Targeting a Lack of LGBT+ Diversity in the Workplace

12 months ago by Sophie Stones

Targeting a Lack of LGBT+ Diversity in the Workplace


A recent survey commissioned by Vodafone found that 58% of LGBT participants haven’t been open at work about their sexual orientation or gender identity, due to a fear of discrimination. In a country governed by laws which require diversity and equality to be at the forefront of both hiring and day-to-day dealings, how are we still getting it so wrong?

Denise Keating, CEO to the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion, puts this down to the little, often unseen manners, stating “they don’t even need to overtly discriminate, just exclude people through behaviours”, with these behaviours being anything from organising overly gendered activities, to using the word gay in a derogatory manner. In 2013, Stonewall led a campaign against using the word to mean ‘rubbish’ or ‘nonsense’ and whilst the campaign had traction within school environments, the charity found it was still a pervasive issue within work settings.

There has been a recent surge in business leaders attempting to combat the issues with LGBT inclusivity within their sectors, with Google, Twitter and Facebook all admitting to problems with diversity within their companies. As a reaction to these revelations, Google partnered with LGBTI organisations that protect workers against employment discrimination, which, combined with promoting inclusion through marketing campaigns and their group of Gayglers, (Googlers and Allies celebrating Pride and informing programs and practices) has created an inclusive environment worthy of awards. Stepping forward and implementing strong practices is vital for companies, especially those in the public eye. Empty gestures will no longer stand with the public and the act of jumping on the ‘brandwagon’ without improving employee policies does more harm than good, something both Adidas and H&M saw first-hand recently. Adidas when they launched Pride shoes in hopes of obtaining the ‘pink pound’ but were still a world cup sponsor in Russia, a country renowned for its anti-LGBT sentiment and H&M who produce their Love for All collection in factories in Bangladesh, where homosexuality is punishable by death.

“It’s a bit of a smack in the face for somebody who has to print Pride on a t-shirt, but if they were to wear that to walk down the street they would probably be killed.” – Steve Taylor, Europride

Thanks to the people who are speaking out about these injustices’ companies are recognising that simply focusing on home or slapping some rainbow t-shirts on and going to a Pride parade isn’t enough.

“Corporations and business leaders are speaking out in support of fairness and equality for LGBT people because they know it’s not just the right thing to do [but] it’s also good for business.” – Stephen Peters, Spokesperson for HRC

Open for Business, a group of 22 businesses standing for LGBT+ rights, have been campaigning to change discrimination in business and in government. The group which includes Burberry, LinkedIn and Virgin, have outreach programs in countries with anti-LGBT sentiment and claim that “diverse teams perform better” (Jon Smith, CEO, Reuters).

The Out on the Street initiative performs similarly. The first global LGBT+ leadership organisation ‘for the financial industry, by the financial industry’, Out on the Street connects senior LGBT members and allies from major financial service firms, in an attempt to help firms drive equality forward. The group currently boasts over 190 CEO’s and more than 3000 leaders at MD or higher level.

Joining them in their venture, we should all be making an attempt to make our workplaces more comfortable for all our employees, with Apple’s Tim Cook, the first openly gay Fortune 500 CEO, stating that we should all be able to bring our “whole self to work”.

Allowing LGBT groups to form, will help employees to feel less like the ‘odd one out’, whilst ensuring that no derogatory language is used around the office, even in jest, will mean workers are less likely to hide their true selves from their colleagues. Similarly, companies like Barclays and Aviva are choosing to march in this year’s Pride parade, advertising to future employees that theirs are businesses committed to ensuring their LGBT employees are safeguarded from discrimination.

Often prejudice can be invisible, even to the one perpetuating it. A fact which was the driving force behind Harvard’s Implicit Bias Training, a test which attempts to highlight any engrained bias stemming from society and upbringing. Simply talking to members of staff and ensuring there is a safe space for queries or complaints can help us to ensure that we’re not in My G Work’s 50%, who believe their company isn’t inclusive.