By Catalyst

Why should your company devote resources to making LGBT employees feel safe, visible, and valued?

LGBT employees constitute a sizeable and dynamic workforce population with unique professional insights. As workplaces around the world become sensitized to LGBT issues, an increasing number of global organizations are making the creation and maintenance of an inclusive workplace culture a top priority. To attract and retain talented LGBT employees, more and more companies are offering benefits for LGBT employees’ domestic partners and implementing non-discrimination policies that cover sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

The advantages to companies of emphasizing inclusivity are clear. When LGBT employees feel comfortable being “out” at work, both individual employees and their employers stand to gain. Employees feel respected and valued—and studies show positive associations between companies’ inclusive policies and consumer brand selection. In other words, strong D&I programs breed loyalty in employees and customers alike.

It’s increasingly common for smart, forward-looking organizations to go beyond small-scale LGBT programs, such as employee networks, and instead focus on aligning such targeted strategies with overall business models that support the company-wide recruitment, development, and advancement of LGBT employees. In addition, global organizations are beginning to expand their LGBT policies and programs to include employees from all regions in which they conduct business.

A recent Catalyst tool, Global Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Inclusion: Advocating Change Across Contexts, offers useful guidelines for D&I leaders to ensure their work environments are inclusive by helping to develop their organization’s LGBT policies. It is essential for any organization interested in expanding its LGBT-inclusion programs globally to understand local cultures, legal frameworks, beliefs, knowledge, and norms across different regional contexts.

The following series of questions will help you assess the level of LGBT inclusion at your organization and consider the development of broader and more globally inclusive LGBT programs and policies.

Understand local norms and laws.

  • What are the norms in the countries in which your company operates?
  • Are there specific laws that employees and staff should be aware of, especially during relocations/international assignments?
  • Is homosexuality legal? Is same-sex marriage or domestic partnership legal?
  • Are there legal restrictions on collecting demographic data about sexual orientation? Learn the ways in which these local norms and laws might impact opportunities for LGBT staff.
  • Does your organization have an established policy for managing international assignments for employees who
  • would be relocating with same-sex partners?
  • If local laws are inconsistent with your company’s culture, how can you ensure inclusivity abroad? Learn to recognize and avoid heteronormativity.
  • What LGBT-specific terminology is used in different national/cultural contexts in which your organization operates?
  • Does your organization use inclusive language in invitations and for social/business networking functions (e.g., “partner” rather than “husband” or “wife”)?
  • Do senior leaders in your organization model inclusive behavior toward LGBT staff? Evaluate and implement your company’s values.
  • What behaviors/actions are valued in your organization? Do any of these exclude LGBT people?
  • Have you engaged LGBT employees to influence and/or contribute to policy-making and program design (e.g., through focus groups or meetings with executives)?
  • Has your organization engaged in community outreach or participated in/sponsored LGBT-themed events?
  • Do you have LGBT antidiscrimination policy statements which are publicly available on your company’s internal and/or external website?
  • Do you participate in benchmarking or other types of evaluation of your organization’s LGBT demographics and/or inclusiveness?
  • Do you provide transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits?
  • Do you offer comprehensive, organization-wide LGBT diversity and inclusion training?

To help broaden the impact of your own organization’s LGBT programming and discover innovative new ideas and compelling practices from other organizations, please visit

Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit membership organization expanding opportunities for women and business.