There’s an uncomfortable reality haunting us: we continue to live in a society where people are frequently discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. This discrimination as it turns out, often occurs in the workplace.
It’s often taken for granted that, given Canada’s anti-discrimination laws, all workplaces are inherently inclusive — but this isn’t always the case. One Canadian study revealed that 75 percent of the LGBT respondents reported having been victims of bullying — a substantially higher figure than the heterosexual, cisgender study participants who also reported bullying. Furthermore, 40 percent of the LGBT individuals who reported bullying claimed that the discrimination occurred at their workplace.
Most of the study’s participants suggest that living in Canada is relatively safe and inclusive, though people reported that workplace conditions needed to be improved. Another study conducted by Telus found that 57 percent of LGBTQ respondents said they’re not officially out at work, with 22 percent of them worried about a hostile work environment, 15 percent concerned about losing out on career opportunities, and 10 percent worried about personal safety.
In order to attract top talent (regardless of gender or sexual identity), and be on the right side of history, it’s imperative that recruiters and hiring managers take deliberate measures to advocate for LGBTQ equality. Ensuring that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer job seekers feel safe and inclined to apply to a company does not have to be a complicated undertaking. Here are some steps human resource managers (or anyone else) can take to promote LGBTQ equality in their recruitment process.
State values of inclusivity on the organization website and/or mission statement
It should go without saying that a company hires employees based on talent and not on sexual or gender identity, but we yet haven’t reached that social ideal across the board. Remiding LGBTQ candidates that a company is a safe place is still a good idea. Employers needn’t shout it from the top of the mountain, but proclaiming values of inclusivity and respect on their Careers page and in the company mission statement can go a long way.
Partner with LGBTQ employee networks and organizations
Companies looking to hire can extend their reach by posting jobs to LGBTQ employee networks. Organizations such as Pride At Work Canada help employers build diverse workplaces, and connect candidates with LGBTQ-friendly companies. Employers can also coordinate with these types of networks for recruitment-event opportunities.
Publicly support the LGBTQ community
A company can take action and support the LGBTQ community in various ways, including participating in a Pride event, or even by acknowledging its local pride week over social media. Marching in a Pride parade not only reinforces values of inclusivity, but is good for brand visibility and exposing the company as an active employer (thus attracting potential candidates). Pride parades are currently accepted as mainstream events, and even the most traditional institutions such as banks proudly march, year after year.
Support LGBTQ charities and causes
If it’s not incompatible with a company’s brand or their other social responsible activities, supporting an LGBTQ charity can position a company as an inclusive employer, as well as possibly attract new recruits. It can also get employees involved in volunteer work — something that has been proven to increase employee retention rates and job satisfaction.
Train all staff on discrimination policies
Even though a company’s values start at the top, employees at all levels should be made aware of their employer’s stance on equality and respect. During the onboarding phase as well as throughout the year, employees should be reminded of how to speak respectfully, observe boundaries, and be aware of the kinds of behaviors that are not tolerated. Providing a culture of transparency is also important, where employees feel they can share their feedback and report intolerant behavior while being carefully listened to.
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Encourage LGBTQ employees to participate in recruitment events
Companies that host meetups and other recruitment events might want to make note of having a diverse group of current employees to represent the company. Having a diverse team out of the floor meeting with possible candidates is a good approach for conveying values of inclusivity without having to spell it out.
Ensure that health benefits plans serve everyone equally
In order to truly be a company that treats LGBTQ employees equally, health benefits must serve everyone, regardless of their gender or orientation. For example, life insurance should include same-sex partners, and spousal tax benefits should recognize gay marriage partners. Moreover, medical benefits must support the needs of transgender employees.
Support parental leave, not just maternity leave
Men deserve to bond with their new babies, too. Make sure that everyone, not just women, have the right to a reasonable parental leave policy. Not only does this support men in same-sex couples who have children, but it creates a more equal society for all familes.
As Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has stated more than once, “diversity is our strength.” Not only should companies tolerate LGBTQ employees, but should actively look to recruit workers from a variety of backgrounds. Employers should also continue to be reminded that the majority of people spend most of their waking hours at work, and their workplace environment should therefore be safe, healthy, and humane.
Indeed, companies should hire based on attitude, experience, education, and skills first and foremost, and shouldn’t look for “token” LGBTQ employees simply for the optics. However, companies can spread a wide net when looking to recruit new members. They can consider hosting meetups, posting to a variety of online job boards, creating employee referral programs, and hiring a recruitment agency. Stick to one channel and approach to recruiting, and a company might risk ending up with an overly homogeneous team, instead of one that looks more like Canada itself — a mosaic of people from different cultures, genders, races, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic backgrounds.