Now, nearly a decade on, he’s joined by three others: Dow Chemicals’ Jim Fitterling, Land O’Lakes’ Beth Ford, and Macy’s Jeffrey Gennette.
Four out of 500 is where the market stands as we mark LGBTQ+ History Month in 2024.
More widely within organizations, how can leadership understand how to support LGBTQ+ employees?
Increasing the visibility of LGBTQIA+ leaders
Having LGBTQ+ representation in the C-suite sends a strong message of opportunity.
And the current lack of representation can have an impact on work culture.
McKinsey, for example, reports that 68% of trans and non-binary individuals feel uncomfortable being fully open at work due to safety concerns, harassment, and discriminatory practices.
Moreover, 86% of these individuals don’t see leaders who resemble them at work.
“Visibility and representation at the C-suite level is crucial, creating role models to inspire younger generations, while promoting understanding and acceptance in society,” says Sarah Reynolds (they/them), Chief Marketing Officer at HR software company, HiBob.
Successful leaders with LGBTQIA+ identities can make individuals feel less isolated, empowering them to pursue their goals. To deliver this in practice, companies must authentically nurture a culture of equality that includes adopting inclusive hiring practices and supporting LGBTQIA+ career development.”
What’s more, having LGBTQIA+ employees in leadership positions can help challenge stereotypes and biases, encouraging greater inclusivity and diversity in the workplace and beyond.
“Ultimately, the visibility and representation of LGBTQIA+
senior leaders is critical for creating a more equitable and accepting society for all individuals – regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” Sarah adds.
They continue to explain that all ‘Bobbers’ (HiBob staff) are encouraged to bring their authentic selves to work, even if they choose not to share specific identification markers with us via their employee records.
As someone who identifies as a queer, disabled, non-binary person, Reynolds is passionate about living their intersectional identity out loud every day.
“It was important for me to find a team that embraces DEI&B, believing that our identities and experiences shape how we view and approach the world, make decisions, solve problems, and collaborate with others.”
HiBob, therefore, emerged as a workplace that embraced this perspective.
“I felt HiBob was a place where I could be my true self and lead an authentic life, just as I do at home,” they explain. “But I also know that for trans and non-binary employees, bringing our whole authentic selves to work can be a daunting prospect.
For a long time, I thought that being open about my identity and my pronouns (they/them) would distract people from my professional capabilities, from the points I was trying to make, or from the content of my character. But what I have learned over time is that those things are inextricable.
“My identity, and the way I bring it with me to work, makes me the leader I am today. I thrive in environments that recognize that everyone has a different story to tell, an original perspective to share, and a unique way of looking at things which is informed by identities and lived experiences.”
How HR leaders can curate inclusive environments
Establishing an inclusive workplace community that ensures everyone’s values are respected requires intentional effort and a commitment to ongoing education and training. Some steps that can be taken include setting clear expectations by outlining policies for respectful and inclusive behavior towards all employees, including LGBTQIA+ individuals.
Reynolds highlights that by providing diversity and inclusion training for all employees – from interns to managers – HR leaders can encourage open communication and feedback while leading by example and holding others accountable. It also promotes inclusive and empathetic language at all times – both internally and externally.
“At HiBob, some practices that we follow to support fair company values and cultures of DEI&B includes our work to build anti-bias into hiring practices, with the use of inclusive and empathetic language in job ads, during the interview process and beyond,” Sarah says.
“And creating specific representative steering groups that provide direction and counsel for best practices – for example, our LGBTQIA+ Bobber Resource Group.”
Consequently, HiBob’s employees rated DEI&B efforts at 4.23/5, with a favorability score of 85%.
Although these stats are seemingly successful HiBob recognizes that there are always improvements that can be made.
Embracing LGBTQIA+ Awareness Month and actionable tips
Celebrating people from LGBTQIA+ backgrounds allows everyone to recognize their contributions to society, while also raising awareness of the discrimination they face worldwide. This is particularly important in today’s current political climate – in geographies like the US and UK – where there is a debate about the ‘validity’ of their identities and rights.
“As someone who lives and leads as an openly trans and non-binary person, platforms such as LGBTQIA+ History Month and International Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31) are especially important to me,” Sarah adds.
Sarah also shares that it was important to them to be open about their identity at both home and work – although they admit it wasn’t necessarily an easy decision. “Initially, at work, I accepted both ‘they’ and ‘she’ pronouns, describing it as a ‘preference,’” Sarah explains. “However, this unintentionally suggested that recognizing my true identity and using my pronouns were optional, not necessary. It became clear that my pronouns are an integral part of who I am.
Embracing my authentic self at work allows me to fully engage in my professional and personal life without the burden of hiding or filtering myself,” they say. “This freedom enables better connections with my work and colleagues, making me a more effective leader and an improved individual. Colleagues appreciate and respect the genuine me.
Concluding, Sarah adds: “My advice to other businesses is to proactively implement training, and support measures, and advocate for change in the workplace. Embracing your authentic self is crucial for professional success and personal fulfillment.”
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