A growing percentage of individuals identify as LGBTQ+ at a time when Americans are increasingly supportive of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. With younger generations far more likely than older generations to identify as LGBTQ+, that growth can be expected to continue.

So far in 2023, more than 525 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced to Congress, and over 70 have been signed into law. There is no question that LGBTQ+ rights are under fire. Early this month, the Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S.

In some legal jurisdictions, protections against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are incredibly limited. Employees in these areas are vulnerable to unfair treatment, termination, or other adverse actions based solely on their LGBTQ+ status.

Our modern workplace is deeply connected and global. The more diverse your organization, the greater your potential for success. HR leaders and people teams are essential to ensure every employee feels valued and respected.

LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace creates a supportive environment where all employees feel seen and celebrated.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Benefits of LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Workplace

LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace ensures employees of all sexual orientations and gender identities feel safe and celebrated. Inclusive workplaces offer many benefits for employees and the organization, including:

Improved productivity and employee engagement

LGBTQ+ inclusion powers growth and employee engagement, driving sustainable business success. When employees feel included and valued for who they are, they are more likely to be engaged in their work. Inclusive workplaces allow LGBTQ+ people to fully focus on their tasks and contribute their skills and talents effectively.

Positive corporate social responsibility

Expectations for businesses to be socially responsible and make positive contributions to society are high. Customers and employees are drawn to companies aligned with their personal values, and organizations on the leading edge of promoting equality benefits from a positive brand image.

Enhanced creativity and innovation

When individuals from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives collaborate, they bring fresh ideas and unique insights to the table. An inclusive work environment empowers a culture of innovation, where employees think creatively and challenge the status quo.

When individuals from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives collaborate, they bring fresh ideas and unique insights to the table.

Challenges facing LGBTQ+ employees

Acknowledging the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community is the first step toward creating an inclusive work environment. This knowledge, paired with ongoing input from LGBTQ+ people, is essential for developing targeted initiatives, policies, and support systems that effectively address challenges.

Discrimination and bias

Discrimination, bias, and prejudice manifest in various forms, such as unfair treatment, microaggressions, exclusion, or offensive comments.

Many LGBTQ+ employees experience discrimination and feel pressure to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace, fearing negative consequences. Discrimination and bias increase stress and anxiety, impede professional growth, isolate individuals, and create a hostile work environment.

Lack of diversity and representation

LGBTQ+ employees often face a lack of visible role models and representation within organizations. The absence of LGBTQ+ leaders and mentors limits networking opportunities and can prevent authentic connections in the workplace.

Isolation and exclusion, especially in remote work environments

Feelings of disconnection can make building relationships and finding allies more challenging, especially in remote work environments where face-to-face interactions are limited.

LGBTQ+ remote workers may miss out on informal conversations, networking opportunities, and supports more readily available in an in-person workplace. Isolation impacts mental health, total well-being, and job satisfaction.

10 ways to create an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace

Creating an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace requires a comprehensive approach. Companies must foster an inclusive culture by providing workplace diversity training, ensuring equitable policies and benefits, and promoting LGBTQ+ visibility and representation in leadership positions.

A supportive and inclusive workplace allows LGBTQ+ employees to thrive, contribute their best work, and reach their full potential.

1. Open communication

Demonstrate your commitment to understanding. Any effort to create a safe and supportive company culture for LGBTQ+ employees begins with communication. When employees feel comfortable openly discussing their identity, experiences, and concerns, it builds trust and fosters a sense of safety.

Regularly seek feedback, listen to the experiences of LGBTQ+ employees, and make necessary adjustments to company values, policies, and practices. Establish norms for what constitutes open, welcoming behavior, and ask leaders and employees to assess how your company is living up to expectations.

2. Inclusive language

Use inclusive language that acknowledges and respects the diversity of sexual orientations and gender identities. Avoid assumptions and embrace gender neutral, or better, gender inclusive language in policies, forms, and communications.

Create a culture that normalizes sharing and respecting pronouns. Encourage your people to include their pronouns in email signatures, online profiles, and on name tags to signal inclusivity.

Encourage your people to include their pronouns in email signatures, online profiles, and on name tags to signal inclusivity.

Be open to learning about employees’ personal lives, relationships, or family structures rather than assuming a heteronormative or cisnormative position. Create a culture that values and celebrates diverse relationships and families.

Download this guide from the Human Rights Campaign:
“Talking About Pronouns in the Workplace”

3. Celebrate LGBTQ+ history

Celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month, Pride Month, or Trans Day of Visibility as you would other important days in the calendar to raise awareness and boost inclusion.

