For LGBTQIA+ employees to feel a true sense of belonging within an organization, employers need to support them during all months of the year, not just June. While companies have begun to expand programs and benefits within their organizations to support the unique needs of LGBTQIA+ employees, there is still a lot of work to do. LGBTQIA+ professionals don’t have the same sense of belonging that non-LGTBQIA+ employees do.
By conducting audits and engagement surveys, employers can start to understand where they are missing the mark when it comes to creating a sense of belonging for their LGBTQIA+ employees. These tactics should also be used to identify how to evolve their benefits programs to better meet the specific needs of LGBTQIA+ employees. However, to truly be advocates for the LGBTQIA+ community, this is just the beginning of the work to be done.
The first step before change is to understand where you are now. Let’s get a snapshot of how LGBTQIA+ tech professionals are currently supported within the tech industry.
According to our 2022 State of DEI in Tech Report, more than half (67 percent) of employers reported improvement in the diversity of their overall workforce by at least 10 to 20 percent year over year. Of those companies, 38 percent improved their LGBTQIA+ diversity. However, more than half (68 percent) of employers reported having less than 30 percent of their organization made up of employees who identify as LGBTQIA+. Additionally, 31 percent of employers don’t report on this metric at all.
The reality is that the LGBTQIA+ community faces violence, sexual harassment and threats related to gender identity and sexual orientation in the workplace. In fact, 74 percent of LGBTQIA+ respondents have faced workplace discrimination and 53 percent have left an employer due to this. And this discrimination affects their livelihood. Companies must take responsibility for these high numbers and prevent discrimination from happening at all in the future.
Our 2022 State of DEI in Tech report emphasizes that many LGBTQIA+ professionals don’t feel a sense of belonging in the workplace. This is their reaction to the following statements:
Furthermore, a survey done by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation found that 81 percent of non-LGBTQIA+ professionals agreed that employees should be able to be themselves in the workplace, yet 70 percent of those same professionals stated it’s “unprofessional” to discuss sexual orientation at work.
Companies are responsible for building a work environment where every person can bring their whole selves to work without fear of judgment or retaliation by their organization or co-workers. While companies are starting to make progress, there is still a lot of work to be done.
With any cause, true advocacy and support is a year-round endeavor. According to the data collected from nearly 100 companies for our 2022 LGBTQIA+ Advocacy Awards program, 72 percent of companies provide external support to the LGBTQIA+ community beyond Pride Month, which occurs throughout the month of June each year. This is a positive trend that more companies can aspire to achieve.
Support for LGBTQIA+ employees is still in its early stages with companies. Here is a yearly breakdown of when companies first implemented LGBTQIA+ specific initiatives within their company according to data collected from our 2022 LGBTQIA+ Advocacy awards. The year 2020 was seemingly the most influential year, however 7 percent of companies only started the work this year.
Taking a step back to understand where the tech industry stands in its support of LGBTQIA+ professionals shows there is much progress to be made. Companies must take action now to build programs that support the LGBTQIA+ community throughout the entire year. Performative activism is not the answer.
Companies must assess many different aspects of their business to ensure all of LGBTIQA+ needs are met within the workplace. Keep reading to hear actions your organization can begin today to start improving your support of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Conduct Engagement Surveys
If you are just starting out or looking to assess where to begin supporting LGBTQIA+ employees, start with an audit of your own organization.
People-enabled veteran Lorraine Vargas shares, “Audits are the sexiest work in my book.” And for good reason. Throughout her career, separation audits are often the point at which employees’ experiences of bias and inequity emerge, giving her the data she needs to make a change.
Lorraine urges leaders to regularly pulse check LGBTQIA+ employees about their experience of equity, or lack thereof, in the workplace. “When you start asking questions, you might start to uncover things like pay inequity or promotion discrimination or bad behavior at work. What I’m saying is: Just be brave and do it anyway.”
To start productive and safe conversations about inclusion for the LGBTQIA+ community and all employees, Lorraine offers these examples of questions as prompts:
“Whatever you uncover will make your workplace safer and more inclusive for every single employee,” says Vargas.
Participate in the HRC Corporate Equality Index
To benchmark where your company truly stands in supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, companies should participate in the HRC Corporate Equality Index. This tool, from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), is the true measurement of if your organization’s policies, practices and benefits are truly supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community. If you don’t feel you’re ready to measure up quite yet, their yearly report is an incredible resource to help you understand where your company can invest more time and resources.
Refresh Perks and Benefits
Every employee has different needs when it comes to getting support from its employer. As a business, it’s imperative that you build your perks and benefits package with an equitable mindset. What you offer, and more importantly how you speak about it, can make the difference between supporting all employees and excluding a portion of your employees, whether intentionally or not.
One example of this is language around family support within your perks and benefits offerings. Writing about your parental leave policy can be exclusionary if you’re not thinking about all family types. Families who choose to adopt, for example, may not be automatically included in parental leave policies. Being as specific as possible about all instances of parental leave support in your perks and benefits policies helps create a more equitable and inclusive workplace.
Below are some additional examples of perks and benefits employers can offer to support their LGBTQIA+ employees:
Make Inclusion a Priority
Consider this: Being able to feel safe to express themselves at work is important to three out of four respondents in a recent survey. And if they didn’t feel this way, 65 percent would leave their employer.
As you know, employee turnover is costly, and it’s an employer’s responsibility to create a safe work environment for all employees. Here are a few examples of how your organization can support inclusion specifically for your LGBTQIA+ employees:
Be an Advocate for the Community As a Whole
It’s one thing to support LGBTQIA+ employees as an organization but to be true advocates for the community as a whole, companies must do more. And employees expect this too — 36 percent of respondents said in a recent survey they would find a new job if their employer didn’t stand up to discriminatory legislation or policies. To be seen as advocates, companies must take a stand to improve the livelihoods of their employees both inside and outside of the workplace. Here are a few examples of how employers can support the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole:
It’s time for more organizations to step up and consistently support diversity and inclusion efforts for the LGBTQIA+ community and all under-resourced populations in our workplaces. Doing so not only improves the work-life of all employees but the company as a whole.