Given that it’s June, an annual celebration of Pride, we have seen the social space abuzz with conversations around LGBTQIA equality, inclusion, and policies. We’ve also seen rainbow logos. We’ve also seen some policies changing and some companies leaning into inclusivity. During Pride, we’re reminded that as employers, it is our responsibility to make our workplaces inclusive, accepting, and welcoming.
As Pride month comes to a close, we are asking an important question: what happens during the next 11 months of the year? As we put our rainbow flags away, and change our logos back to their regular colors, what we do next is what will make the longest lasting impact.
First, let’s look at why it’s important to care about LGBTQIA inclusion all year, not just during Pride.
The numbers show that LGBTQIA employees don’t have an easy time at work. 19% of LGBT workers have experienced verbal bullying from their colleagues and customers. 13% of LGBT workers do not feel confident reporting homophobic bullying in their workplace. 42% of trans people who are not living permanently in their preferred gender role say that they are prevented from doing so because they feel it will threaten their employment status.
Over the years, the situation has improved for the LGBTQIA staff in some key ways.
- 91% of Fortune 500 companies have introduced non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation.
- 67% have voluntarily extended health and insurance benefits to all LGBTQIA families.
Despite coming a long way in the last few decades, there’s still a lot of work to be done to create a psychologically safe, inclusive, and accepting work environment for LGBTQIA employees.
Zooming out, let’s take a look at the economics of inclusivity.
Do you know how much the US economy would add per year if American companies improved their ability to retain LGBTQIA staff with inclusive policies? If you guessed $9 billion, you’re right.
According to the World Bank, how much would India add to its economic output if it addressed discrimination against LGBTQIA people? Did you guess $32 billion? Correct.
Last one, and then we’ll move on. What’s the aggregate spending power of this LGBTQIA consumer base ? Does your answer include “Trillion”? If not, guess again. The spending power of the LGBTQIA consumer base was estimated to be US$3.6 trillion per annum in 2018. Trillion, with a “T.”
Changes to policies, practices and workplaces add up to billions and trillions of dollars of impact, not to mention making your employees feel like whole people when they come to work.
In fact, the impact of inclusion is so broad that almost every measure of a company’s success improves with inclusivity: client perception, retention, talent pool, brand recognition, market share, legal costs, etc. Below, we’ve compiled more information on each of these, as there’s a wealth of data to show that inclusivity is good for business.
With the world becoming more accepting and understanding of the LGBTQIA community, companies are expected to be more inclusive and create a safe, tolerant environment where your LGBTQIA staff can be themselves and thrive at work.
So, what can companies do to be more inclusive? Where do you start?
Commit to do the work.
Being an LGBTQIA-inclusive employer is not an overnight process; it takes time and consistent commitment.
Here a few things you could start with as you begin your journey towards inclusion:
Think and act ‘glocally’
It is an employer’s responsibility towards their staff to look after their welfare, be fair and accepting to all. Look at the policies and actions taken globally by employers. Find out what would work best in your local context considering the laws to make the workplace more inclusive and adopt the best practices.
Assess your policies
Take stock of your current workplace policies and see if they are conducive to people being open and receptive to others. Check with your LGBTQIA staff if they feel safe, disclosing their sexual identity at work, and are not being bullied. Put measures in place to make sure your work environment is safe for your employees and continually review them to make them better.
Visible LGBTQIA role models
Have visible role models in your organization; they send a powerful message that you walk the talk when it comes to inclusion in your own staff. These role models serve as allies who also educate the workforce on the differences and how to behave with people different than themselves.
Don’t just do one thing, and don’t stop.
Individually, start with any or all of the strategies mentioned. As a company, look at your policies and commit to change the ones that are not inclusive based on sexuality and gender. Have networking events, trainings to address the bias and discrimination and struggles faced by the LGBTQIA community all year long. There are many resources out there (a google search for “LGBTQIA company resources” returns dozens of them), and you can also take a look at these free trainings by LinkedIn for your staff to foster more inclusivity and belonging in your workplace.
Companies who do the work all year round will be the harbinger of powerful societal change, reap the benefits of inclusion, enjoy a positive perception of the market, and enjoy brand loyalty from one of the most loyal customers.
The detailed case for how inclusion is good for business. Here’s are some reasons why:
Positive client perception
Diverse, inclusive companies enjoy an enhanced public image. Clients are keen to partner with companies that are non-discriminatory and inclusive. Millennials who are touted to be 75% of the global workforce by 2025 and form a chunk of consumers are inclined towards companies who are more embracing of their LGBTQIA staff, making them employers and brands of choice.
Reduced legal costs
Companies that care about the inclusion of their LGBTQIA staff observe a drop in their legal costs as the discrimination suits against employers reduce. It also translates in lower health insurance spends on employees as employees’ health improves working in a good environment, reducing stress.
LGBTQIA employees who feel comfortable being out with their colleagues, tend to stay on longer with the company compared to those who feel stifled by the office environment. This reduces hiring and training costs associated with hiring and onboarding new employees. Employee engagement is also said to suffer by 30% when work environments are now accepting of the LGBTQIA staff.
Bigger talent pool
Companies who embrace diversity, especially with LGBTQIA staff, open themselves to the large, talent-rich demographic, increasing their competitive advantage. The diverse team is more innovative and happier.
LGBTQIA people tend to be loyal customers. 87% would switch the brand, which is known for providing equal workplace benefits. 23% of LGBTQIA consumers already switched to companies who were more supportive of their cause disregarding the cost and convenience of using the brand.
Higher market share
There has been a sharp increase in the number of same-sex households over the past years along with the increase in their buying power. Inclusive companies will get a share of this pie if they work on being more open and receiving of their staff.
Lastly and most importantly, a diverse and inclusive workplace fosters creativity, leads to innovation, and brings a multitude of ideas thanks to their staff.
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