Career CentreEquity, Diversity, Inclusion

Investing in Inclusion: LGBTQ

On June 9, 2016 the Ryerson Career Centre launched it’s Investing in Inclusion seminar series. The series looks to share knowledge and ideas of support for a specific equity seeking group in the workplace. This seminar focused on the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) population.

The panelists were representatives from various organizations who have been deemed as leaders in supporting the LGBTQ community in the workplace. The day began with a keynote address by Pride@Work followed by representatives from companies such as PepsiCo, Accenture, and IBM who spoke about various programs and commitments they had while The 519 spoke about their involvement around education and training. Also present was the Diversity Institute, talking about their research and challenging businesses to do more than just create a program, but create safe spaces.

Key Panelist Messages

Our panelists were given ten minutes to present what their organization is doing to support the LGBTQ community followed by a question and answer period. Some clear messages emerged from the discussion around being an ally, engaging employee resource groups, implementing policies, and utilizing education and measurement as a tool. Below is a summary of these ideas.

Allies

All of the organizations present spoke of a network of allies within their organization. This often started with top leadership publicly announcing their commitment as allies to the LGBTQ community. These statements express the values of not only that individual, but also suggests that these are the values of the organization, setting a tone and a level of expectation. Organizations like IBM and and Accenture also had training for those who committed to be allies. This training indicated what your role would be as an ally, particularly understanding language, challenges, and knowing when and how to support a peer.

Employee Resource Groups

Each organization also indicated that they had employee resource groups. These are groups where people who share a similar identity can get together and connect. Many organizations have these groups for various cultural communities. The LGBTQ resource groups are just another way for a company to recognize the presence of this community within the workplace and to show support. PepsiCo spoke of how each Employee Resource Group is led by a senior leader within the organization, again showing their commitment to the diverse populations that exist.

Policy

The topic of policy was another key component of the discussion. Policies should be reviewed to ensure they reflect the diversity of the organization. IBM spoke of the policies around maternity and paternity leave. At one time, IBM’s policies were not 100% clear about what would happen if a woman’s partner carried their child and the woman wanted to go on maternity leave as opposed to her partner. These details should not be overlooked, but it can be difficult to know what you are missing or how you are excluding. This is where Pride@Work can be helpful. Pride@Work will work with an organization to review their policies and procedures to ensure they extend to support all members of the LGBTQ community within the workplace. Similarly, The 519 is an organization that will offer training and materials to help with an organization’s policy development. Documents such as “Creating Authentic Spaces” is a fantastic way that businesses can begin to make a move towards inclusion.

Education and Measurement

Utilizing research from organizations such as the Diversity Institute is also an integral part of the journey to inclusion. Much of the conversation that came from the Diversity Institute pointed towards truly measuring the programs an organization offers. While employee resource groups are deemed to be a best practice, research shows that these may not always be well attended because employees may not feel it is a safe space. It is important to look at whether employees self identify as LGBTQ. The Diversity Institute indicated that if it appears that no one in an organization identifies as LGBTQ it is likely the result of a space not being safe enough for members of this community to come out and bring their full selves to work. Measuring the climate of an organization through diversity reports will help gauge how much work still needs to be done. Utilizing research to gain insight on what to measure can be a helpful part of knowing where to start and determining how to measure success. Also, utilizing the workshops and education tools of spaces like the 519 will help all members of an organization understand how to truly be inclusive and create a safe space.

The road to inclusion is not linear; there is no one way to it and there is no final destination. Working towards inclusion is a constant journey. It is important to recognize that while the focus of this session was on the LGBTQ community, the discussion does not exclude the intersectionality of other parts of an individual’s identity. Striving towards inclusion is not about helping one community alone but about encouraging individuals to bring their whole selves to work with all their intersecting identities. Creating safe, inclusive spaces creates more productive and collaborative environments while allowing individuals to be their authentic selves. It is essential that we all prioritize Investing in Inclusion.