Beyond the Pride Month: What Companies Do to Build LGBTQ+ Inclusion

When it comes to inclusion, moral and business goals don’t work at cross purposes with each other. Inclusion is both a moral and business imperative. Successfully targeting an underserved employee’s market pays off and positively impacts the bottom line. Read on to learn what some of the most successful companies do to include their LGBTQ+ employees and take a cue from them to ensure a safe and respectful workplace for all.

June 17, 2022 By Ravijojla Novakovic Share on Twitter! Share on Facebook! Share on LinkedIn!
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It’s Pride Month, and unless you’ve been disconnected from the Internet and living completely off the grid, you must have noticed the rainbow logos popping everywhere. It’s nice to see the support pouring in, and all the attention certainly shows that significant improvements have been made. However, true allyship doesn’t mean being supportive only one month in a year. Real allies don’t make it all about them, and the LGBTQ+ community knows it well. 

Building strong relationships and inclusive culture for their LGBTQ+ employees takes a sustained effort. It’s not a box you can tick and be done with – the growth comes from strategic insight, decisions, and continuous implementation.

Rising importance of the rainbow market

The number of people identifying as LGBTQ+ is growing. The Gallup poll reveals that: the percentage of U.S. adults identifying as LGBTQ+ has doubled, from 3.5% in 2012 to 7.1% in 2021. 

The rise is steady and significant, as the number of “Gen Z adults who identify as LGBTQ has increased from 10.5% in 2017 to 20.8% in 2021, while millennials, ages 26 to 41, identifying as LGBTQ increased from 5.8% in 2012 to 10.5% in 2021.”

Furthermore, the purchasing power of the LGBTQ+ communities steadily grows. According to a 2017 National LGBT Chamber of Commerce survey, queer and trans people spend approximately $917 million on goods and services per year in the U.S. alone. 

More than ever, companies are trying to surf the rainbow wave and take advantage of the unattended market. Brands have jumped on the bandwagon of supporting the LGBTQ+ community, knowing that queer and trans customers are very loyal to the brands they feel are supportive. 

According to the CMI, 85% of surveyed LGBTQ+ persons state that: “Corporations that support LGBTQ+ equality are more important than ever.” Similarly, the backlash is just as strong and damaging to brands that fail to position themselves as allies. 

Beyond competing for LGBTQ+ customers’ loyalty, companies also compete for the LGBTQ+ employees. The Harvard Business Review identifies three major areas LGBTQ-inclusive companies do exceptionally well:

  1. Attract and retain top talent.
  2. Woo and win critical consumer segments.
  3. Innovate for underserved markets.

Bad EX of your LGBTQ+ employees is not how you build inclusion 

The EX (Employee Experience) is the new CX (Customer Experience). A good EX has the power to boost your CX in unprecedented ways. So if you’re not working on the EX of ALL your employees, inclusively everyone, your CX may suffer. 

Despite your company’s DEI efforts and company culture that highly values diversity, your company may not be as inclusive as you think. What good are incentives and intent if they’re just words on a paper? 

The discrimination and microaggressions towards LGBTQ+ employees happen in numerous daily interactions with peers and leaders. Are your leaders trained to recognize these, and do they take the measures necessary to curtail behavior that’s not inclusive?

There’s a cost to non-inclusive workplaces. According to the ThinkProgress’ study, persons who are not out at work are “73 percent more likely to say they’ll leave their companies within the next three years.”

On top of that, according to UCLA’s report, “around one-third of LGBT employees report leaving a job (34.2%) or looking for other jobs (33.9%) because the work environment did not accept LGBT people.”

cost of non-inclusive workplaces

Many LGBTQ+ employees are still in the closet. According to a study by the University of Rochester, coming out increases emotional well-being, but only if it happens in a supportive environment. McKinsey points out that women and junior employees are most affected when it comes to choosing not to come out, and as employees advance into their roles, their seniority allows them to feel safer to come out.  

Why does coming out even matter? Relationships at work are the glue keeping people together, but how can we build genuine connections if significant parts of ourselves are kept secret? 

Most choose not to come out due to the perceived lack of psychological safety of being accepted for who they are. These employees are unable to bring their whole, authentic selves to work, and as a result, employee engagement and morale suffer. Especially when everyone around them repeats parrot-fashion about the importance of authenticity.

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Legislative background: things (need to) get better 

Things are slowly looking up for LGBTQ+ people at work. As of 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination. Before that ruling, an employee who, for example, got married to a same-sex partner could get fired. 

