What Can The Proponents of LGBT Inclusion Learn From The Push For Gender Diversity?

In our last article, we covered the topic of role models, and looked at the main parallels between LGBT and gender diversity in the workplace.

With this in mind, we held a joint event with the 30% Club to examine what proponents of LGBT and gender diversity could learn from each other.

Our expert speakers – Lord Browne of F1 Energy and Carolyn McCall of EasyJet – provided valuable insights into this area. So in today’s article, we’d like to share some of the key findings from that event.

Recruitment and Talent Management

Workplace inclusion is one of the areas in which LGBT and gender diversity generally have a symbiotic relationship, said Lord Browne during our discussion.

Our speakers agreed that an inclusive, open workplace culture helps companies acquire talented individuals. They said that creating this kind of a culture for women and LGBT people often goes hand-in-hand, and it’s rare that improving inclusion for one marginalised group won’t also make a workplace more welcoming generally.

“If you handle issues relating to LGBT well, chances are you handle gender diversity better, and vice versa” – Lord Browne

Additionally, leaders can apply some of the same methods for improving gender diversity to LGBT inclusion. Mentoring schemes, a key part in many companies’ gender diversity drive, not only foster employee development, they also serve as a powerful talent retention tool, as the positive experience a young employee gets out of a mentoring scheme serves to cement their connection to any company.

Authentic Acceptance and Confidence

Both our speakers spoke about the importance of authentic acceptance, as opposed to ‘tolerance’, of women and LGBT people at work.

It was agreed that the inclusion objective should not be “to make gay people feel like honorary straight people, to make women feel like honorary men”, and that businesses should instead aim to be genuinely accepting of the diversity of their workforce.

Carolyn McCall spoke of the importance of having confidence, on an individual level, to challenge the norms of a workplace by being yourself, and not trying too hard to ‘fit in’.

Engagement and Networks

Lord Browne stressed the importance of staff engagement and its direct correlation to company profit, and the role diversity and inclusion play here.

In particular, both speakers highlighted the importance of employee networks for creating staff engagement. There was a consensus that networks should remain employee-led, but that companies should endorse and facilitate a network’s activities as this sends a powerful message about commitment to diversity.

The ‘ghettoisation’ of networks was also raised as a problem, and it was agreed that there is a danger of networks becoming isolated from the majority of the workforce. The answer to this was to stress the importance of allies to both gender and LGBT diversity, and to encourage the whole workforce to be involved with the network.

Women and LGBT people (some of whom, let’s not forget, are women) can find inspiration and support in each other’s journeys towards workplace inclusion, and can learn valuable lessons from one another. Most importantly, we all need to remember that when one group is better included, benefits follow for all.


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