Empowering LGBTQIA+ Employees through Inclusive Workplace Policies  

The key finding from survey data collected by UCLA in May 2021 highlights that nearly half of LGBTQIA+ workers have faced instances of unfair treatment in their professional environments at some point during their lives. These instances can manifest in various forms, including but not limited to, discrimination, harassment, unequal opportunities, and biased treatment based on one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.  

It also highlights that LGBTQIA+ employees of color are more likely to report instances of verbal harassment and being denied job opportunities. A Boston Consulting Group survey yielded further shocking results, revealing that over 40% of transgender and gender non-conforming employees reported being subjected to sexual harassment or misconduct within their workplace. Such experiences can have a profound impact on well-being and career advancement  causing feelings of frustration and isolation.  

Talent retention and organizational performance also suffer greatly due to a lack of LGBTQIA+ inclusivity. Findings from a comprehensive study conducted by myGwork, a global recruitment and networking hub for LGBTQIA+ professionals, underline the significance of this issue. The study revealed that an astonishing 66% of university students and graduates expressed their strong inclination to leave a job if they could not authentically and openly embrace their LGBTQIA+ identity in the workplace. This alarming statistic serves as a wake-up call, highlighting that standing for and creating an environment where  individuals feel valued, respected, and empowered to bring their true selves to work is not only morally imperative but also a necessity.  

LGBTQIA+ centered workplace policies play a vital role in supporting and affirming the rights and well-being of employees; not only do they provide guidelines for equal treatment but they also shape the overall work culture, setting the tone for acceptance, understanding, and support.    

What types of inclusive policies are necessary?  

Implementing non-discriminatory policies that explicitly protect individuals based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression is key. These policies send a clear message that discrimination and/or harassment, especially based on identity, will not be tolerated, as well as establish consequences for violations. 

Gender inclusive restrooms. By providing safe and accessible facilities for all employees, including gender-neutral or individual-use restrooms, and allowing individuals to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity, companies demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity and respect.  

Healthcare. Inclusive healthcare policies play a significant role in supporting LGBTQIA+ employees. This includes offering healthcare benefits that cover gender-affirming treatments, hormone therapy, and transition-related medical expenses. By removing barriers and ensuring access to necessary medical care, companies demonstrate support for transgender and non-binary employees and help create an inclusive and equitable environment.   

Dress codes.  Companies can adopt gender-neutral dress code policies that do not reinforce traditional gender stereotypes, allowing employees to dress in a manner that aligns with their gender identity and expression. This helps create a more inclusive, welcoming, and gender-affirming work environment.  

Parental leave. Finally, implementing a parental leave policy that applies equally to all parents, regardless of gender, is crucial for promoting gender equality and combating stereotypes. This policy encourages shared caregiving responsibilities and breaks down traditional gender roles in parenting. It ensures that families have equal rights and benefits, creating an inclusive environment where all parents feel supported and recognized.  

Companies pioneering inclusive policies for equality 

Organizations have the power to create or revise policies to promote inclusivity, as exemplified by Google’s active efforts in revising its workplace policies. Google achieved a significant milestone in 2011 by expanding its non-discrimination policy to include gender identity and expression, thus safeguarding transgender and gender non-conforming employees from discrimination and harassment. IBM has been recognized for its inclusive language in policies, ensuring that their guidelines and documentation respect and include all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or other characteristics.

Likewise, Accenture has also made significant strides in promoting inclusivity. Through their comprehensive LGBTQIA+ inclusion initiatives, which encompass non-discrimination policies, and transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage, Accenture actively advocates for LGBTQIA+ rights while creating an environment that values diversity and inclusion.

As we commemorate Pride Month, organizations can begin their journey towards inclusivity and actively work towards creating workplaces where every individual feels valued, respected, and empowered. By recognizing and upholding the inherent human rights of all individuals, we can create an environment where diversity is celebrated, discrimination is eradicated, and everyone is afforded equal opportunities to succeed and thrive.

By Vibha Sathesh Kumar
Vibha Sathesh Kumar