue to increase our efforts to address the unacceptable stigma and discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community still. This is critical in shifting societies perceptions forward and creating not only inclusive workplaces but also a more inclusive society. These changes in perceptions and understanding are key to ensuring that organisations also adopt more holistic diversity management approaches, to unlock the unique advantages that different diversity strands and individuals can bring to an organisation.

References:

Sulaiman, I. Hashim, C. Ibrahim, M. Hassan, S. (2015) Impact of creativity on organisational competitiveness Accessed: http://www.ijhssnet.com/journals/Vol_5_No_8_August_2015/14.pdf

King, B. DeHaas D. (2019) Unleashing the power of inclusion Attracting and engaging the evolving workforce Accessed: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/about-deloitte/us-about-deloitte-unleashing-power-of-inclusion.pdf

Dupreelle, P. Novacek, G. (2020) A new LGBTQ+ workforce has arrived — inclusive cultures must follow Accessed: https://www.bcg.com/publications/2020/inclusive-cultures-must-follow-new-lgbtq-workforce

Bagett, M.V. Lee, Durso, L. Mallory, C. Kastani, A. (2013) The Business Impact of LGBT-Supportive Workplace Policies Accessed: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/3vt6t9zx 23/3/2021

Mason, C. and Donna, L. (2003) Keeping the promise: Psychological contact violations for minority employees Accessed: https://www.proquest.com/docview/215867607?OpenUrlRefId=info:xri/sid:primo&accountid=12834

Holck, L. Muhr, S. Villeseche, F. (2016) Identity, Diversity and Diversity Management: On Theoretical Connections, Assumptions and Implications for Practice Accessed: https://research-api.cbs.dk/ws/portalfiles/portal/44436324/sara_louise_muhr_identity_diversity_postprint.pdf

Out & Proud (2019) Cibyl, part of Group GTI Accessed:https://cibyl.com/cibyl-insights/out-proud-new-research-experiences-lgbt-young-people

Hooley, T. (2019) Graduate Employers Attitudes Towards Diversity Revealed Accessed: https://luminate.prospects.ac.uk/graduate-employers-attitudes-towards-diversity-revealed

Written by: Aaron Trevitt

About Aaron: I graduated from London School of Economics with a BSc in Environmental Policy in 2012. I then went onto work within a popular retailer within the UK holding various different management positions. This sparked my passion of coaching, mentoring, developing people, and working to create more inclusive workplaces. I went onto complete my Master’s in human resource management, where my dissertation research focused on the value and importance of LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion within the workplace. Professionally, I have recently returned to the higher education sector, and I have been involved in a number of diversity focused initiatives.

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