Workplace discrimination remains a significant obstacle for queer employees. According to the HRC, 46% of LGBTQ+ workers report staying closeted at work. 20% of queer employees report that coworkers have tried to police their gender expression and 31% report feeling unhappy or depressed at work. What can business owners do to put a stop to workplace harassment? What steps should they take to create a more friendly environment for LGBTQ+ employees?

Advocate outlines 5 factors to consider when building a more inclusive workplace.
  1. Leadership—Are their leaders diverse? How do they promote acceptance and inclusivity?
  2. Corporate policies—Does the company have policies that refer to same-sex couples?
  3. Real corporate values—Are the values employees exhibit in the workplace consistent with those listed on the website?
  4. Structural support for inclusivity—Is there a head of DEI? Do they have an ERG (employee resource group) dedicated to LGBTQ employees?
  5. External efforts—Does the business work with the LGBTQ community? Does management stand up when LGBTQ+ people face injustice outside the workplace?

Structural and External Efforts

Pride colored balloons outside office buildings
Pride colored balloons outside office buildings

Multiple articles highlight the importance of ERGs in creating a more LGBTQ+ friendly workplace. Employee resource groups consist of workers organized around gender, race, sexuality, and other shared backgrounds. ERGs foster social engagement and allow queer and BIPOC workers to fight for greater diversity and employment opportunities. Therefore, employee resource groups provide an avenue for marginalized workers to voice their demands and combat workplace harassment.

A company’s external efforts to support the queer community are just as important as the inclusive policies they implement within the workplace. Businesses can affect positive change outside the workplace by visiting their local LGBTQ+ chamber and asking how they can help. There are various ways corporate leaders and small business owners can champion the queer community. These opportunities include participating in an AIDS walk, partnering with LGBTQ+ organizations, or donating office space for important queer gatherings. By displaying support for the LGBTQ+ community outside the workplace, corporate leaders can prove to current and future employees that their businesses are safe and inclusive spaces for all workers.

Startups can also be more queer friendly by establishing gender-neutral office spaces. One way to achieve this is creating gender-neutral bathrooms to accommodate trans, non-binary, and gender-fluid individuals. Using gender neutral pronouns is a great practice to make sure all workers feel included. To make filling out paperwork easier for everyone, it makes sense to replace terms like “husband” and “wife” with “partner” on employee records. These small steps go a long way in helping everyone feel more comfortable and included within the workplace.

Diversity Training

Additionally, startups can be more LGBTQ+ friendly by implementing effective diversity training. In a business environment, diversity training helps address unconscious bias and establish positive behavior and attitudes. One of the most effective diversity training methods is perspective-taking. In a Harvard Business Review study, undergraduates tried to take the perspective of LGBTQ+ individuals and racial minorities by imagining the challenges they face in their everyday lives. After an exercise where undergrads tried to empathize with these individuals, researchers found a great improvement in behavioral intentions and pro-diversity attitudes. 

Goal-setting is another powerful diversity training strategy. Goal-setting encourages participants to set concrete and measurable goals for themselves related to diversity in the workplace. One example is an employee challenging inappropriate comments about minorities in the workplace combined with information on how to best address these situations in the future. Researchers discovered that goal-setting facilitated improved pro-diversity behaviors and attitudes after just a few months of training. The benefits of perspective-taking and goal-setting prove a safer work environment for all employees may be on the horizon.

Do you have any other tips on how to create a more inclusive work place? Let us know down in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.