Pride Month: How to create a more inclusive work environment

·4 min read
Around 31% of non-binary people surveyed said they don’t feel able to wear work attire representing their gender expression. Photo: AP
Around 31% of non-binary people surveyed said they don’t feel able to wear work attire representing their gender expression. Photo: AP

As the world celebrates Pride Month, there is still much to be done when it comes to the rights of the LGBTQ+ community who still experience discrimination and exclusion, including in the workplace.

Recent research has shown that almost one in five LGBTQ+ employees (18%) were the target of negative comments or conduct from colleagues in the past year. 

One in eight trans people (12%) have been physically attacked by customers or colleagues because of being trans and 18% of those looking for work said they were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Read more: Racial discrimination still rife in UK businesses, study finds

And around 31% of non-binary people surveyed and 18% of trans people said they don’t feel able to wear work attire representing their gender expression.

Sodexo Engage, which works with employee engagement, have put together five tips to help employers create a more inclusive workplace environment.

1. Diverse workforce

Diversity among employees is crucial, and this can be achieved through adequate training to understand the barriers faced by LGBTQ+ jobseekers, and how to practice inclusive and fair recruitment. 

Barriers include blatant bias and discrimination as well as non-inclusive language in the job advert which may make people feel unwelcome before they’ve even had a chance to click apply. 

It is key to remain neutral when advertising, and not allow assumptions or biases to drive any decisions about candidates.

Fair consideration is equally important during internal promotion processes to ensure diversity runs through all levels of the company, not just amongst entry-level employees.

2. Role models and ‘executive champions’

Establishing LGBTQ+ network groups, with visible role models and peers, can go a long way to making staff feel comfortable at work. 

It’s extremely reassuring for an employee to have somebody to look up to and instil confidence in them – particularly "executive champions", who connect the network group with upper management. 

3. Zero-tolerance approach

To get rid of discrimination, action must be taken at all levels and not just from the top down. While it is an employer’s responsibility to establish LGBTQ+ friendly policies, each individual is responsible for putting it into action.

HR professionals can remind their staff of these policies and have procedures ready in place in the event of any issues. 

But with almost a quarter of lesbian, gay and bi 18- to 24-year-olds saying they don't feel confident enough to report homophobia to their employer, it’s clear more needs to be done to fix this.

"Keep up conversations around your policies and make sure all employees know how to discuss any problems with the HR team," the report said.

4. Get the employees’ opinion

It is important to get feedback from employees first-hand. Anonymous surveys are one way for employers to assess their own performance and pinpoint where action needs to be taken to improve inclusiveness. 

For instance, getting the perspective of staff on issues such as unconscious bias training sessions or the recruitment process could go a long way.

5. Gender-neutral language

More than a third (35%) of LGBTQ+ said they had hidden or disguised their LGBTQ+ identity out of fear of discrimination. 

To help protect these employees, it would be beneficial to create a gender-neutral environment at work. One way to do this is to use language such as "partner" instead of husband or wife.

This approach should be executed in everyday conversations and emails as well as rooted in a company’s policy.

Another way is to ask all staff to add their preferred pronouns to their email signatures.

“The best employers understand all their employees should feel welcome, respected and represented at work," said Jamie Mackenzie, director at Sodexo Engage.

"Whether that be race, religion or in this instance sexual orientation and gender identity, all parts of an individual’s character must be supported to ensure employees can be confident and comfortable at work."

Watch: Why do we still have a gender pay gap?