The Business of IT Blog

Empower Authenticity in the Workplace Through Pride and Beyond

LGBTQ+ On Computer Keyboard Keys
5 minute read
Wendy Rentschler
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One of the great levelers of the pandemic is that it dropped many of the walls we put up at work. Working remotely has meant giving our colleagues literal windows into our worlds—homes, family, and pets, giving us all the opportunity to show up every day as our whole, and most authentic, selves. As we referenced in our blog on the impact of inclusion and diversity in the workforce, all of those things are better for business.

Pride Month is the annual, global (46 countries and counting) event that recognizes and celebrates the historical impacts of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) communities, and spotlights our progress—or lack thereof—in creating a more equitable life for members of these communities. This is the reason you’re seeing an explosion of rainbow-themed products and clothing and rainbow-hued logos on social media. But it’s about so much more.

We all carry multiple identity facets—gender, race, ethnicity, social class, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity—that make up our whole selves. The intersection of our unique facets with those of the people around us, and the respective advantages and disadvantages they generate, is more commonly referred to as “intersectionality.” The advantages are what we call privilege, while the disadvantages can include systemic institutional discrimination and biases. LGBTQ+ is one area where these are the most pronounced.

LGBTQ+ at work

In the business world, LGBTQ+ (which is also now written as LGBTQIA+ to include intersex and asexual) is an important part of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts to bring everyone to the table with an equal voice. According to the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index (CEI), Fortune 500 companies and CEI-rated companies are actively working to approach parity, and many are succeeding.

Ninety-six percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation and 94 percent include gender identity in their formal nondiscrimination policies, and that rises to 100 percent for both categories among CEI-rated employers. Fifty-seven percent of the Fortune 500 offer benefits to domestic partners, regardless of how they identify their sex and gender, with 71 percent including transgender benefits; those numbers rise to 75 and 93 percent for CEI-rated employers, including BMC.

And the 430+ US business leaders—employing over 14.7 million in the US and generating a combined $6.9 trillion in revenue—that support The Business Coalition for the Equality Act are rallying behind the federal Equality Act legislation that would provide the same basic protections to LGBTQ+ people that are provided to other protected groups under federal law. BMC is proud to be part of this collective.

Despite these measures, on the ground, employees tell a different story. In a 2020 study by BCG and New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, a nonprofit service and advocacy organization, the organizations surveyed 2,000 LGBTQ+ employees and 2,000 non-LGBTQ+ (straight) employees across the US and found significant disparity still affecting the workforce:

  • 40 percent of LGBTQ+ employees are not out at work, and 26 percent wish they could be out
  • 36 percent of out employees still lied or covered parts of their identities at work
  • 54 percent of employees who are out at work remain closeted to their clients and customers
  • 75 percent of LGBTQ+ employees reported experiencing at least one negative work interaction related to their identity, and 41 percent experienced more than ten

Managing the disconnect

As organizations strive to do better, employees are working harder to find their voice and push for change, too. Ninety-four percent of CEI-rated employers have an employee resource group (ERG) or diversity council that includes LGBTQ+ and allied employees and programming.

I am proud that BMC is one of them. We have an internal employee inclusion roundtable and a dedicated Pride ERG to promote LGBTQIA+ diversity, inclusion, and allyship among our employees, partners, and customers. Our ERGs also pay it forward. One of the best ways to create equity is through economic empowerment, and each of our ERGs participates in microlending through Kiva. Our Pride ERG supports LGBTQIA recipients, allowing us to give back and work together by investing in the community. BMC also supports:

  • The Humsafar Trust—an LGBTQ community-based organization that provides resources, workshops, medical screenings, and treatments in India.
  • La Alianza Social LGBTI de Antioquia—a youth, social, and community-based organization in Colombia that promotes actions and develops strategies aimed at the recognition of diversity as a common heritage of humanity.
  • Visual Echoes for Human Rights Advocacy (VEHRA)—a non-profit promoting and advancing LGBTQ rights in Uganda through sports, visual arts, and culture.
  • Arte de Amar Project—an organization dedicated to expanding and strengthening the LGBTQIA community in Brazil through family sheltering activities in education, health, culture, sport, and leisure.
  • ICS Center—a resource that empowers Vietnamese LGBTQ+ communities toward pride and equality through training, seminars, events, advisory services, and courses about capacity building and empowerment.

Making real changes

Today’s leaders need to be intentional in understanding the disconnect between the C-suite perception and employee reality, and vigorously pursue all avenues to dismantle bias, discrimination, and inequity on a micro and macro level. According to McKinsey, it makes a difference not just for your current employees, but your future employees, too, finding that 40 percent of LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ respondents rejected a job offer or decided not to pursue a position because they felt that the hiring company was not inclusive.

A great first step is getting educated. The web is teeming with resources to help you get up to speed on LGBTQ+ and celebrate Pride. If you’re not a member of the LGBTQ+ community, are you as supportive as you think you are? In a previous blog, we explored unconscious bias, which is a good litmus test. PFLAG has a whole section on being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community here, including a 52-page guide. YouTube has a variety of TED Talks.

Respect is a cornerstone of how we all engage with each other, and we addressed the evolving concept of pronoun usage here. This is also a handy, all-ages deep dive with additional resources. Social media is catching on, too. You can now add pronouns to your LinkedIn profile.

Beyond the month of June, you can work with your human resources team to help build an inclusive organization. Advocate for inclusive policies. If you don’t have a dedicated DEI resource, internal diversity council, or employee resource groups, suggest them—and offer to lead a group.

Request guest speakers on LGBTQ+ topics. Review employee volunteerism opportunities—are they diverse? If not, suggest additions. Look for opportunities for your organization to support and engage the LGBTQ+ community year-round as suppliers and partners and be more inclusive in hiring LGBTQ+ people into your workforce.

If you’re in HR, make sure your people are supported with benefits that cover all types of families. Provide your LGBTQ+ employees with access to resources like the LGBTQ Psychotherapists of Color Directory or National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network and expand coverage to help pay for them.

Conclusion

Building a more inclusive and diverse workforce makes each of us—and our businesses—stronger. We’re all different, and by encouraging and embracing each other’s diversity—and understanding the advantages and disadvantages of intersectionality—we can defeat inequities in pay, leadership, and psychological safety and ensure that the Autonomous Digital Enterprise includes everyone.

If pandemic restrictions have eased in your community, celebrate Pride at a parade or local event. These are some of the ways BMC employees are supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and we invite you to support them, too.

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These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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About the author

Wendy Rentschler

Wendy is the head of Corporate Social Responsibility at BMC, where she champions equity & inclusion through programming where people can thrive, feel heard, and do some of the best work of their lives. Her mantra: Gratitude is free.