In order for women to achieve gender parity in leadership, the issues of fairness for all employees need attention. The concerns of inclusion and non-discrimination of LGBTQ co-workers are everyone’s concerns. The good news is more U.S. employers are successfully addressing the topic.
Moving into the New Year, legislation is on the table in many states dealing with the rights of those who are transgender, as well as employer discrimination against workers for their sexual orientation and gender identity.
In Texas, for instance, “There are several bills meant to address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Lawmakers are taking another swing at adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of things employers cannot discriminate against (House Bill 225). Another bill would require equal pay for equal work regardless of sex and would do away with job application questions about wage history (House Bill 290),” according to Thrive Report.
In a statement concerning a North Dakota case, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said: “Addressing emerging and developing issues, especially coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people under Title VII’s sex discrimination provisions, is one of six national priorities identified by EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan.”
There is progress on the horizon for gender identity and orientation fairness at work, writes Mehak Anwar in The Daily Dot. “The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit decided in favor of protecting workers attracted to the same sex—an important precedent if a similar case were to be heard in the Supreme Court. Workplace protections based on gender identity or sexual orientation are not currently the law of the land, but 18 states protect people from discrimination of gender and sexuality and three states protect on the basis of sexual orientation only. In the remaining states, there are no protective laws.”Progress on the horizon for gender identity and orientation fairness at work #genderequality Click To Tweet
The recently released Corporate Equality Index 2017 from Human Rights Campaign demonstrates a surge in the number of large employers—887 who are applauded for their fairness practices.
“In this 15th edition of the Corporate Equality Index we have seen the largest increase in top-rated businesses in the history of our survey with 517 employers earning perfect 100 percent scores. In addition, this year saw the CEI’s largest jump ever in businesses offering transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage — from 511 last year to 647 this year,” the report states.
“These businesses know that LGBTQ equality isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes them stronger in our global economy. Ensuring fairness in the workplace is a value and increasingly a policy norm, and not just in the U.S. Now, more than 90 percent of CEI-rated businesses have embraced both sexual orientation and gender identity employment protections for their U.S. and global operations,” according to the report.
“A majority of CEI-rated businesses (86 percent) offer education and training programs that specifically include definitions and/ or scenarios on gender identity in the workplace. Nearly 400 major businesses have adopted gender transition guidelines for employees and their teams to establish best practices in transgender inclusion,” the CEI report states.
Some of the top Fortune 1000 companies to earn perfect scores include companies in all sectors such as Costco; Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.; HP, Inc.; Ford Motor Co.; AT & T, Apple and Verizon.
It is true that workplace culture has been shifting recently to be more diverse and inclusive with an eye toward gender parity, and that is due to corporate initiatives. But this may also be possibly due to the addition of younger workers, who appear to be progressive on gender identity issues, Kunal Kerai writes in LinkedIn.
“Millennials are praised as socially progressive on many issues, including LGBTQ and gender equality. Granted, Millennials loosened the grip of gender norms on society, they’re still not as accepting of those off the gender binary. This is where Gen Z differs,” Kerai writes.
“Generation Z is truly disruptive when it comes to diversity and social acceptance. Talking specifically about gender and sexual orientation, more than 1/3 of GenZers identifies as bisexual, ~60 percent know people who identity with gender neutral pronouns, and 75 percent are more accepting of non-binary people,” according to Kerai.
This has led to distinct changes in workplace practice, operations and culture, he notes. Kerai points to three specific shifts:
- “The rise of gender inclusive bathrooms: as we begin to accept more genders into the workplace, having gender-specific bathrooms like a “men” and “women” bathroom will no longer be inclusive, or cost efficient. Gender inclusive bathrooms save costs ( e.g. no need to build two bathrooms, and to have as many diaper changing stations), and promote inclusiveness in the workplace.”
- “More lenient, casual dress codes: With gender and gender expression heavily reliant on clothing, makeup, and overall appearance, dress codes can play a pivotal role in influencing a worker’s productivity, happiness, and retention over time. What would happen if a man walked into the office wearing a skirt, or heels? A woman walked in with facial hair? Chances are, those individuals would be stigmatized against, ridiculed, or called unprofessional. Gen Z’s notions of gender are accepting of those who don’t fit neatly into the gender of ‘man’ or ‘woman,’ and they are most likely bringing their acceptance with them into the workplace.
- “Gender-centric benefits: As a benefit for its employees, companies may begin to offer financial assistance for their transitioning (transgender) employees. Granted, there are companies that are already doing this, but expect to see more. Expect to see better paid, and longer parental leave policies for employees.”
If you are interested in participating in shifts at your own workplace, or if you are a leader or entrepreneur and want to demonstrate a culture and workplace environment of gender identity inclusion, Human Rights Campaign offers steps for you to begin dialogue and a proposal for an inclusive workplace.
“Talk to your supervisors about what you are trying to accomplish. Make sure they understand what you are doing and why it is so important to you,” according to HRC. Here are specific actions you can take:
- Start a dialogue with your human resources department.
- LGBTQ employee resource groups are an excellent source of information and can provide contacts with other employees who may be in a similar situation. If your company does not have a LGBTQ employee resource group, you may consider starting one to raise the profile of your cause and to seek out allies.
- Continue this dialogue as long as necessary, keeping an eye out for new allies that can add to the dialogue along the way. Keep track of trends in the workplace. If you notice relevant and persuasive newspaper or magazine articles about LGBTQ workplace issues, send copies to your management. Offer to answer additional questions and position yourself as a resource in the process.
Wenche Fredriksen, Human Capital & Diversity lead for Norway at Accenture, explains how she took the lead on making her company more inclusive. Her efforts were prompted by her daughter’s coming out as a lesbian as a teenager.
“Basically, I started rocking the boat, which is a part of my role as diversity lead. I worked to implement LGBT awareness training for all employees in Norway. Securing leadership acceptance to implement this training has been my greatest victory at global professional services company Accenture so far. The training marked a breakthrough for our work in this area in Norway, where we now have an established LGBT network,” Fredriksen writes.
“My being a proud mother actually started the LGBT wave in our company in the Nordics (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Latvia). We now have LGBT leads and networks in all Nordic countries, and we compete a bit with each other about who is doing what first, such as painting the office walls in rainbow colors or participating in a Pride parade,” she writes.
“LGBT is my favorite inclusion and diversity topic because I have experienced how sensitive and difficult the topic is and how much harm we can do unintentionally by not having basic skills and knowledge in place. LGBT is about each of us. It is about how we lead, how we communicate, how we work together and how we unleash the potential of every talent.”