This ruling is of huge importance, but it came late, and the damage done in the interim years has been detrimental to the lives of LGBTQ+ people and their families. However, there’s still work to be done; achieving pay equality, equal access to career advancement, lessening harassment, achieving psychological safety, providing gender-neutral bathrooms in workplaces, providing domestic partner benefits and paid parental leave equal to heterosexual couples’, as well as transgender-inclusive benefits for employees and dependents and mandatory gender transition guidelines and workplace policies. 

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Businesses that make an effort 

Each year, more and more companies are well on the way to closing the care gap for all their employees and raising the bar for workplace inclusivity of LGBTQ+ employees and their families. 

For the past 20+ years, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC) has been conducting extensive surveys on how leading US companies care for their LGBTQ+ employees. The result is a survey benchmarking tool, the Corporate Equality Index (CEI). 

The good news is that each year, more and more businesses get top scores. In 2022, out of 1200 businesses that willingly submitted to having their incentives and policies externally analyzed, a whopping 842 companies met all the criteria to meet the 100 percent rating and a place among the “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality”. 

Here are a few of those companies and an overview of their practices.

1. McKinsey & Co. Inc.

McKinsey, a global consulting firm, has a rich set of values that include: being non-hierarchical and inclusive, sustaining a caring meritocracy, upholding the obligations to engage and dissent, embracing diverse perspectives with curiosity and respect, and many more. McKinsey prides itself with a 100% score for LGBTQ+ equality in the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index every year since 2006. Further on, McKinsey has invested a staggering $20 million in diversity, equity, and inclusion research. 

Besides providing other companies with data-driven insights on diversity and inclusion (among many additional strategically relevant information), McKinsey’s rich body of knowledge informs anyone willing to get acquainted with LGBTQ+ inclusion. 

Where McKinsey raises the bar is its initiative called GLAM, founded in 1995. GLAM is a global network of LGBTQ+ professionals whose aim is to provide peer support to talented lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender, and professionals of other gender and sexual orientation identities. Also, GLAM sponsors, organizes and hosts many events, conferences, and advises McKinsey on LGBTQ+ policies and benefits. There’s also a related organization called Glam Allies, comprising straight and cis-gender allies, collaborating with GLAM on various projects. 

McKinsey also founded a not-for-profit Generation in 2014, with the organization’s primary goal to “promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment, and decent work for all”.  The organization targets unemployed or underemployed to prepare for and launch sustainable careers that would otherwise be inaccessible to them, bridging the gap between employers and employees.

2. Deloitte LLP 

Deloitte LLP, founded in 1845, provides audit and assurance, tax, consulting, and risk and financial advisory services. Its longstanding devotion to promoting diversity and inclusion allowed Deloitte to meet 100% of the criteria on the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index for 16th consecutive years

Deloitte bases its inclusive strategy on three pillars: achieving gender balance, LGBT+ inclusion, and supporting mental health. Deloitte has endorsed the UN’s Standards of Conduct for Business in Tackling Discrimination against LGBTI people. Deloitte focuses on allyship and provides its employees with reverse mentoring and training. Also, Deloitte is a member of the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality and the Brunswick Group’s coalition, Open for Business

In 2018, Deloitte launched a worldwide program GLOBE, which focuses on bringing together colleagues who identify as LGBT+ and allies, to provide visible and trustworthy points of contact. GLOBE drives LGBT+ inclusion with awareness, education, human rights policies, and celebration of diversity.  

Deloitte Australia runs its own network for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI+) and ally communities called StandOUT. The organization’s effort earned Deloitte Australia the position of employer of choice by the Pride in Diversity, earning high scores on the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) benchmarking tool. 

Deloitte also hosts various diversity webinars, further educating its employees and clients, creates content to promote inclusion and diversity, provides perspectives to fuel awareness, and funds various LGBTQ+ initiatives.

3. The Coca-Cola Co.

The Coca-Cola Company, a manufacturer and seller of some of the world’s most popular beverages since 1892, , prides itself on a set of well-defined people-first values. Its company culture places diversity, equity and inclusion on top of its value system, allowing the organization to score 100% on the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index every year since 2006.

To tackle workplace discrimination, Coca-Cola’s Human Rights Report defines the following criteria for recruitment, hiring, placement, development, training, compensation, and advancement: qualifications, performance, skills, and experience. 

Coca-Cola runs an active LGBTA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally) Business Resource Group that helps Coca-Cola gain insight and stay connected with the LGBTQ+ communities’ needs. The company also funds and supports many LGBTQ+ organizations and programs; Pride in many places around the globe, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, and The Trevor Project, just to name a few.

