Pride month offers a great opportunity to celebrate and support the LGBTQIA+ community; it's also a good time to take a step back and look at the way we approach diversity and inclusion throughout the year.
No matter if your company is large or small, creating a culture that celebrates diversity and inclusion has the power to improve your business in many ways. A report by Qualtrics found that a sense of belonging is the strongest indicator of employee engagement. And D&I is good for business. A 2020 report by McKinsey & Company found that companies that rank in the top 25% according to ethnic and cultural diversity outperform those in the bottom fourth by 36%.
If your company hasn't yet put a D&I program in place, or even if you have, here are some ways other organizations are supporting their LGBTQIA+ and other underrepresented communities to provide inspiration.
Update HR policies
Schellman & Company, LLC, a global independent security and privacy compliance assessor, formalized its diversity and inclusion programs by creating committees that focus on racial inclusion, veteran affairs, and gender equity. The most recent addition is SchellmanPRIDE, which stands for Peers Representing Individuality, Diversity, and Equality.
“SchellmanPRIDE was formed to engage [our] LGBTQ+ team members and allies and to ensure that LGBTQ+ personnel feel safe, supported, and included," says Marci Womack, manager of the committee. “This advocacy group does more than send positive messages, though. Each year plans are established and executed to help effect real awareness and change."
For example, in 2020, the PRIDE group petitioned to have Schellman's employment agreements and codes of conduct updated to reflect equal treatment and protection for LGBTQ+ team members. And in 2021, the PRIDE group advocated for changes within HR systems that allow team members the option to identify gender pronouns as well as adapting client-facing materials and language to be more gender-neutral.
“We are proud to focus on a culture that consistently shines a light on DE&I topics and takes real action to make changes that are within our control," says Womack.
Organize employee networks
“Our goal is to uplift underrepresented groups, create a safe space, and promote a culture of allyship," says Jason Reade, senior director and managing product counsel for LegalZoom. “We want employees to feel they have a place at the company and can bring their whole selves to work."
LegalZoom has several employee networks under its ALLYance initiative, each with its own cadence of meetings and events. Specifically, the Pride Zoomer Alliance supports and empowers LGBTQIA+ Zoomers, customers, communities, and their allies by providing a safe place for them to be seen and heard. Other groups represented include Women in Tech, and Black and Latinx employees. Many of the programs were started by employees in a grassroots fashion, but the program has become formalized across the company and now each group has a C-suite sponsor. “That support is critical," says Reade. “It means the group gets a budget, programming, and resources behind it."
Fund inclusive programs
Ernst & Young values diverse perspectives and has created an inclusive culture to drive better decision-making, stimulate innovation, increase organizational agility and strengthen resilience to disruption. After being appointed as the company's director of inclusiveness in 2004, Chris Crespo pioneered several new programs.
For example, Pathways to Parenthood provides a lifetime benefit of up to $25,000 to cover expenses related to fertility, surrogacy, and adoption for all. And Pathways to Transition provides a lifetime benefit of up to $25,000 for employees and eligible dependents for certain gender-affirming medical expenses that are not covered through medical insurance, which generally includes expenses that are considered 'cosmetic' but deemed necessary to achieve the transition.
“Workplace transitions have multiplied over the years and really differ by person," says Crespo. “Therefore, the benefits and needs of each person truly differ as well. EY needed to be open to questions that came up and think about how to best accommodate the diverse needs of our people while also ensuring consistency in how we approach all of our benefits."
Focus on the hiring process
Diversifying your workforce starts with hiring; however, unconscious bias can negatively impact your goals. Arthur Iinuma, cofounder and president of ISBX, a software development, and consulting agency, says it's important for companies to help managers recognize and remove it.
“Unconscious bias can create a negative working environment for minorities and members of the LGBTQ+ community," he says. “We are aware that underrepresented groups can feel discouraged from entering the technology sector, and we want to take an active stance to create a positive working environment for all. We tackle unconscious bias in several ways, including holding diversity training programs and practicing blind screening in recruitment."
Having a diverse team of software designers and engineers helps ISBX better compete, says Iinuma. “We firmly believe in the benefits of diversity for creativity and innovation," he says.
Each year, ViscoSoft, a North Carolina-based mattress company, renews its commitment to diversity and inclusion by finding ways to support LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities. For 2021, the company organized an office-wide day of volunteering during Charlotte, NC's Pride Weekend of Service.
“Everyone is encouraged to attend, and we already have 80% of our staff committed to going, myself included," says Gabriel Dungan, founder, and CEO. “We thought this would be a great way to give back to the community and support LGBTQ organizations specifically."
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