Companies benefit from going that extra mile to support LGBTQ rights

Happy Pride Month! To celebrate we look back at LGBTQ-focused features from past isues of The Environment.

Companies benefit from going that extra mile to support LGBTQ rights, argues Philip Baldwin

EMPLOYEES WHO CAN be open about their sexuality or gender identity in the workplace are happier and more productive, so there is both a financial and moral imperative to encourage inclusion and diversity; water and environmental-management firms are no exception to this. 

Yes, most larger companies have policies to show support for LGBTQ rights – but is this truly reflected in the company's ethos? When it comes to recruitment, for example, it is helpful to emphasise a company's commitment to equality and diversity in the job spec.

But you could advertise roles in mainstream LGBTQ publications, as many public-sector organisations already do. A responsible company might also provide organisation-wide diversity training, rather than limit this to the human resources team, including a module on sexual orientation and gender identity.

If you are a large company and you don't have an LGBTQ – or women's – network, then you should implement this. Straight allies can have an amazing impact, especially in companies with no senior and visible LGBTQ staff.

However, it should not be obligatory for LGBTQ workers to join and, depending on demand, events should be open to allow straight allies to show solidarity.

Let the LGBTQ people within your organisation lead on your public commitment to LGBTQ rights. This will add authenticity.

Companies have come under a lot of criticism from LGBTQ activists for paying large sums to sponsor Pride festivals or other high-profile events. There is nothing wrong with supporting your local Pride festival, but why not also support some local LGBTQ charities?

What issues are your own LGBTQ workers are passionate about? Maybe they have received personal support from a charity or know someone who has?

Finally, think creatively, not about giving money, but giving time. Could you offer work experience or mentoring to young LGBTQ adults?

Philip Baldwin is a writer, activist and Stonewall role model

‘Ask LGBTQ+ employees and allies what support should look like’

PROVIDING SUPPORT FOR LGBTQ+ employees can be a complex, sensitive and highly personal area to navigate, writes Lucy Bradbury. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution and no one person has all the answers. However, done right, support for LGBTQ+ employees can be rewarding to both employees and business.

Effective support needs to be wholly inclusive of the entire business, starting at grassroots level with employee network groups, which are a great way to create safe spaces for staff to share their ideas. This is arguably the most important group to listen to: employers should ask LGBTQ+ employees and allies what they want support to look like.

Running parallel to these networks, we need executive committees made up of board-level teams with business-wide coverage. Executive attendance at events such as Pride is one of the best ways to visibly demonstrate support, setting the example for other employees to follow.

At middle management level, it is crucial to brief and train managers about the importance of inclusivity and diversity and how to support their teams. There is a wealth of guidance out there, to help managers to navigate topics such as transitioning at work and addressing unconscious bias.

Strong support is visible and year-round. Yes, it is vital to celebrate events such as International Women’s Day and Pride season to visibly display inclusivity. But companies must back that up with inclusive policies that are respected, accepted and enforced. Communities within the workplace need allies, so that inclusion is driven by everyone.

You can find a lot of great resources online to help. Organisations such as Building Equality, a group driving LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the sector, provide free resources for employers such as toolbox talks, poster campaigns and advice on setting up employee networks.

Lucy Bradbury is sustainability manager at AECOM and co-chair of DiverCity, the company’s employee-led LGBTQ+ working group. She is also co-chair of Building Equality Greater Manchester

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