Additionally, Coca-Cola has been one of the first major brands to support diversity publicly, producing various highly engaging marketing activities targeting the LGBTQ+ population. These activities earned the loyalty of the LGBTQ+ communities, but also some backlash from cultures that aren’t so supportive, for example, the call for a boycott in Hungary

One example is a 2014 ad supporting same-sex marriage before it was legalized in the US in 2015.  It was the first-ever Super Bowl commercial to feature a gay family. Another example featured a limited edition can with a rainbow-filled heart in support of Australia’s 2017 campaign for same-sex marriage.

4. SAP America Inc. 

SAP has provided enterprise resource planning software and solutions for small, mid-sized, and large companies since 1972. The organization’s commitment to inclusion and diversity has been recognized multiple times: SAP has had a 100% rating on the Corporate Equality Index by the HRC for best places to work for LGBTQ+ equality since 2013. 

SAP’s contribution to the It Gets Better anti-bullying campaign in 2012 birthed a powerful video that was well-documented across the globe. The three largest local Pride SAP networks are in Germany, North America, and Brazil. There were numerous social media campaigns supporting Pride, and SAP offices worldwide showed their support during the Pride month.

In 2017, SAP endorsed the UN’s Standards of Conduct for Business on Tackling Discrimination against LGBTQ+ People. Also in 2017, the Financial Times named SAP as one of the top 25 global executive allies to the LGBTQ+ community. In 2018, Workplace Pride recognized SAP as a top 10 company worldwide in LGBTQ+ inclusion. In 2019, SAP was named a Stonewall Top Global Employer

SAP was one of the first companies in Germany to develop “Gender Transition Guidelines”, and implement it across its workforce. SAP collaborated with TransFocus, supporting transitioning employees in Canada and the U.S., provided enhanced transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits for SAP employees and their dependents in Canada and the US, as well as offered gender-neutral restroom facilities in several locations.

For all the effort SAP is making towards inclusion (and we’ve outlined just a few), SAP is continuously raising the bar and being a role-model for other enterprises wishing to improve their inclusion practices. Not the one to hoard on equality best practices and tools, SAP equips other companies with its DEI solutions, passing along the equality and diversity values further.

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5. Gartner Inc.

Gartner Inc. is an IT research and consultancy company founded in 1979. Gartner cultivates a culture of inclusion, highlighting equitable access to opportunities and promoting diversity, well-being and growth. Informed by its data-driven research, Gartner provides other companies with critical insight regarding diversity and inclusion. 

Since 2018, Gartner has had a 100% score on the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, being proclaimed as one of the best places to work for LGBTQ+ equality. In 2020 and 2021, Gartner also won The Forbes’ America’s Best Employers for Diversity. In 2022, Gartner was named one of America’s Best Large Employers award by Forbes. 

Gartner excels at organizing numerous employee resource groups (ERG). One such is Pride at Gartner, providing employees with resources, peer support, training, and education and generally supports the development of policies and practices that increase the quality of life of LGBTQ+ employees.    

Gartner also offers an inclusive benefit program, one of which is the Adoption and Surrogacy Assistance Program. LGBTQ+ employees at Gartner also highlight the inclusive environment, supportive management, and legal benefits that support same-sex partners’ rights as parents.

Among other ways the company supports inclusion, Gartner builds awareness via hosting and sponsoring panels, and various awareness campaigns. There’s also a Global Community Engagement program, empowering people to volunteer in local communities or donate to charitable causes. 

Conclusion

We’ve rounded up some ways companies ensure a feeling of belonging to their LGBTQ+ employees. We’re seeing more companies embrace inclusive practices, as organizations realize that efforts to include everyone yield impressive business results. 

What’s certain is that education, endless curiosity, and a readiness to be critical to self-reflect on harmful practices lead to growth. Companies can not afford to assume. Knowledge is available and only needs to be sought out. If in doubt, get educated, conduct surveys, ask what your LGBTQ+ employees need, get pulse checks. How else are you going to know what your employees truly value? 

Don’t hesitate to train your managers, as carriers of company culture. Let your internal communication managers leverage a decent communications tool to achieve more workplace diversity with campaigns that directly show support to the LGBTQ+ communities. Likewise, don’t forget to reward positive and inclusive behavior, just in the same way you’d want to curtail toxic behavior. Close the employee care gaps just as you’d want to close the customer experience weak points and live to tell how your inclusive company culture drives success. 

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