February is North American Inclusion Awareness Month
Though we are experiencing a shifting landscape, where attitudes, and business practices are changing to a more acceptable and tolerable environment, the sad statistic is that 40% of Lesbian / Gay / Bi, and almost 90% of Transgender (Americans) have experienced employment discrimination, harassment, or mistreatment. That astoundingly high number is discouraging, so there’s a lot of work still to do.
“As important as diversity is, I believe we all know there is much work to be done to ensure our society is as inclusive and supportive as it can be for all citizens.”
– Barry Sheerman, MP UK
We generally fear what we don’t understand. We (society in general) seem to interchange the words sex and gender synonymously, but there is a distinction we need to take into consideration. The simplest explanation is in the following illustration by Sam Killermann. Sex is the biological, or physical, properties we are each born with. Gender is what we identify ourselves to be.
Do we need an Inclusion Awareness Month?
“We report the small numbers in the belief that within the area of diversity and inclusion it is more important to recognize the existence of a group, no matter its relative size, than to ignore or overlook it.” The IILP was referring to the amount of Native American lawyers included in their study, but overall still a valid statement.
Let’s look at LGBT numbers:
The total (reported*) LGBT population in North America is roughly 5.16%, which in itself doesn’t seem to be much, but 18.3 million people is over half the population of Canada. That’s not exactly a small number.
The Corporate Bottom Line
So why is inclusivity important in B2B, or in business in general? We get the basic idea that inclusion means continued or increased business, and non-inclusivity would imply a decrease, but is there proof that inclusivity affects a corporation’s bottom line? Yes, and no.
Out Now looked at 24 countries around the globe, including Canada and the USA.There are qualitative benefits to go with these quantitative (estimates), for both LGBT individuals, AND the companies they work for.
Benefits to LGBT individuals who work for you:
- Increased job satisfaction
- Better business relationships
- Improved productivity and health
- Company/brand loyalty
Benefits that can be directly linked to the Corporate Bottom Line:
- Lower legal costs related to discrimination
- Lower health insurance costs
- Better brand perception for being socially responsible
- Reduction in spend on new talent recruitment and training, employee loyalty
- Increased productivity, creativity and innovation by drawing on a workforce with a wide range of experience(s)
- Attracting and better serving a diverse customer base
- Securing business with clients that require employment non-discrimination or domestic partner benefit policies
“A lot of great work is happening at C-Suite level with management embracing LGBT diversity as an important part of building successful businesses.”
– Ian Johnson, CEO, Out Now
Things You Can Do Right Now
Start small. This is not a “go big or go home” scenario. We typically spend more time at work than we do in the waking hours at home with family. It’s about making people feel welcome in your office, as an employee, as your partner, or as your customer.
- Educate yourself and your team
- Learn which questions are rude and insensitive, including ones about surgery or sexual orientation
- Learn which, and why, certain behaviors can be considered sexual harassment
- Sponsor or attend beneficial programs and training
- Set an example by adopting more inclusive company and benefits policies
- Share the responsibility for diversity and inclusivity efforts
- Understand that not everyone conforms to male/female sex, update company forms
- Gender neutral bathrooms
- Be sensitive to company content that consistently uses he or she in branding and storytelling
Ultimately closing the gap on inclusion will come from a deeper understanding and empathy for others from people themselves, or as my mother used to simply always say, “Be nice to each other.” Her advice didn’t exclude anyone.
Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of this series!
*This total number could in fact be much higher, if respondents are comfortable with being “out”.
GLAAD, Accelerating Acceptance: A Harris Poll survey of Americans’acceptance of LGBT people (2015).
Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Corporate Equality Index 2017: Rating Workplaces on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality (Washington, 2017)
Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession (IILP), The Business Case for Diversity: Reality or Wishful Thinking?(Chicago, 2011).
Sam Killerman, “The Genderbread Person v3.3”,It’s Pronounced METROsexual, March, 2015 http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2015/03/the-genderbread-person-v3
Michaela Krejcova, “The Value of LGBT in the Workplace”, GLAAD, 2015 http://www.glaad.org/blog/value-lgbt-equality-workplace
Out Now Global LGBT 2030 Study, LGBT Diversity: Show Me the Business Case, 2015.
The Williams Institute, The Business Impact of LGBT-Supportive Workplace Policies (Los Angeles, 2013).