With power comes responsibility: corporations and LGBT+ inclusion
Marion Bentata , April 28, 2020
With the UK’s LGBT+ calendar becoming more robust and dynamic with each passing year, we are delighted to welcome yet another addition, the newly launched Lesbian Visibility Week, into the fold.
Launched by DIVA Media Group, last week (20-26 April) was carved out to celebrate lesbian culture and identity across the world, bringing global communities together as a unified voice of pride and celebration, and we are proud to be official supporters.
In light of COVID-19, this year’s inaugural week will be played out through a cascade of online events, with DIVA’s interactive marketing campaign #ThisIsMe – developed entirely by women in the LGBT+ community and featuring those in the Visible Lesbian 100, as well as other key LGBT+ figures.
Not only is this a fantastic addition to the LGBT+ calendar, it is also an important step in ensuring women are given the visibility they deserve. According to The DIVA Survey: LGBTQI Women’s Insight 2020, 79% of LGBT+ women feel that their male counterparts have more visibility in public life than they do. For those who have attended LGBT-centric events, a staggering three in four state that less than half were aimed at women only.
Rectifying these shortcomings is important for the community, and businesses can and must play a major role in evoking this much-needed change, not only in helping LGBT+ women feel seen but also in helping them feel safe and accepted both in the workplace and beyond.
Despite the movement seeing major progress in recent years, the majority of the community worldwide remains unprotected from discrimination by workplace law. Here in Britain, we are fortunate enough to be governed by the Equality Act 2010, but this has not made LGBT+ people immune to discrimination, be it intentional or not.
According to Stonewall’s latest work report, nearly one in five LGBT+ people in Britain (18%) faced prejudice while looking for work in 2017, with the same proportion enduring negative behaviour from colleagues at work.
These figures are all the more alarming for black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT+ employees, with 10% stating that they were physically attacked in the same year, compared with three percent of their white LGBT+ peers.
And where overt and structural discrimination has decreased, it has only made the subtler microaggressions that many LGBT+ workers still experience at work even more conspicuous. From inappropriate questions and careless heteronormative remarks to outright dismissals of a person’s sexuality, unconscious expressions of prejudice remain rife in the common workplace.
This is a reality for all too many LGBT+ women, nearly a third (27%) of whom have been made to feel uncomfortable in the workplace in the past and who feel as though they are a ‘minority within a minority’ within a male-dominated and heteronormative environment.
Indeed, many lesbian women still feel compelled to hide or disguise their identity at work, with only one in three 16-24-year-old LGBT+ women claiming to be open with everyone in the workplace about their sexuality.
Unsurprisingly, this is bad for business. Not only do existing employees perform better when they feel that they can bring their whole selves to work, but people in general want to work for and with companies that reflect their own values.
Firms that display a commitment to diversity can therefore benefit from an expanded talent pool and partnership base, ultimately boosting both morale and business. Indeed, there were an estimated 1.1 million people aged 16 and over identifying as LGB in 2017 – a record high. This figure comprises an enormous pool of talent; one that non-inclusive companies are in danger of alienating.
However, what stands to be lost if nothing changes isn’t just a company’s individual reputation and profits, but broader and vital cultural change. Businesses and their footprints can directly influence their communities’ culture and understanding of key issues.
By driving inclusive values and behaviours in our workplace culture, ensuring our workplaces are representative of the communities we serve, taking a stand on bigger societal issues, and supporting external initiatives, we can make a real societal difference. To endorse inclusion and diversity simply because it is good for the industry, falls short.
The larger the corporation, the bigger the footprint. Big Business must start putting its foot down; stamping out discrimination wherever it still lingers.
Marion Bentata is vice president at State Street and co-chair of State Street’s Pride Network