I’m Dave Carlos.
I’m gay. And I identify my gender as male.
It’s rare to say these words out loud. I certainly don’t introduce myself to people this way as it naturally comes out in conversation. I may talk about my last date with a man or mention when I find a guy attractive. These are normal things people talk about because our sexuality is an integral part of who we are, and our culture. We all should feel comfortable talking about these things with friends, family, and colleagues.
Someone once asked me, “If its so difficult, why don’t did you choose to be gay?” To which I responded, “It wasn’t a choice. When did you choose to be straight?” But also, shouldn’t we be looking at ‘why it is difficult’ for someone to just be themselves?
Our sexuality comes naturally to all of us as kids. It’s up to each of us to actively create inclusive-thinking families, workplaces and, an inclusive society. It can be detrimental if we don’t. Research shows that 24% of homeless young people identify as LGBT and 77% believe coming out to their parents was the main factor.
There are over lapping issues for people of different economic backgrounds, races, genders, cultures, abilities and more. I remember when I first went to the gay-friendly area in Toronto where I grew up and I was bombarded by marketing to only white men. I went there because I wanted to feel a part of a wider community, yet all these businesses made me feel I wasn’t welcome. If we positively address how all these elements intersect we can create social justice for everyone.
How does all this affect your business?
A report shows that “more than 57% of LGBT+ employees believe their gender identity and expression or their sexual orientation has slowed their progress at work. And shockingly, only 14% of LGBT+ employees feel fully supported by their employer when it comes to issues like welcoming those who identify as LGBT+.”
If people feel they can’t bring their whole selves to work, they are constantly watching their actions, prounouns, and topics of discussion. They spend so much time and effort worrying if their sexuality will impact their career and faking who they really are, that they are just not doing the best job they can.
If a business primarily employs people with the same life experiences, especially at the leadership level, of course everyone will plan a course for the business that appeals to them, and challenging that course will rarely happen. People from diverse backgrounds and with different life experiences create a wonderful mix that leads to attracting and retaining the best talent, improved innovation, and a better work culture for everyone. These are things customers and investors will notice, especially as it starts to show in your products, services, and communications. A 2020 study by Accenture on The Hidden Value of Culture shows that
- 68% of employers feel they create inclusive workplaces but only 36% of employees agree
- Employers think only 2% of employees feel excluded in the workplace, but it’s really 20%
- If this perception gap was narrowed by 50%, profits could be 33% higher
- And of course, employers who improve the inclusivity of products, services, and spaces for customers are outperforming their peers
Did you know about 30-40% of LGBT people go back into the closet when they enter the workplace? People want to stay where they work but they require the right environment. The shocking cost to replace an employee can range from £12,000 to over £40,000.
Moreover, the 2018 Open for Business report suggests that “LGBT+ inclusive cities are better placed to develop their global competitiveness, as evidence shows they have stronger ‘innovation ecosystems,’ greater concentrations of skills and talent, and better quality of life. LGBT+ inclusive cities are more likely to become globally connected hubs for high-value businesses.”
We each have a responsibility for becoming better than the society we grew up in. Business is one of the answers to creating this better society. So, what can you do to create an inclusive environment for LGBT people at work?
- Listen to your staff – understand the issues in your business. Don’t assume you know everything – it’s not just for LGBT staff, but for everyone that has LGBT people in their lives. A person at my last company said how pleased she was that we were addressing these issues as her daughter had just come out.
- Get help – Check out the many resources at Stonewall.org.uk. In addition, we at The Planet Mark have experience helping companies put business strategies and engagement plans in place to create inclusive environments, so we’re happy to work with you.
- Create inclusive policies, but you must live and breathe it. A policy is great but it’s not enough to have words on a website if the culture doesn’t change. Business decisions should be based on it, good behaviour should be rewarded, and bad behaviour called out.
- Allies are vital: The more straight and cis-gender people that proudly, vocally, and visibly support LGBT at work the better. Allies that will make a real difference in creating a positive culture.
- Visibility is important: Having visible communications, LGBT role models, and straight allies go a long way to creating an inclusive work culture. But don’t throw rainbow flags everywhere if you’re not actively trying to change things as a business because it will have the opposite effect.
Globally we are at a social tipping point. Passive inclusivity is no longer an option. For businesses and society to thrive, we need to be positively anti-homophobic and anti-transphobic just as we have to be anti-racist and anti-sexist. Discrimination against people for being who they are is not acceptable. You may not always get it right, I know I don’t, but constant learning, having a positive attitude, and doing your best, is so important.
Diverse pieces really do make a beautiful mosaic. By encouraging diversity in all forms we can create beautiful and inclusive spaces for everyone.
I’m glad to work at The Planet Mark where our work culture is inclusive. However, we are on a constant journey to improve. Watch out for more communications about diversity and inclusion as we begin to put the force in “force for good”.
Together, we will make the world of difference.
Director of JustOne
Ambassador to The Planet Mark