Going beyond the rainbow

In June 1969, the first Pride march took place in the form of an historical protest, at the Stonewall demonstrations in New York City.  Since then, we have seen Pride evolve into a joyous celebration, with big parades and marches exploding with colour, love and friendship – showing just how far LGBTQ+ rights have come.  Pride Month is a colourful and much-needed sock in the face to my grandparents’ generation, who said “they can do what they want, as long as they do it behind closed doors”.  Pride is a highly visible, in-your-face celebration of being your true self.

As we approach Pride 2022, I see the rainbows pop up on social media and watch with interest as the virtue-signalling begins.  Organisations now understand the business case for diversity and inclusion, and perhaps more crucially understand the power of aligning their brand to the LGBTQ+ movement – but has this actually translated into concrete gains for the LGBTQ+ community within the workplace?  My assessment is that we still have a long way to go.  It’s time to go beyond the branding and understand that real change only begins with awareness – there is actual work to do to ensure that LGBTQ+ individuals are protected from workplace discrimination.

According to YouGov research, 35% of LGBTQ+ staff have hidden who they are at work for fear of discrimination.  Recent research by McKinsey & Co shows that this fear is based on reality – for example, LGBTQ+ women are even more underrepresented than women generally in large corporations.  Trans people face particularly significant barriers to career progression – trans individuals and cisgender individuals of the same age were studied within the research set, showing that trans people were much more likely to be in entry-level positions than cisgender people.  They are also less likely to have management, evaluation or hiring responsibilities.  To make real progress with their stated goals, companies need to start to make key changes.  Here are some suggestions for how to start:

Stamp out inappropriate behaviour

Leadership needs to lead by example here, setting the tone for acceptable behaviour and actively promoting it.  If inappropriate behaviour arises, there must be safe channels to report, investigate and correct the behaviour.  Organisations should be rolling out company-wide inclusion training so that awareness builds and employees know how to spot and respond to inappropriate conduct.  Click here to find out more about Equality, Diversity & Inclusion training for workplaces via Digital Bricks.

Adapt the recruitment process

Companies can adopt blind CV-screening, removing names, gender signifiers, and affinity-group affiliations, to reduce the role of unconscious bias in hiring decisions.  The same can be applied to job advertising – by being mindful of gender-coded language and use of pronouns, and avoiding phrases and requirements which might discriminate against a particular candidate or groups of individuals.  Companies can ensure their recruitment panel is more diverse and that the interview process itself is more inclusive – for example, asking consistent questions across all interviews and asking candidates questions directly related to attitudes to inclusivity.

Improve mentoring to support career progression

Companies can remove barriers to career progression by training managers on how to be effective coaches and mentors to LGBTQ+ employees.  Organisations can pair LGBTQ+ employees with senior mentors who can help to support and guide their career progression, armed with the knowledge of wider support systems and resources.

Promote inclusivity in the remote/hybrid model

Remote working has revealed new challenges for LGBTQ+ employees.  Video calls necessitate a window into an individual’s private home life, and online meetings are dominated by the loudest and most confident voices.  Leaders and those moderating meetings should ensure that all voices are heard, and that direct lines of communication are in place to support remote workers and ask what support might be needed.  Leadership should work closely with teams to set a ‘code of conduct’ for remote-working and ensure that no inappropriate behaviour is being allowed to go unnoticed under this new way of working.

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