June was once time for Pride Day but as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community continues to make gains politically and in the workplace, June is now time for Pride Month. For many workplaces, this means June is also an ideal time to scale up diversity training. How common is diversity training on LGBT issues? According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), over half (52%) of Fortune 500 companies now offer training on sexual orientation issues and 42% of Fortune 500 now offer training on gender identity and expression issues but as the HRC’s 2017 Corporate Equality Index reports, training on gender identity and expression is also on the rise.
The Changing Face of the Workplace
While there is no question that most organizations have always had LGBT employees, over the past two decades, a growing number of employees have come out at work, demanded workplace protection, and acquired equal access to workplace benefits. Indeed, in many respects, corporate America, including most of the nation’s largest tech companies, proved far more progressive than legislators by extending health benefits to same-sex couples long before gay marriage was ever legalized and made such benefits automatically available. If corporate America has been standing up for the LGBT community, however, it has at least something to do with the bottomline. Today, employers known to discriminate against employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression are increasingly being penalized on two levels: lower share values and a decreased ability to attract well-trained employees from around the globe.
Key Elements of an LGBT Training Program
Labels and categories: Language is confusing, especially since not all LGBT people identify the same way. A lesbian may also identify as gay but many do not. Likewise, a gay men may call himself “queer” but not want his coworkers to use the same language to describe him. Moreover, most transgender people use traditional pronouns (one’s that match their chosen gender identity) but some do not. Indeed, many “gender queer” people, who may or may not also identify as transgender, prefer “they” to “he” or “she” and may even use an alternative, such as “xi.” Confusing? It is and that’s why terminology, which is also constantly shifting, must be included as part of any LGBT training program.
Compliance: Ensure that your training program also includes a clear overview of any company policies that are impacted by marital status or gender and explicitly discuss what it means to be in compliance with your organization’s policies. This will be especially important in states (e.g., Mississippi) where your organization may have more progressive policies than the state itself and where some of your employees may feel protected by local laws to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.
Workplace culture: You’re organization may be LGBT positive and in compliance but even if it is, don’t assume there is nothing more to learn. Workplace culture is complex, and it is often where discrimination happens on a more subtle level. Everyday conversations about weddings, children, and family are inevitable, but sometimes (especially in states where discrimination continues to take place against the LGBT community) these conversations can feel exclusionary. Help create a sensitive workplace culture–one that recognizes both the history and ongoing struggles of LGBT employees.
Recommended Training Resources
Whether you have any in-house expertise on the subject, it is possible to scale up your diversity training, including your organization’s training on LGBT issues. Here are just some of eLeap’s recommended resources:
Anyone Can be an Ally: Speaking Up for an LGBT Inclusive Workplace
This course examines the issues LGBT people and their coworkers face at work. It introduces people who are LGBT and people know or who have worked with LGBT people. Stories are shared to demonstrate how the work environment can help someone flourish or put up barriers to their success. The course is rounded out by explaining how to be an ally. Creating a welcoming, safe, inclusive and nurturing workplace is this training video’s main purpose.
You Can STOP Harassment
This course examines how any offensive or disrespectful behavior can conceivably be classified as harassment and further explores how to stop harassment in the workplace.
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