As a strong believer in people being able to be their true self in the workplace, I grabbed the chance last summer to take part in a program entitled, ‘Being LGBT+ in the Workplace’.
The discussion was filmed ahead of Pride London, one of a global network of events celebrating LGBT+ life. It provides a platform to continue the fight for equality and to challenge prejudice.
This resonates on two levels;
1. Diversity is good for business
It’s long been proven that if people feel relaxed at work and can be open about their sexual orientation they will perform better. Consequently, they will feel more included and engaged. If your employees are engaged and happy, it’s likely that your customers will be too.
Furthermore, a diverse workforce ensures a wide range of skills and perspectives. For instance, if your workforce mirrors your users, clients and customers, you are more likely to deliver better solutions and services to them.
2. You are legally obliged
Irrespective of all else, in countries like the UK, the law prohibits discrimination, harassment and victimization. This is detailed against nine protected characteristics. One of these characteristics is sexual orientation and includes people of:
Beyond direct discrimination, it includes discrimination by ‘association’ and ‘perception’. Be aware of unconscious biases. As an employer, your commitment to equality and diversity should not simply be about legal compliance. It should be about being a good citizen.
All employees must feel safe, comfortable that they can be their true self at work. The only way that this can happen is if there is a culture of acceptance. This need extends far beyond sexual orientation. We’re all people. We all deserve respect. Therefore, we must all be accepted for who we are.
Thankfully, today, people are starting to stand up for their rights to be human. People entering the world of work, and those who have over the past 10 years or so, are choosing who they work for. Cloud technologies and the global economy have opened up the world of good employers.
The best talent can not be boxed. Discrimination of any form can make your search for future talent more difficult. Narrow mindedness can cut you off from a huge potential talent pool.
With five generations now in the workplace and each encouraging the other to speak up for themselves. Increasingly, the workforce is driving inclusion and voting with their feet.
Talent leaves employers that are not people focused. Furthermore, more and more clients look for service providers that demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Work is one of the few places where we are (should be) chosen purely on past achievement and future potential. Therefore, we should only be judged on our ability to deliver, to contribute to the business and on our results. There is no value to be had from undermining anyone in the workplace. By doing so it will impair performance.
If people fit within the corporate culture, they tend to stay. They will be loyal, and they will encourage other great talent to join – or not to.
Last year, Jonathan Andrews, a trainee solicitor at Reed Smith and co-founder of London Bisexual Network, answered the following question on the Pride London blog:
Q: If you were to give one bit of advice to future business leaders, what would it be?
A: Authenticity sounds like a cliché, and in many ways, it is. But showing you’re not afraid to be open about your sexuality, and showing others how it’s not a big deal, is something I’ve found really helps others build respect for you.
Additionally, to be successful long term in business you need to build trust and respect. You’ll need to work with those younger than you as well as those your own age and those older.
Advocating for those currently entering the profession – attending open days, assisting with applications, showing people why they’d fit in. Why myths they might have heard shouldn’t hold them back and they should be proud of who they are – you’ll build not just a business network, but a network of genuine respect that will make others more keen to assist you in future.
“As leaders, we must be deliberate in encouraging multiple perspectives and in fostering an open and inclusive workplace culture; in short, being ‘nice’ is not enough. My advice is to value, trust, and champion your employees’ unique perspectives and your organisational culture will thrive.”