This week’s article in the Toronto Star about the changes in Canadian workplaces for LGBT employees is encouraging. It is good to hear from large corporations who are making a difference in the daily lives of their LGBT employees.
In our quest to further inclusion, invisible diversity is often much harder to address because we don’t see it. For lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans-identified employees there is another layer: fear. What will change when people know? Will I be safe? Comments like “that’s so gay” and homophobic jokes (as well as silence about these rather than clear messages of inappropriateness) poison the work environment for LGBT people and send a message that it’s not safe to be out. For workplaces to be safe for LGBT employees there needs to be solid expectations about zero tolerance for homophobia, transphobia and heterosexism in policy and practice, awareness-raising, and support.
The Toronto Star article mentions several examples of how to move towards more LGBT inclusive workplaces: Employee Resources Groups with executive champions (RBC), forums to discuss what it feels like to be LGB or T in the workplace (IBM), supporting community initiatives (TELUS), and including relevant benefits (TD). Strategies and commitments such as these help increase visibility, and create awareness and opportunities for dialogue that enable us to make the changes necessary for the inclusion of LGBT colleagues in our workplaces.
Leadership, of course, is key; without commitment from leadership, these programs lack the impact necessary to help create lasting change.
Hats off to the companies listed in this article, and their employees who are helping to make LGBT inclusive workplaces a reality across the country!
Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity & inclusion