Open To Succeed: LGBTQ Leaders Create True Diversity in Workplace

Creating an open workplace culture of inclusion for all LGBTQ employees makes everyone more successful.

Creating an open workplace culture of inclusion for all LGBTQ employees makes everyone more successful.

The photo shoot recently at the NATO summit in Brussels with the sole male in the otherwise all-female group of world leaders’ spouses says a lot about the under-representation of LGBTQ  leaders in politics, business and entrepreneurship around the world.

Gauthier Destenay, husband of Xavier Bettel, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, stood with the wives of the leaders of the U.S., Germany, France and more and smiled. But the message was clear: not many openly gay leaders are serving in high visibility positions in this country and abroad.

An open workplace culture of #inclusion for LGBTQ employees makes everyone more successful

The photo opportunity may seem isolated, but for some LGBTQ workers in this country, it is not possible to feel comfortable even placing same-sex photos of loved ones on a desk in an office as part of a company culture that does not celebrate openness or diversity.

“Given this paradox of progress and backlash, it’s more important than ever to consider the role business leaders can play to shift culture and advance LGBT equality around the world. New research shows how far we’ve come—though we still have much to do, “writes Selisse Berry, CEO and founder of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, in Towler Road.

Many issues confront workers, managers, leaders and entrepreneurs around LGBTQ issues. June is Pride Month, when celebrations and examinations about LGBTQ issues are illuminated. And according to Out and Equal, discrimination, invisibility and even harassment are prevalent in today’s workforce and need to be addressed.

One in four LGBT employees report experiencing employment discrimination in the last five years. Nearly one in 10 LGBT employees have left a job because the environment was unwelcoming,” reports Out and Equal.

According to the Out and Equal Fact sheet, “Transgender people face double the rate of unemployment as the overall population and nearly half of transgender people were not hired, were fired, or were not promoted due to their gender identity. Nine in 10 transgender employees experienced harassment or mistreatment on the job, or took steps to avoid it.” Nearly one in 10 LGBT employees have left a job because the environment was unwelcoming.

Legislation and business efforts in 2017 are addressing fairness for LGBTQ employees, with some success, Take The Lead reported earlier this year.

Although same-sex marriage is legal in this country, in more than half of America, in 28 states, you can get fired just for being lesbian, bisexual, or gay. In 30 states, you can be fired for being transgender, even in companies that claim to honor diversity in the workplace.

According to research from the University of California-Los Angeles analyzing 36 different studies, creating a workplace culture that is diverse and friendly to LGBTQ employees makes good business sense.

A workplace that is diverse and friendly to LGBTQ employees is good business #equality

“More specifically, the existing set of studies demonstrates that LGBT-supportive policies and workplace climates are linked to greater job commitment, improved workplace relationships, increased job satisfaction, and improved health outcomes among LGBT employees. Additionally, LGBT-supportive policies and workplace climates are also linked to less discrimination against LGBT employees and more openness about being LGBT.  Less discrimination and more openness, in turn, are also linked to greater job commitment, improved workplace relationships, increased job satisfaction, improved health outcomes, and increased productivity among LGBT employees,” according to the researchers.

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity by statute.

Employees who are transgender and in the transition process also need distinct accommodations and understanding from all those in the company culture, according to Eric B. Meyer, employment lawyer and creator of The Employer Handbook blog.

#Transgender employees need distinct accommodations and understanding from their company

Meyer tells Ryan Golden of HRDrive,  managers “need to ensure that steps are being taken to make sure that business needs are met. That means talking to other employees and educating them on what this means for the workplace, what this means for the individual, what it means to work with the individual, pronouns, something as simple as that: How is this person going to be addressed in conversation and in email?”

Meyer adds, “Does the fact that someone is transitioning from male to female or female to male affect their ability to do the day-to-day? No, and maybe that’s taken for granted by some people. If they’re in a customer-facing position how is this going to impact that? It shouldn’t. But at the same time, co-workers need to be aware of what the company’s position is and expectations are. That comes from communication, training and policy for more sophisticated companies.”

According to a classic 2011 study in the Harvard Business Review, “Being out makes all the difference to a career. While the numbers of out and closeted LGBTs in middle management are roughly the same — 51 percent out, 49 percent not — their ongoing career paths diverge wildly. LGBT employees who stay on track and make it into senior management are much more likely to be out than closeted: 71 percent compared to 28 percent of their closeted counterparts.”

The complexities and nuances of  LGBTQ leadership are addressed in the only LGBTQ Executive Leadership Program in this country, at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. The week-long executive program, “gives you the strategic insights, personal leadership skills, and powerful network to accelerate your career,” according to the site.

“This is the only Executive Education program of its kind offered by a leading business school to address the significant gap in leadership in the C-suite among lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and those who consider themselves queer or questioning.”

To foster communities where everyone can thrive, “Many companies have created employee resource groups that foster community for LGBT employees and allies and advocate internally for workplace equality, an important first step. But we also need more engagement at the leadership level: Companies that want to deepen their commitment to equality should also create LGBT Executive Councils made up of senior executives who are out,” Berry writes in Towler Road.

“If your company doesn’t have any out senior executives, it’s a good time to ask why.”

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