Organizations that strive to maintain a competitive advantage by attracting and retaining top talent must foster a workplace where all employees can succeed. By drawing on the workplace experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees working in Canada—a country with legislated human rights protections for LGBT individuals—Catalyst found that, despite the supportive legal climate, workplace barriers persist for LGBT employees. This suggests that organizations operating in all countries, regardless of existing human rights legislation, have an important role to play in fostering LGBT inclusion.
Challenges to LGBT Employees
To discover how organizations and individuals can create more inclusive and productive workplaces, Catalyst conducted an online survey asking LGBT employees about their relationships with colleagues, managers, and senior leaders; about career advancement experiences and strategies; and about how their organizations could better support them.
Respondents cited three factors that affected their career advancement and the formation of critical relationships in the workplace:
• A lack of awareness regarding LGBT issues.
• Discriminatory behaviors against LGBT employees.
• Exclusion from important connections with others.
LGBT employees also felt their colleagues, managers, and senior leaders could be more comfortable with them and better informed about challenges they face at work. In particular, through a second survey on workplace experiences, LGBT women reported less positive relationships with their managers compared to LGBT men and non-LGBT women and men.
The Benefits of Inclusion
Organizations and individuals both benefit from LGBT inclusion. In inclusive workplaces, LGBT employees can expend less effort managing disclosure and mitigating its impact; instead, they can focus on their work. Employees who do not experience discrimination are more satisfied and committed, and both of these characteristics are linked to higher productivity and profitability. LGBT employees can further support organizational efforts to be employers and providers of choice and to reach new markets when their diversity is effectively leveraged.
Organizations that want to fully leverage a diverse talent pool can implement systems to effect change. LGBT employees at organizations with diversity and inclusion programs, policies, and practices, as well as broader talent management programs:
• Were more satisfied and committed.
• Perceived their workplace as more fair.
• Had more positive relationships with their managers and colleagues.
Moving Beyond Policy Organizations must make a concerted effort to create LGBTinclusive workplaces. Developing and implementing effective LGBT-inclusion programs will lead to a broader understanding of LGBT identity, gender, and equity in the workplace.
While protecting employees from discrimination is essential when creating inclusive environments, organizations must move discourse beyond antidiscrimination policies to everyday issues facing LGBT employees. Organizations should develop practices that leverage diversity, foster inclusion, and increase awareness, accountability, and action. Important steps that organizations can take to foster LGBT-inclusive workplaces are:
• Identifying organizational issues related to LGBT employees.
• Dispelling myths and stereotypes through diversity training.
• Communicating the organization’s LGBT policies and programs, internally and externally.
• Creating and enforcing LGBT-friendly policies.
• Helping LGBT employees build Employee Resource Groups and find mentors.
• Allowing LGBT employees to give back to the LGBT community.
• Making inclusive communication an organizational goal.
• Developing strategies for including LGBT identity in diversity metrics.
• Leveraging general talent management practices to support all employees.
Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit membership organization working globally with businesses and the professions to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business. Visit www.catalyst.org to learn more about our work and download Catalyst reports. Visit www.catalyst.org/page/82/catalyst-e-newsletters to
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