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LGBT message lost in translation, says survey


Almost three in five lesbian, gay, bi and transgender (LGBT) women in finance worldwide have been made uncomfortable by jokes or statements in the past two years, according to research into LGBT women's opinion carried out by workplace consulting firm Evolved Employer.

The survey, backed by Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, showed that senior management were vocally supportive, but this message and stance aren't being filtered down to line managers and colleagues. This suggests a disconnection between top-level messaging and workplace culture.

CEO of Evolved Employer, Nicki Gilmour, told HR magazine: "At many companies, senior management goes above and beyond when it comes to championing LGBT inclusiveness. But in some cases, that message isn't reaching the grassroots."

The research claims 'LGBT allies' (also known as 'straight allies') throughout the corporate hierarchy are important as well.

"Straight allies are crucial in carrying this message, so it creates an inclusive workplace culture where every individual can thrive," says Gilmour.

The survey suggests that LGBT people may feel uncomfortable in the work environment because they don't have a role model. Nearly 40% of people surveyed said that having one would improve how they felt at work.

What can be done then to create a safe and welcoming environment where LGBT issues are dealt with across the whole company? Diversity and inclusion manager at Lloyds TSB, Val Thorpe, thinks it's about engaging employees: "Getting top-level strategy all the way through an organisation for something as crucial as diversity issues, managers must be engaged with all employees and provide excellent levels of communication.

"Through internal networks an organisation can address any LGBT issues they may have and raise awareness," she told HR magazine.

Lloyds has an LGBT support network, called Rainbow, and nearly a third of its staff are members of it. Thorpe said: "Through focus groups, training and regular updates on an internal website we can raise the profile and create an environment of inclusion throughout our whole organisation.

"It's a role of executives and directors to develop a strategy and through efficient communication make sure it reaches everyone," Thorpe added.

This research shows that LGBT inclusiveness can't be left to LGBT people alone to handle alone. Editor of this report at Evolved Employer, Melissa Anderson, said: "Creating an inclusiveness environment is the job of every person in a firm, whether they are a senior leader, a line manager or any other position throughout the corporate ladder."

The survey was conducted earlier this year among 1,200 LGBT women in the finance industry worldwide.