How to build an inclusive workplace for LGBTQIA+ people

Giuseppe Calì, Senior HR Business Partner

What exactly do we mean when we talk about “workplace diversity and inclusion for the LGBTQIA+ community”?

It is an interesting question, and one we set about answering today in a dedicated workshop for all employees at Everli, as we kick off our diversity and inclusion roadmap planning. The event was initiated by our Everli For Good Committee (our internal program to promote initiatives and actions that can have a positive impact on the communities we operate in).

Diversity and Inclusion at Everli

First of all, I wanted to provide some context about the environment at Everli. We like to think of Everli as a pretty diverse environment – with people from many different races, nationalities, gender identities and sexual orientations.

Out of seven members of our leadership team, three are women – and women are approximately represented 50% in managerial positions in our biggest markets: Italy and Poland. However, like a lot of tech companies (no excuses) we also have some teams where we still have progress to make. The thing with building a diverse and inclusive workplace is it is not something that is done once and then ticked off, it needs continuous focus and investment, both in understanding and education, and in action. And like all good companies we continue on that journey. So, how do we prioritise a diverse and inclusive workplace? I’d like to share just a few of the key takeaways that we as a company and as individuals learnt from our workshop with external guests Sebastiano Ridolfi, Human Rights Activist, and Dario Migliavacca, Leadership & Team Development Manager at Nestlé.

Key takeaway 1: What does LGBTQIA+ mean? And, is there any term which is a little easier to pronounce?

LGBTQIA+ stands for:
Lesbian
Gay
Bisexual
Trangender Queer/Questioning
Intersex
Asexual/Aromantic/Agender/Ally
+ can include anyone who is non-heterosexual or non-cisgender

But if that is too much of a mouthful, we can also say the ‘Queer Community.’

Key takeaway 2: Why is D&I so important in the workplace?

While many companies now implement strategies to ensure that policies, benefits, and overall workplace culture are inclusive of LGBTQIA+ employees, we come from millennia of male and heterosexual-centric societies, and many businesses still reflect that configuration. It’s time to design a better, healthier and more open professional environment and view Diversity & Inclusion as an asset. An inclusive business environment means people can be happier (and productive) during their working time. Same-sex couples and families should also be treated as equally as the straight ones within HR policy.

Key takeaway 3: Do members of the Queer Community really still face prejudice at work?

Yes. Around 46% of LGBTQIA+ workers have experienced unfair treatment at work in their lives; 36% experienced harassment at work; 50% are not out to their supervisor and 36% left a job due to treatment by their employer. Additionally, LGBTQIA+ women are drastically under-represented at every stage of the management pipeline. This is without even considering the millions of people working in countries where homosexuality is illegal, who must live in fear of being outed. So, as we see even in 2022, it is still an issue.

Key takeaway 4: What can companies do?

There are numerous things to consider including:
Update the policies and records with D&I in mind. For example, publish the recruitment policies, code of ethics and share with employees and customers. Allow employees to voluntarily list pronouns in onboarding documentation. Use gender neutral language and install gender-neutral facilities such as bathrooms.

It’s everyone’s responsibility, so companies should train employees and leaders in diversity management, giving them the tools they need to communicate effectively, build and lead diverse teams. Companies can start with explaining the basic terminologies of the LGBTQIA+ world – what is the meaning of each letter, what is the difference among gender identity, gender expression, biological sex and sexual orientation. Promoting both a top-down and bottom-up strategy is the best way to work on D&I. The Leadership Team members should choose a specific topic to champion for example. The company can also support and promote voluntary, employee-led groups whose aim is to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with the organisations they serve.

Sharing and giving space and a platform for LGBTQIA+ stories, both internally and externally, is a very powerful way to give a concrete dimension to diversity.

Finally, companies can take action. They can participate in LGBTQIA+ Prides as a company team or sponsor; hire a diversity manager; network with other D&I companies; ensure diversity is considered in their marketing – but avoid rainbow washing.

Thanks to both of our special guests Sebastiano Ridolfi, Human Rights Activist, and Dario Migliavacca, Leadership & Team Development Manager at Nestlé, for sharing their experience with us and educating us about diversity, equality, and inclusion. We have a lot to think about, and we are keen to continue to move the dial and review, starting with pledging to implement a formal D&I policy later this month, followed by a D&I Roadmap.