In my lifetime, I have witnessed tremendous changes in policy and attitudes that have enabled me and others to live and work freely and openly as members of the LGBTQ+ community. In my experience, coming out early on in my career was a gut-wrenching moment, but today most global employers are highly supportive of their diverse workforce. As CEO of Randstad, I believe that it’s morally and economically in the best interest of our company to offer this support.
This is a simple idea, but organizations often stumble in their quest to create an inclusive and judgment-free workplace. According to research conducted by the Human Rights Campaign, 46% of LGBTQ+ workers remain in the closet at their jobs, and 31% report feeling unhappy or depressed at work. And a majority (53%) say they occasionally hear jokes in the workplace about gay and lesbian people. These statistics indicate that LGBTQ+ people still don’t feel safe in the workplace, despite decades of progress in advancing their rights.
how business leaders can make a difference.
I recognize the considerable impact an organization like ours can have on advancing the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. In a talent-scarce world, we can actively encourage our clients to source and hire more diverse candidates, enable talent to find jobs at organizations that further their interests and identity, and hold dialogue with government officials on workplace policy.
You don’t, however, have to be a Fortune 500 company to be an effective supporter of LGBTQ+ rights. You just have to be willing and committed to advancing change through the achievement of tangible goals.
Here are three ways to do this:
move from intent to behavior.
While many companies have clear policies and guidelines against discrimination in the workplace, not all have nurtured a culture and workplace that empowers employees to be their true self. I still hear questions, more than a half century after the landmark Stonewall riots in New York, from anxious people wanting to know how they can disclose their sexual orientation at work. If people continue to be apprehensive about discussing their personal lives, this indicates a problem with the environment.
Leaders should take every opportunity to learn about the needs of their LGBTQ+ employees and take active steps to provide them with unambiguous policies and encouragement to be their true selves.
One of the ways Randstad has done this is to create business resource groups (BRG) for members of the community, beginning with our Pride BRG in the U.S. which held networking sessions, virtual happy hours during the pandemic, discussions on transitioning at work and interviews with members of the community. Just recently, we have expanded this group globally so learnings can be shared across borders. BRG networks foster opportunities for all employees to learn more about the community and create a workplace where everyone can learn, share and feel welcomed.
reframe the conversation.
In today’s highly charged political climate, opposing parties rarely hear each other when issues are viewed as political in nature. In reality, policies on LGBTQ+ rights are people issues, and the more we can humanize the discussion, the closer we bring all parties together. Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, pointed out recently that when provided an opportunity to get to know LGBTQ+ people, even those who oppose expanded rights for this community became more sympathetic to their challenges. By encouraging companies to share the stories and those of their own employees, consensus building is more likely to be successful.
Below we share the empowering story of our own colleague Rachel Butas, Delivery Manager, Randstad USA.
amplify the voice of all advocates.
Advocates of LGBTQ+ rights aren’t solely members of the community. Many people who are not, especially Gen Z and Millennials, are ardent believers in a more equitable and diverse workplace and society. Randstad’s 2022 Workmonitor research found that 41% of all workers surveyed in 34 markets said they wouldn’t accept a job if their employer wasn’t making a proactive effort to improve its diversity and inclusion programs. Notably, nearly half (49%) of Gen Z and 46% of 25-34 year-olds felt this way, signaling that future leaders are likely to be more sympathetic to the rights of all people.
These generations of workers, of which many are digital natives, are highly adept at socializing their views and being storytellers. Sharing authentic stories and content with your workforce throughout the year can serve as an effective mechanism for raising awareness and fostering inclusive actions within and outside your organization.
Pride was started as a one-day event to advocate for the rights of gay people in New York City, but it has expanded to become a global movement celebrating throughout the year the rights of people of all sexual orientation. More than ever, we need to use this opportunity to remind everyone that LGBTQ+ people are not just members of their community but of all communities.