LGBTQ+ Diversity and Inclusion: Patrick R. Nelson on Supporting your LGBTQ+ employees

by Susan Mullin

According to a recent study by the U.S. Chamber Foundation, diversity in your work organization creates a more productive work environment, increases employee retention, and is good for your bottom line. In fact, companies with inclusive policies and diverse boards of directors see a stock performance 6.5% higher than their competition, and they create stronger partnerships with community organizations and employee groups. Potential employees notice these policies.

A Deloitte study found that 80% of job seekers are looking for inclusive employers and 72% are willing to leave current employment if the new company is more inclusive.The Human Rights Campaign has published the Corporate Equality Index since 2002. It ranks companies on a variety of pro-LGBTQ+ policies that benefit the community. The early days saw only a handful of organizations ranking well and even fewer reaching 100%. The 2019 Index has 571 companies reaching the coveted 100% mark.

What’s important to job seekers is a workplace that allows them to be who they are. Bringing your whole self to work means being out from the start, talking about a spouse no matter your orientation, and even dressing in a manner that makes you feel comfortable—especially if it’s gender non-conforming.

It goes deeper than this, too. Potential employees want to know that you’re encouraging current employees to participate in the shared experience of inclusivity. Do you offer diversity training? What about equitable benefits coverage? Do you have non-discrimination policies in place? Do you actively recruit a diverse workforce?

There are things that you can do to accomplish this: become an ally

How do you do that?

First, empower yourself

There are so many resources available at your fingertips that weren’t available even 15 years ago. A quick online search will give you access to LGBTQ+ groups, inclusive companies, and other websites and resources. Read, read, read. When you’re done, ask questions.

Once you’re comfortable, be visible and be affirming

You can show your support by treating everyone equally and with respect. Show your LGBTQ+ coworkers that you’re interested in them. Make them feel comfortable in your “space.” And, if you’re unsure of an LGBTQ+ coworker’s pronouns? ASK! More than likely, that person will be happy you asked and will share without judgement.

Empower your colleagues

Speak out if you see or hear discrimination. Encourage your colleagues—both gay and straight—to support an office culture of inclusion. Speak up against homophobia and bigotry. Be a person that develops the type of culture you would want to be part of.

Finally, and most importantly: LISTEN

Being a good ally means you hear what your LGBTQ+ employees and coworkers are saying. Having a “safe space” to talk without judgement and with confidentiality is important to all relationships between colleagues. If a co-worker confides in you, feel proud that you are given an opportunity to be a trusted ally. And please do remember that even if someone shares their orientation with you, that information might not be shared with others.

Being an ally isn’t easy. It takes some work. But lucky for all of us, there are resources online and, in many companies, resources that can help you along your journey. Reach out to your HR or People Services office to see what they have on tap. Hop online to read more about the LGBTQ+ community and how to be a great ally in the workplace.

Here are some resources to help you get started:

About Patrick R. Nelson

I think I am one of the most fortunate LGBTQ+ employees there is. I have been out for 25 years. Not only have I had great experiences at work, but also have a family that has been incredibly supportive since that post-dinner conversation in the early 90s.

But through those 20+ years of job experiences, I took my time sharing my personal life with my coworkers—until now.In the spring, I joined Booz Allen’s internal corporate staff and for the first time was out from the start of the hiring process. I was referred by the Co-Chair of the Booz Allen GLOBE so there was an air of assumption. And in the fall of 2015, I became an adjunct lecturer in the Professional Writing Program in the University of Maryland’s English Department, having been an out and active alumnus for two decades.

Coming out is a never-ending process, especially while teaching. Each new semester and class, the process starts all over again. But since my then-boyfriend and I decided to get married two years ago, I somehow outed myself during that first day of class rather than let that news leak during the semester. What was the reason my coming-out timeline changed? Part of that is that it’s 2019, but mostly it’s because the places I choose to work support their LGBTQ+ employees, encouraging them to bring their whole selves to work each day. That is good for employees and it’s good for business.

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Posted in , Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Workplace Culture