June 16, 2022

Promoting Possibilities: Supporting the LGBTQ2+ Community in the Workplace

Version français

Canada is home to approximately one million people who identify as LGBTQ2+, accounting for 4% of the total population aged 15 and older in 2018[1]. Over the last decade, the Canadian government has taken strides to promote and protect the human rights of the LGBTQ2+ community, including amending the Human Rights Act in June 2017 to outlaw employment discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

Businesses have also started to recognize the intersection between corporate and social issues. For many years, businesses have been working to improve their brands and their internal practices to be more inclusive of LGBTQ2+ communities, investing in culture, benefits, and marketing.

At Équité Association, social justice is foundational in all that we do. We are committed to improving the lives of all Canadians, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender expression. Equality is not only implied in our name, we have integrated it into the very fabric of our organization, our culture, and our business practices.

For many Canadian organizations, Pride Month provides an opportunity to reflect on their own diversity and inclusion practices – assessing their strengths and identifying areas for improvement. While there is still more to do in order to achieve true equality, Canadian employers recognize that supporting LGBTQ2+ rights is not only the ethical thing to do, but that it also makes good business sense.

Improve employees’ sense of belonging

In the era of the “Great Resignation,” the battle for talent is fiercer than ever. Companies are competing to offer attractive workplaces, which include diverse and inclusive culture and teams. With nearly one million Canadians identifying as LGBTG2+, it is probable that new hires will look for employment with progressive companies that are supportive, welcoming, and have a robust diversity and inclusivity program.

At Équité Association, we are committed to building a people-based company culture by eliminating pay discrepancy, championing philanthropy through our annual United Way campaign, and achieving gender-parity at the board and senior-leader (director and above) levels. Our Culture Committee is comprised of employees who ensure we continue to build a positive, caring, high-performance culture, and our Mental Health Committee focuses on supporting and educating employees about mental health and wellness. While we are off to a good start, and like many companies, we still have more work to do.

Investing in the triple bottom line 

When making business decisions about where to invest, investors now consider a company’s commitment to the triple bottom line: people, profit and the planet. Organizations are starting to realize that equality translates to revenue and demonstrating a commitment to supporting the LGBTQ2+ community can help attract more investment dollars.

Fair and transparent hiring practices and partnerships with non-profits that reflect a company’s values are just a couple of ways organizations can show their commitment to corporate social responsibility. Research out of Finland has demonstrated how progressive actions and attitudes can help organizations improve financial results. Academics involved in the study analyzed 657 publicly traded companies in the United States and found that those who embraced LGBTQ2+-friendly policies realized higher profitability and higher stock market valuations.

Creating a LGBTQ2+-inclusive culture

Organizations can focus on simple, yet effective changes when fostering an inclusive and supportive work environment for LGBTQ2+ employees. One of the easiest ways to ensure all people feel comfortable bringing their true selves to work is to be conscious of the language used. In his book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz writes about the teachings of the ancient Toltec people, the ancestors of the Aztec tribe. The third agreement he cites, which has practical application here, is “never make assumptions.”[2]

We are all wired to jump to conclusions without having all the information, or use our imagination to fill in the gaps when we have limited information. Ruiz suggests that we should have the courage to ask questions and to communicate to avoid misunderstanding. Likewise, organizations can apply this wisdom at all touchpoints with employees, such as inquiring about an individual’s preferred pronouns.

While asking questions to open the lines of communication is important, organizations need to approach this with empathy, sensitivity, and tact, keeping in mind that not everyone is comfortable sharing personal information about themselves at work. Employers can start by making an active effort to connect with employees authentically by building trusted relationships. By first creating a culture of allyship and respect, employees may feel safer to share details of their lives outside of the office.

When considering ways in which companies can best enhance their commitment to diversity and inclusivity, they should consider the following:

  • Leadership should encourage employees to speak up when they witness others making the workplace unsafe for LGBTQ2+ colleagues or stakeholders. Managers can encourage these discussions at one-on-one sessions, town halls, or via an anonymous tip provided to human resources. Discrimination can be subtle so managers need to be aware of micro-aggressions that can be symptomatic of a larger workplace culture issue;
  • Collaborate with non-profits and make a donation to help support the wider LGBTQ2+ community. A company’s intentions can go much farther when they work with an organization whose mission is to support LGBTQ2+ initiatives;

While Pride month can be a great place to start, real inclusion requires sustained commitment. LGBTQ2+ inclusion is good for the economy, and as more and more businesses make this connection, they are stepping forward to make the economic case for non-discrimination protections and against discriminatory laws. Équité Association is committed to being an ally, not only during Pride, but all year round, by intentionally creating a culture focused on transparency, accountability, and equality for all.

[1] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210615/dq210615a-eng.htm

[2] https://www.miguelruiz.com/the-four-agreements