Gender and Workspaces: The Power of Supportive Environments for LGBT+ Employees | EAPA-SA

Workplace gender equality is achieved when employees are able to access and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of gender.1 

Over the last two decades a large amount of research has found that diversity has a positive impact on organisations – not only in the areas of productivity, collaboration, innovation and creativity, but also in reputation, recruitment and the retention of staff.   The top ten benefits to be derived from diversity are2:

  1. A variety of different perspectives
  2. Increased creativity
  3. Higher innovation
  4. Faster problem-solving
  5. Better decision making
  6. Increased profits
  7. Higher employee engagement
  8. Reduced employee turnover
  9. Better company reputation
  10. Improved hiring results

However, diversity in itself does not create inclusion—an inclusive work environment must be intentionally designed, nurtured and supported.

Most organisations want to do the right thing when it comes to supporting LGBT employees in the workplace, but might not fully understand the challenges faced by these populations.  From the most junior levels in an organisation right up to the boardroom, having to evade questions about family or personal life can be extremely stressful if an employee thinks that revealing their sexuality will make work relations difficult. 3

Education is key and a clear message from management about the importance of diversity and inclusion can help to eliminate any doubts as to who or what can be made light of, while recruitment processes, training and communications can help make the company’s stance clear.

So, what can businesses do to better support LGBT+ employees, demolish career barriers, and reduce workplace discrimination? Here are eight ways that organisations can support their LGBT+ employees:

  1. Develop and communicate a clear mission to all of your employees, including managers and senior staff, through education and diversity training about your inclusion policies and strategies for supporting LGBT employees.
  2. Take discrimination seriously in recruitment and promotion practices. Establish a strong anti-discrimination policy and be sure all employees know what is not tolerated in the workplace.
  3. In cases of homophobic bullying, promptly recognise the problem and take action.
  4. Develop support and engagement programmes for LGBT employees, such as mentoring, employee networking groups, seminars and conferences.
  5. Promote straight allies of LGBT people, who can act as support networks to LGBT employees and help champion the message that diversity is part of your organisation’s mission.
  6. Gain the support from champions at the very top and promote senior staff who can help implement diversity initiatives, mentor junior LGBT colleagues, and act as sponsors of employee network groups.
  7. Offer equal benefits to all employees, regardless of their sexual orientation, including parental leave, adoption leave, and time off to take care of dependants.
  8. Create a gender-neutral environment by making bold changes such as establishing unisex toilets and using gender-neutral language, like ‘partner’ instead of husband or wife.