Why LGBT+ inclusion isn't just an HR issue

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Written by Toby Mildon on 23 June 2020 in Opinion
Opinion

As part of Pride Month, Toby Mildon underlines the importance of inclusive communication.

June is Pride Month when many organisations take the opportunity to celebrate their LGBT+ colleagues and community. It may come as no surprise that for diversity and inclusion specialists, LGBT+ issues are an important part of the inclusion agenda all year round.

What might be more unexpected is the idea that it's not something that can be just left with the HR team to get on with.

As a people issue, it's true that many key aspects of diversity and inclusion will be the responsibility of HR - think talent acquisition and employee relations. However, LGBT+ as part of diversity and inclusion touches on all the key functions of global companies and there's a very persuasive business case to make sure that it's considered across a range of core activities.

Spending power

The LGBT+ community have a considerable amount of spending power. The pink pound, as it was coined in 1984, is estimated to account for £6bn of the UK economy every year.

Internal communications play a vital role in making LGBT+ employees feel included and valued. How well is the organisation reflecting the diversity of its employees on the intranet and in newsletters?

The question is, what are businesses doing to tap into this market? This would be better answered within the marketing department than HR. Another question might be about how customer services demonstrates to customers that they are LGBT+ inclusive? 

Research shows that being represented matters to the LGBT+ community. The companies that get it right win customer loyalty and a larger share of the pink pound over time.

Right now advertising is not particularly diverse. For a business that's serious about attracting a share of the LGBT+ market, it's important to represent same-sex relationships and modern families, for example. This isn't going to happen unless leaders insist that the marketing department advertise to a diverse and wide range of customers.

The company environment

LGBT+ inclusion can also be considered from a workplace perspective.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic struck, many organisations are considering downsizing their office footprint as more people look to work from home more often. This presents an opportunity to ensure that work spaces are inclusive in any new office premises. That might be talking to landlords about gender-neutral toilets before signing a lease.

 

Internal communications play a vital role in making LGBT+ employees feel included and valued. How well is the organisation reflecting the diversity of its employees on the intranet and in newsletters? 

Do images portray a good mix of people that employees identify with? Is the language used in comms inclusive? For example, talking about partners and parents as opposed to husbands and wives, or mothers and fathers.

Growing an inclusive culture

The old maxim goes, 'culture eats strategy for breakfast'. So, to ensure LGBT+ employees are included it's critical to embed cultural change across the whole organisation. In many cases our professional networks tend to be more diverse than our friendship and family groups, so workplaces have a really important role in educating the whole workforce.

Whilst diversity focuses on difference, which is important to connect with a diverse client base and harness unique lived experiences, creativity and innovation – inclusion must be about everybody. 

Diversity and inclusion experts are hearing that straight white men sometimes find diversity threatening. That they could be overtaken by someone else through positive action. The anxiety of saying something offensive. In plenty of workplaces, particular groups of people might have their employee resource groups to join, whether those are around disability, gender, LGBT+ or other protected characteristics.

It is great for people to have these safe spaces, to feel supported and empowered by their network but it's also important that they don't become echo chambers and that other employees don't feel left out.

To truly progress the diversity and inclusion agenda, straight white men have to be part of the conversation. As a critical mass, straight white men becoming great allies is the only way things will move forward.

A great example of this is an LGBT+ member of staff gaining the confidence to come out at work because a senior leader was seen carrying a coffee mug asserting he supports LGBT+ issues.

 

About the author

Toby Mildon is a diversity and inclusion architect and founder of consultancy Mildon. You can buy Toby's new book, Inclusive Growth, here.

 

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