Catalyst Releases Initial Report on LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Inclusion in the Workplace

As part of its mission to advance women and promote diversity and inclusion in business, Catalyst today released the first in its landmark Making Change series on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees and the workplace. Recognizing the challenges facing the LGBT community, Catalyst hopes to help organizations foster a work environment inclusive to all women and provide the insights, language, and solutions that will help to educate workplace professionals to more deeply understand the experiences of their LGBT coworkers.

This report, entitled Making Change: LGBT Inclusion—Understanding the Challenges, outlines specific challenges faced by LGBT employees at work and identifies key components of the business case for LGBT inclusion. Uniquely developed with Catalyst’s broader perspective of inclusion in the workplace for all, the report provides information that will help organizations build stronger, more complete LGBT-inclusion programs and discusses persistent barriers facing LGBT employees as they advance to senior leadership positions.

“With LGBT women facing ‘double-outsider status’ based both on gender and sexual orientation, this series represents the next step in our efforts to promote workplace cultures that are truly inclusive to all,” said Ilene H. Lang, President of Catalyst. “Catalyst’s expertise on gender and underrepresented groups in business enables us to offer unique insights on barriers to LGBT inclusion which comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategies must address.”

Making Change: LGBT Inclusion—Understanding the Challenges notes evidence that developing an LGBT-inclusive work environment can create competitive and bottom line advantages for business: by successfully recruiting, retaining, developing, and advancing LGBT employees, organizations increase their ability to compete effectively for talent, minimize attrition costs, and gain wider access to LGBT consumer markets. LGBT-inclusive organizations can retain and build loyalty with an LGBT consumer base while also attracting new customers.

According to the report, the unique barriers facing LGBT employees in the workplace may be overlooked by traditional diversity and inclusion initiatives. For example, LGBT employees may deal with the high-stakes decision of whether and/or when to disclose their LGBT identity to managers or coworkers. Additionally, they face challenges that may vary dramatically with the countries and cultures in which they work or to which they travel for business. Recognizing that LGBT inclusion is a complex issue, the report is designed to initiate dialogue and help organizations take steps to address the concerns of LGBT employees.

The report suggests that organizations address LGBT inclusion by building a culture in which all employees have equal opportunities. That includes developing unambiguous policies and statements that respect and reinforce LGBT inclusion. Businesses also should promote an awareness and understanding of issues and barriers specifically faced by LGBT employees as a critical component of any successful LGBT-inclusion initiative. According to the report, organizations can take steps to support LGBT employees in their career development, including:

  • As employees move up the ladder to leadership positions, organizations can convey clear and consistent messages that LGBT employees and their partners are welcome at work-related events. By making sure that invitations and promotional materials welcome both spouses and partners, organizations send a strong message that LGBT inclusion is valued.
  • When considering employees for significant travel and relocation, both human resources professionals and managers must be sensitive to the needs of LGBT employees. With training, managers who want to be supportive will have the tools to ask the right questions and understand the importance of holding all conversations in strict confidence.

Organizations can make all LGBT employees feel included by:

  • Making LGBT inclusion an organizational priority
  • Creating LGBT resource groups that are accessible to all employees
  • Maintaining membership confidentiality for all company LGBT resource groups
  • Posting materials about LGBT employee benefits, programs, and activities on a public space available to everyone, such as the intranet or company-wide emails
  • Examining social activities that reinforce heteronormative values (such as exclusive husband-wife functions and children-centered activities) and hosting more inclusive activities
  • Providing LGBT anti-discrimination policies and statements as well as domestic partner benefits

Subsequent reports in the Catalyst Making Change: LGBT series will identify in-depth programs and policies that drive LGBT inclusion and how organizations can encourage and reinforce LGBT-inclusive behaviors among employees.

This study was sponsored by IBM Corporation.

About Catalyst
Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit corporate membership research and advisory organization working globally with businesses and the professions to build inclusive environments and expand opportunities for women and business. With offices in New York, San Jose, Toronto, and Zug, and the support and confidence of more than 340 leading corporations, firms, business schools, and associations, Catalyst is connected to business and its changing needs and is the premier resource for information and data about women in the workplace. In addition, Catalyst honors exemplary business initiatives that promote women’s leadership with the annual Catalyst Award.