Matter of Pride: LGBTQ Fairness At Work Is Good Business
Beyond the rainbow merch, pride parades and events across the country marking June as LGBTQ Pride Month, fairness issues in the workplace remain stalled or blocked for millions of workers.
Yet research shows that inclusive work cultures for LGBTQ workers increase recruitment, retention and worker loyalty.
So how do you work to create work environments that welcome everyone?
“As of today, only 22 states and the District of Columbia have express protections for LGBTQ workers based on sexual orientation and gender identity enshrined in law and June 2020 will be one barometer for how far we have to go in the fight for LGBTQ equality as the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on one of the most unsettled civil rights questions—are LGBTQ people protected by Title VII in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin and sex?” Angela Giampolo writes in The Legal Intelligence.
Three cases will come before the SCOTUS in October of 2020.
Giampolo writers, “The three cases in question—R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Altitude Express v. Zarda and Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia—center around a transgender woman fired from her funeral director position when she announced her intention to transition, a gay skydiving instructor fired after a customer complained he came out to her and a social worker fired for inconsistencies in how he handled workplace finances after he was discovered to be a member of a gay recreational softball team.”
Last month, “The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, a bill that would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, the workplace, public accommodations, and other settings,” according to Vox, but faces challenges in the Senate.
“The bill, first introduced in 2015, would also expand public accommodations protections to prohibit discrimination based on sex, and strengthen other existing protections in public accommodations — by, for instance, ensuring that retail stores and banks are covered.”
Recently, The Center for Reproductive Rights, Lambda Legal, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Santa Clara County filed a federal lawsuit asking the Court to strike down the Denial of Care Rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services in May.
Under this rule, health care workers can deny treatment to LGBTQ patients—and others—due to personal, moral or religious beliefs.
A 2017 survey conducted for National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, shows that more than one in five LGBTQ people have experienced institutional discrimination, according to CLASP.
CLASP reports, “Approximately 20 percent have reported discrimination when applying for jobs, negotiating pay, or being considered for promotions. LGBTQ people of color are twice as likely as white LGBTQ people to report workplace discrimination.”
This discrimination contributes to economic insecurity for LGBTQ workers. CLASP reports, “One in four LGBT people earns $24,000 or less annually. Twenty-seven percent of LGBT people are food insecure. Almost a third of transgender individuals live in poverty.Approximately 15 percent of same-sex couples live in poverty. Almost a quarter of children raised by same-sex couples live in poverty.”
While some companies, organizations and institutions are creating inclusive and fair cultures for LGBTQ employees and leaders, other organizations fall far short with discrimination practices that are unspoken or overt. New initiatives are aimed at changing those practices.
Erin Uritus, CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, “is turning the nonprofit’s attention toward the 13 states that comprise the southern United States and lack robust protections for LGBTQ workers, if they have any at all,” writes Matthew Bajko in Bay Area Reporter.
“The agency is rolling out a Southern States Initiative this year and will be hosting two forums, one in Dallas and another in Atlanta, in July. The agency, which advocates for LGBT-inclusive workplaces, is also strengthening its international focus. It has targeted three countries — India, China, and Brazil — to focus on, as each serves as a hub in their regions for multinational companies and has significant local LGBT communities.”
How can you make a difference in your company culture? If you notice discrimination, or fear the possibility, Dr. Santo D. Marabella, professor of management at Moravian College and president of Marabella Entertainment & Education Enterprises, writes in Reading Eagle that authenticity at work is vital. Clarity is needed when meeting with administrators to address fairness issues.
“Be clear in the meeting what you are requesting: a policy statement of support for LGBT employees, an affinity group for LGBT employees, inclusion of LGBT employees as a protected category in the personnel handbook. Whatever it is, make it explicit and understandable,” Marabella writes.
“At the end of the conversation, ask for a commitment; that could be a commitment to further consider, or a commitment to have a conversation with the next person who could move this forward,” Marabella writes.
The Center for Talent Innovation in a 2016 report “demonstrates that countering LGBT discrimination makes a corporation competitive on three fronts. Fostering an LGBT-inclusive workplace helps a company attract and retain top talent, woo and win critical consumer segments, and innovate for underserved markets,” according to Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founder and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation founder of Hewlett Consulting Partners LLC. and Kenji Yoshino, Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU School of Law and author of three books: Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial, writing in the Harvard Business Review.
“We find that the vast majority of allies — non-LGBT individuals who support and advocate for LGBT individuals in the wider community — prefer to work for inclusive companies: a stunning 72 percent of ally respondents say that, all else being equal, they are more likely to accept a job at a company that is supportive of LGBT employees than one that is not supportive. Inclusive policies for LGBT individuals send a friendliness cue that resonates with other employees, even when they are not active allies,” Hewlett and Yoshino write.
“Not only are inclusive workplaces more attractive to potential talent, but they also ensure that current employees stay committed and engaged. LGBT and ally employees at inclusive companies are significantly more likely to say they are proud to work for their employer (84 percent versus 68 percent) and more likely to “go the extra mile” for company success (84 percent versus 73 percent) than those at companies that have a negative attitude toward LGBT employees.”
In its 2018 State of Diversity in U.S. Tech report, Atlassian reports that to increase retention and a sense of belonging, leadership needs to “Equip individuals with the skills to make an impact within their sphere of influence, and raise our collective standards about how people engage in the workplace. Begin by listening to and believing marginalized people who tell their stories, and listen to them about the solutions—their expertise is valuable. Companies must create a place where teammates can have open, respectful dialogue – by understanding others’ experiences, we can learn to help them belong.”
Join Take The Lead’s June 12 live, free Virtual Happy Hour, “Pride In The Workplace: Why Building LBGTQ Inclusive Culture Is Critical” featuring a lively conversation with hosts Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead and Reshma Gopaldas, vice president of video for SHE Media, with Jehan Agrama, President and CEO of Harmony Gold, and founding member of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), along with Natalie Jane Egan, CEO and founder of Translator, where she and her team are on a mission to scale empathy and equality through technology. Egan is an openly transgender B2B software entrepreneur with 20 years of experience driving digital change, developing high performing teams, building complex products, and selling enterprise solutions.
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon www.micheleweldon.com