This is the second part of a three-part blog series that explores LGBT+ inclusion: key myths, facts, barriers and enablers. I’m focusing on what you need to know and to do as a leader to create an LGBT+ – friendly culture.
Five key barriers for LGBT+ inclusion
Legislation towards homosexuality is evolving positively in some geographies, with many countries adopting protective laws of LGBT+ people, including same-sex marriage in fifteen countries (mostly Western countries). However, there are countries that don’t prohibit discrimination against LGBT+ people (China and Turkey, for instance), 75 countries that criminalise same-sex sexual conduct, and 8 countries where same-sex sexual conduct is punishable by death.[i]
Hostile belief systems
In a society with diverse cultural, religious and individual values and beliefs, not everyone is supportive of LGBT+ inclusion. However, LGBT+ inclusion is not about changing people’s personal beliefs. It’s about preventing destructive behaviours against LGBT+.
All over the world, LGBT+ people report unfair treatment. In Australia, for instance, 53 percent of lesbians and gay men experience harassment and discrimination and 50 percent experience homophobic remarks/jokes in the workplace. In the UK, 88 percent of transgender employees experience discrimination or harassment at work.[ii]
Lack of awareness about heterosexual privilege
We are humans, not robots. In the workplace, we feel the need to build report, to connect on a personal level and to have healthy social conversations. Most heterosexuals don’t realise that their sexual orientation is on display most of the time when they do trivial things such as: talking freely about their families, about their partners, about what they did during the weekend, bringing their partners to social events, displaying their photos on their desks. I often ask people to experiment not displaying anything about their personal lives in the office for a month to see how it feels not to bring your full self to work.
The closet burden
Given all hostility towards LGBT+ people, many LGBT+ prefer not to “come out of the closet.” Research has found that LGBT+ “in the closet” can be as much as twenty percent less productive because of the effort that it takes daily to constantly self-edit, avoid questions, and not give too much away.[iii] On the bright side, LGBT+ people who do come out are around seventy percent more likely to be satisfied with their managers.[iv] I met a senior leader who explained to me how hard it was for him to decide whether to come out or not whenever he met a new person, including clients. Because he never knew what the reaction was going to be. He found it exhausting.
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This is an excerpt from one of the chapters of my book “Succeed as an inclusive leader – Winning leadership habits in a diverse world”. To get my articles and updates directly in your inbox, sign up for my newsletter.
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[i] Out in the world Infographic, Center for Talent Innovation, 2016.
[iii] Managers Guide to LGBT+I inclusion, Pride in Diversity, 2013.
[iv] Stonewall, top 100 employers, 2016.