How to be a company that attracts LGBTQ professionals
We’ve come a long way as a nation when it comes to LGBTQ rights and acceptance, and while there’s still work to do, in the workplace, one thing is clear: it’s illegal to discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation or transgender status.
In June of 2020, the Supreme court upheld a 1964 Civil Rights federal law that forbids job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status.
Even before this landmark ruling, many private corporations had already been enacting their own inclusive policies that not only protect LGBTQ workers, but nurture them. (Just browse through the list of best companies for LGBTQ workersbased on the Corporate Equality Index from HRC to see which ones are leading the way.) And while you’re at it, check out Monster’s list of best companies for LGBTQ workers.
Becoming a company that welcomes LGBTQ talent requires more than just not discriminating against them – it’s recognizing that diversity can be a growth strategy, says Nadia Rawlinson, chief human resources officer at Live Nation.
“Consumers are diversifying, cultural lines are blurring, social media is driving new levels of public and consumer accountability and the war for talent is at its fiercest to date,” she says.
To win that talent war, companies need to commit to diversity and belonging, says Rawlinson, which she describes as creating inclusion that is so powerful that employees feel safe to innovate. “Companies that do this well will outpace their competitors.”
If you’d like to attract more talent from the LGBTQ community, try emulating some of these best practices recommended by HRC, and used by high-performing inclusive companies.
State your intentions loudly and proudly
It sounds simple, but it really is important to codify that you are an employer that does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, says Beck Bailey, acting director of HRC’s Workplace Equality Program.
“If you have an employee handbook or a written nondiscrimination statement, make sure it includes sex and gender identification. The laws are uneven from state to state, so make sure you’re very clear and articulate,” he says.
A good example of the type of wording you can include comes from Mastercard, which scored 100% on HRC’s Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality. As stated on its career site: “Mastercard is an inclusive Equal Employment Opportunity employer that considers applicants without regard to gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disabled or veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.”
Create a welcoming candidate experience
In addition to adding text to your employee handbook, be sure that job seekers know that you’re a friend to the LGBTQ community as well. You can do that by including a welcome invitation in your job placements, says Bailey. Be explicit that all gender identities and all orientations are encouraged to apply.
“The reason it’s so important to put this in writing is that it sends a clear signal so that candidates don’t have to guess what your intentions are,” he adds.
As you can imagine, top candidates will be more inclined to apply to an organization that is openly welcoming them, rather than those that keep them guessing. Of course, you have to go beyond just copying and pasting inclusive language into your job postings.
“We follow through on that messaging through our recruiters, who are knowledgeable about our commitment to Diversity & Belonging, and walk candidates through a summary of our purpose, programs, initiatives and goals,” says Rawlinson. Live Nation also provides candidates with a summary of its medical benefits, which contain LGBTQ+ and gender-inclusive language and benefits.
Make inclusion part of your employer brand
Beyond adding language to your career page, think about what other micro-signals you’re sending to indicate that your company is LGBTQ-friendly, says Bailey.
“Do you have a rainbow sticker on your door? In the parts of your website where you talk about your values, commitments to the community, and where you invest philanthropic giving, do you support your local LGBTQ center?” Things like that illustrate to potential applicants that you are serious about your commitment to equality.
In other words, putting policies into practice the way companies like Pfizer do speaks volumes.
“Pfizer strives to be the healthcare employer of choice by providing excellent colleague benefits and support for LGBTQ colleagues and the broader, external LGBTQ community through public advocacy and sponsorships,” says Willard McCloud III, vice president and global head of diversity and inclusion for Pfizer, Inc.
For example, the company is an annual supporter of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, a nonprofit organization dedicated to achieving global LGBTQQ workplace equality, and a lead sponsor for the HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index.
Offer lots of internal support, too
It’s important to remember that for many, the workplace might be the first place where they interact with people from the LGBTQ community, says Bailey.
“When people don’t have a personal experience or reference point, they may inadvertently say or do things that are not welcoming,” he says. That’s why it’s imperative to start some conversations about what it means to have respectful behavior toward all in the workplace.
Companies can request resources from organizations like HRC or local LGBTQ centers, says Bailey. “It’s pretty easy to have folks come in and do training with staff for a fairly low investment. And there’s online training and tools out there,” he says. The point is that real change requires intentional dialogue.
Something as simple as learning how to address people with their preferred pronouns is important when you’re meeting with LGBTQ candidates, or introducing them as new hires to your team. “If you’re interacting with people who are visibly transgender, undergoing transition, or who are gender nonconforming, the thing here is that it’s about respect,” says Bailey. “It’s interacting with people the way they want to be interacted with.”
As for LGBTQ job seekers, knowing that their prospective companies have support groups can help them feel confident about navigating a new workplace. At Live Nation, for example, there are seven active Pride Nation chapters dedicated to promoting a positive and inclusive environment for all employees, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
Be proactive with LGBTQ recruiting
If you’re not attracting candidates from the LGBTQ community because your own network may be lacking in diversity, you should try expanding your search.
“Think about how to elevate or cross post your opportunities beyond your own limitations and your own network,” says Bailey. For instance, there are many local organizations that have either job fairs or community job boards, or you might try to engage directly with local colleges or universities, most of which have an LGBTQ center, he adds.
Get in touch with those groups and let them know that you’re seeking diverse candidates to fill your pipeline.
Show your pride
Lots of companies do things in June to acknowledge pride month, so now is a great time to make your LGBTQ hiring initiative known.
“During Pride Month, Pfizer will be flying the Rainbow Flag at its world headquarters,” says McCloud. Other companies will create social media campaigns to discuss what pride means to them, or to highlight their LGBTQ employees.
It’s worth noting, however, that celebrating pride is not just something that large corporations can do.
“Small/mid-sized companies need to be visible, too,” says McCloud. For instance, participating and/or sponsoring events in local communities during pride month can say a lot about a company’s focus on D&I.
“It’s not always big gestures, but rather even small ones like starting an ally program for LGBTQ people in your company that lays the foundation for a more diverse and inclusive work environment,” he says.
Nor is pride something that should only be acknowledged once per year. Bailey says it’s important to continue doing the work year-round if you want to be a company that truly champions the LGBTQ community. “LGBTQ bias and stigma is still a very real thing in our world,” he says. “This work to make transparent what you are doing is really important.”
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