LGBTQ+ Inclusive Workplaces are Crucial for Business

by Mike McDonagh, Director at Hays Ireland

Pride month and the celebrations that take place across much of the world are an annual reminder that we should all be free to be open about our sexual and gender identities without fear of persecution, discrimination, prejudice or bigotry.

This year’s Pride celebrations felt particularly poignant as they fell on the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots, a series of events which mark one of the most pivotal moments in the modern fight for LGBTQ+ rights.

There is still work to be done

Of course, 50 years on since the Stonewall riots and four years after same-sex marriage was legalised here in Ireland, we need to remember that whilst we have come far as a society, there is still work to be done. It’s been wonderful to see the Pride flag flying from so many businesses and buildings (and even some of Dublin’s post boxes are now rainbow-hued), but it’s also important not to lose sight of this.

Each year, Hays Ireland runs a survey centred around diversity and inclusion. Last year’s survey contained some concerning findings:

  • Just over a quarter of respondents (27%) believe their organisation rarely or never supports key diversity events, including Pride.
  • Only 52% of respondents say their voice is heard and respected at work.
  • Of the 45% of respondents who believe there have been occasions where their chances for career progression have been limited because of their background, 9% said this was specifically due to their sexual orientation.

Why is inclusivity so important?

As recruiters, we see daily how much bearing diversity and inclusion has on a business’ success.

We see that when organisations hire from diverse groups of people, they have access to more skills, and they benefit from diversity of thought, leading to new ideas for improvement. We know when people feel able to be themselves in the workplace, they will flourish and be more productive. Workplaces where all employees feel their voice is heard and respected regardless of their background are more likely to have an engaged workforce and retain their best talent. Organisations where employees are promoted based on merit and the quality of their work inevitably foster the best leaders of tomorrow.

What are we doing?

Here at Hays, we try to create and maintain a culture of inclusivity and meritocracy. Earlier this year we set up an internal LGBTQ+ steering committee to help strengthen the voice of the LGBTQ+ community within Hays. Our Hays Pride Network is led by employees – who identify as LGBTQ+ and allies – and has objectives in the four areas of: environment, people, business and policies.

Of course, we’ve still got lots to do, and we’ll always look for ways to continue to make Hays a better place to work for everyone.

What can you do?

If you are working for a company that doesn’t support inclusivity or that doesn’t allow you to be yourself at work, here are some suggestions:

  1. When thinking big, start small. If your organisation is at the start of its journey and needs a significant cultural change, don’t be afraid to start small and take baby steps with tackling the change within one office or business area.
  2. Present a business opportunity. Ensure the business benefits of LGBTQ+ inclusiveness are very clear in everything you do and say. Make sure this is viewed as an essential rather than a “nice to have”.
  3. Set up an internal networking group. Sharing stories with your colleagues might not change policies but having a network like-minded people to share your frustrations and support you on the journey will help.
  4. Get a senior advocate to support you. Convincing somebody senior to lend their support is critical. It won’t be easy but it will make a difference to impacting the policies and practices that will help to drive change.
  5. Learn from other organisations who are further in their journey. Seek advice and look at how other companies have approached it. They will be diversity advocates so should be happy to share what they’ve learnt and encourage you to do the same. If you share an office, consider whether you can join forces during awareness campaigns like Pride.

As the Managing Director for a company employing hundreds of people across Ireland, I strongly believe that we have a responsibility to make a difference to these issues and support the LGBTQ+ community. However, the onus is on all of us and there are plenty of ways that employees can get involved, or even take the lead, depending on your organisation. By working together, we’ll be able to make progress for #Pride2020 and beyond.

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