An Employee Resource Group (ERG) can play an important role in organizing company events such as panel discussions, workshops, guest speaker sessions, or celebrations during Pride Month. ERG events can help to educate employees on LGBTQ+ issues, celebrate LGBTQ+ milestones, and provide opportunities for dialogue and connection for your people.

4. Provide LGBTQ+ inclusion training

Move beyond gestures of inclusion and build knowledge and understanding. The more awareness there is around LGBTQ+ topics, the more effective support will be. One way to increase knowledge is to promote allyship and build a safe space through targeted training to raise awareness and help employees understand the impact of language, address unconscious biases, and promote respectful communication.

Educate employees on the importance of using correct pronouns and the positive impact that can have on the well-being of transgender and non-binary people.

By fostering an inclusive environment that welcomes LGBTQ+ employees, companies tap into a wider talent pool and attract top performers from diverse backgrounds.

5. Prioritize inclusive hiring practices

LGBTQ+ individuals seek workplaces where they can bring their authentic selves to work, and organizations that promote inclusivity send a powerful message of acceptance and respect. Your organization gains a competitive edge in talent acquisition, leading to a more robust and capable workforce that drives innovation and success.

Companies that focus on advancing diverse employees into executive, management, technical, and board roles attract and retain top talent. By fostering an inclusive environment that welcomes LGBTQ+ employees, companies tap into a wider talent pool and attract top performers from diverse backgrounds.

6. Ensure inclusive policies and benefits

Create a safe and affirming work environment with inclusive company policies and benefits that address the unique needs and challenges of LGBTQ+ employees.

LGBTQ+ inclusive policies and benefits may include:

  • Non-discrimination policy that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression
  • Sufficient healthcare coverage and gender transition support for transgender individuals
  • Same-sex partner benefits
  • Equitable parental leave and support for working parents that includes same-sex couples and adoptive parents
  • Provide a Lifestyle Spending Account (LSA) that offers equitable allowances and reimbursements for dependent care, reproductive health, adoption, and surrogacy support
  • Mental health support
  • Gender-neutral facilities

Gaps in policies and benefits can hinder LGBTQ+ employees’ job satisfaction and overall sense of inclusion.

Identity-based discrimination impacts total well-being. When all team members feel respected,  embraced, and valued for their identity at work, they are healthier, more satisfied, and more productive.

A sense of belonging comes from bringing your whole self to work. A robust, people-first culture strategy says, “We celebrate what makes you, you!”

7. Create a network of support

A sense of belonging comes from bringing your whole self to work. A robust, people-first culture strategy says, “We celebrate what makes you, you!”

Allyship in the workplace builds supportive relationships and fosters diversity, equity, and inclusion. LGBTQ+ allies confront discrimination, advocate for change, and create more cohesive teams.

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) support the needs of members of the LGBTQ+ community. ERGs create a safe space and provide a forum for employees to authentically connect with others who share their identities and experiences. Belonging increases employee job satisfaction and retention.

8. Promote psychological safety

Psychologically safe workplaces are free from microaggressions and discriminatory behavior, including marginalization and exclusion. Creating opportunities for all employees to participate and have a voice enhances creativity, innovation, and productivity and supports total employee well-being.

9. Be transparent

Decide on a clear strategy and tactics for LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts. And set goals clearly aligned with measurable outcomes to guarantee a positive impact.

Develop internal and external communication strategies tailored to your audiences, utilizing various channels: email, newsletters, surveys, and social media. Regularly ask yourself: would a potential candidate think ours is a workplace inclusive of LGBTQ+ people?

10. Reward engagement

Reward involvement with LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts across your organization. Engage all of your people, regardless of how they identify, and cultivate leadership support. Managers should embody a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Challenges and achievements can encourage your employees to take self-directed learning journeys: discovering local LGBTQ+ organizations, learning about gender norms, and all about how to be a better ally.

Promote LGBTQ+ inclusion with Employee Resource Groups

Whether you run a small team in Washington or a distributed organization spanning the globe, the imperative is clear: create a workplace environment that celebrates diversity and champions inclusion, every single day of the year.

Even diverse companies face challenges in creating inclusive workplaces. Promoting inclusive leadership, workplace diversity, and striving toward freedom from bias are challenges that arise in the best culture companies.

There’s always room to elevate your culture and make meaningful progress toward LGBTQ+ inclusion. Build community with Espresa’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) platform. Your people will feel empowered when all aspects of their identity are acknowledged, embraced, and celebrated. When you empower your culture, everyone wins.

Let’s inspire culture together. Reach out to our team for a free Espresa demo!


How to Promote Mental Health Inclusion to Benefit all Employees


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