June is LGBT Pride Month, and I feel this is a great opportunity to discuss why LGBT inclusion in the workplace is important for employee wellness and how employers can foster an environment of inclusion.
According to a recent study by Telus, about one-third of respondents don’t find their workplace safe and inclusive for lesbian and gay employees. In addition, the study found that:
- 57% per cent of respondents said they’re not fully out at work
- 22% are worried about a hostile work environment
- 15% are concerned about losing out on career opportunities
- 10% are worried about personal safety
Many LGBT individuals facing discrimination in the workplace suffer mental health issues
“LGBT-identified individuals experience higher levels of depression and anxiety, and have higher incidents of suicide,” says Colin Druhan of Pride at Work”. “And the discriminatory treatment they receive from others, including in the workplace, contributes to those statistics. People should feel safe at their job, not afraid of being shamed or harmed. But many LGBT employees choose not to reveal their sexual orientation in their workplace, thinking it will make co-workers uncomfortable, or alienate them. Some fear retaliation.”
What can employers do?
Although many companies have policies regarding inclusion, it is clearly not widespread enough. And while protecting employees from discrimination is both a legal and ethical responsibility for employers, there is often a disconnect between policy and practice. There are many things that you as an employer can do to foster an inclusive work culture that is welcoming to all:
- Develop company-wide policies regarding inclusion
- Institute anti-discrimination and harassment policies that address homophobia
- Promote diversity at work
- Educate all employees and support lesbian, gay and transgender employees through resource and networking groups
- As a company, oppose laws that suppress gay rights
- Take part in community, fundraising and volunteering events that support the LBGT community
Why is diversity important in the workplace?
Diversity promotes and encourages different perspectives and different talents. It can inspire employees to think beyond their own views, push their boundaries, and reduce stigma. I believe we need to create cultures of diversity and inclusion so that everyone feels free and safe to be who they are. Diversity will strengthen your company. It will enhance your recruiting and retention efforts. Employers who fail to create safe, respectful environments risk losing valued employees and clients to more inclusive companies. And according to Pride at Work, the LGBT community has an annual economic impact in Canada of over $100 billion. Doesn’t it make business sense then to promote diversity at work?
Does your company have an inclusion policy in place? How does your company promote diversity and inclusion? Do you actively recruit a diverse workforce?