It’s no secret that people perform better when they are accepted without exception.
Companies have a responsibility – both in terms of ethics and for the sake of business success – to create a culture that allows every employee to be themselves and reach their full potential.
However, as we mark Pride today, it is worth noting recent research from Stonewall, which revealed that many LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) staff still don’t feel comfortable disclosing their identity at work. Often, those who do are subject to discrimination. According to the statistics, almost one in five (18 per cent) LGBTQ employees have been the target of negative conduct from colleagues in the past year. Shockingly, one in eight (12 per cent) trans people have been the victim of physical assault in the workplace.
This level of intolerance is unacceptable in today’s society. If businesses want a truly inclusive culture, they have work to do to make the happen. So, how can a companies that are serious about getting this right approach diversity in the workplace?
To start with, understand that this isn't a quick fix. Implementing a holistic approach across all dimensions of inclusion and diversity is critical to forming engaged teams, including both proactive and reactive outreach. Stonewall’s research highlights that disclosing your identity at work can be met with stigma. How do we challenge stigma? Education. Simply put, stigma is ignorance, and the only way way to tackle ignorance is by teaching: creating awareness of the practical things everybody can do to help.
Creating a LGBTQ network group is a great way for a business to do this. This encompasses the assistance of allies – those staff members who do not identify as LGBTQ themselves, but are a crucial element of securing inclusion for everybody. In 2017, we launched Wood Mackenzie Pride, a hub for all UK-focused LGBTQ activity. This serves as a discussion forum for offices around the globe and has facilitated a collaborative approach to outreach, education and engagement.
While a network runs 24/7, throughout the year, there are certain key dates that require special attention – and not just Pride. Our Edinburgh office recently hosted a film screening and open conversation to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, communicated internally through newsletters, chat forums, and on our social media channels. This activity was replicated from similar 2017 outreach during World AIDS Day and Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign. Businesses can show they’re up-to-date with current events and tuned into the issues that matter most by running events and campaigns around these dates.
Nor is it only about signalling and communication – internal policies should be fully and explicitly inclusive of LGBTQ employees too. In fact, this is arguable what will make the most difference to employees. This includes maternity and paternity leave (including adoption), pensions, and health insurance, among a number of others. Without watertight policies, companies run the risk of LGBTQ discrimination. In short, LGBTQ employees need to know the will be given the exact same treatment in the workplace as their straight colleagues.
Once you’ve made sure your employees feel comfortable and secure being themselves at work, you can spread the message of diversity and acceptance externally. Getting involved with important LGBTQ events – like Pride today – illustrates dedication to acceptance and inclusion across an entire organisation.
We are proud to have recently joined Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme, Britain’s leading initiative for ensuring business environments are truly inclusive. Being able to display the Stonewall logo sends out a positive message of support to staff, potential new recruits, and clients. With the support of senior management, we will also be marching in this year’s Pride in London parade.
The bottom line from a business perspective is that inclusion equals psychological wellbeing. An inclusive environment that prioritises psychological safety fosters diversity. Diversity provides different views, leading to greater innovation and creativity, more effective decision-making and deeper client understanding. It’s a win-win situation. And that’s why we’re proud to be celebrating this year.
Read more: Take Pride in building a rainbow company