Visibly Supporting LGBTQ+ Workforce Can Be Powerful Recruiting Tool
Workspan Daily
June 10, 2024
Key Takeaways

  • Lack of LGBTQ+ support thwarts recruitment. An Indeed survey found 30% of LGBTQ+ employees — and 50% of transgender employees — won’t apply to companies that aren’t supportive of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Make benefits inclusive. Offer gender-affirming care and parental benefits for all types of families, and ensure policies are written to explicitly encompass LGBTQ+ employees and their needs.
  • Don’t stop after Pride Month. Making support of LGBTQ+ employees a core value, rather than a performative aspect of Pride Month, promotes trust in employees and candidates. 

Sarah Lewis-Kulin knows firsthand the impact of having support in the workplace as an LGBTQ+ employee.

She and her wife have gotten married three times — to mark each new level of legal recognition of their marriage. Lewis-Kulin’s coworkers threw her a wedding shower the first time around, just like they did for any other employee. It felt like a major gesture at the time for a queer couple, she shared, particularly because their marriage wasn’t legally recognized at that point.

“I’ve been out much longer than we’ve had many rights in this country,” said Lewis-Kulin, vice president of global recognition and research at Great Place To Work. “It’s these kinds of actions that make you feel your coworkers’ total support.” (To learn more from Lewis-Kulin about what makes an inclusive workplace for LGBTQ+ workers, read her Q&A with Workspan Daily.)

Still, many LGBTQ+ workers today don’t feel that support in the workplace — and it’s affecting recruitment. Among LGBTQ+ workers recently surveyed by Indeed:

  • 30% (and 50% of transgender workers) have avoided applying to positions at companies with a perceived or actual lack of support for the LGBTQ+ community.
  • 25% would not apply to a company that lacks LGBTQ+ representation.

LGBTQ+ workers account for about 9% of the U.S. labor force, and more than 20% of Gen Z adults identify as LGBTQ+.

They are often a target for workplace bullying, and 71% of LGBTQ+ professionals feel they were passed over for a promotion or raise when they weren’t code-switching (or hiding their identity) at work.

“An inclusive workplace not only creates a safe and beneficial environment for LGBTQ+ employees but also showcases a culture of respect and progressive thought leadership, which can serve to expand the company’s global reach and outlook and attract top talent,” said Scott Dobroski, career trend expert at Indeed and a member of Indeed’s iPride employee resource group (ERG).

Inclusive Policies Affect Recruitment

Inclusive workplaces incorporate public statements of support, visible symbols of inclusion, leadership support of ERGs, management commitment and gender-inclusive facilities, according to workers surveyed by Indeed. The survey found 76% of the employed LGBTQ+ community works for businesses with supportive policies in place.

With hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills proposed or passed in the United States, 33% of surveyed LGBTQ+ workers said they are reluctant to take a job in a state without robust legal protections of their rights.

To address this, businesses can offer relocation support to employees who want to move to a state with more legal protections — and better access to gender-affirming care for transgender individuals — while continuing to work for that company remotely.

Companies can also exceed state requirements in the benefits they offer, lobby for change in state laws and support local LGBTQ+ organizations, Dobroski said.

“In states that don’t have these protections, there are already plenty of folks there who would love to work for a workplace where they’ll be respected and can bring their best selves to the workplace,” Lewis-Kulin said. “These employers have a chance to stand out and ensure they are attractive to the best talent in that environment.”

Steps Toward an Inclusive Workplace

In examining their benefit offering, employers can take additional steps to determine the degree to which they create an environment that is inclusive of LGBTQ+ employees and candidates. Specific benefits of value may include:

Policies and Benefits Should Be Explicit and Specific

Lewis-Kulin encouraged employers to revise existing policies to ensure they definitively address and include LGBTQ+ employees — for instance, dress codes featuring individuals of varying gender expressions, health policies that specifically outline benefits for same-sex or domestic partners, or inclusive language (such as “spouse/partner” rather than “husband/wife”).

“Queer people often have to look between the lines to see how policies apply to them,” she said. “Being explicit really makes a difference. People know they’re seen and valued as they are, and these policies are meant to be for them as well.”

Intersectional programs are also important, Lewis-Kulin said, since specific populations in the workplace, such as Asian and Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ employees, face additional challenges.

Putting inclusive policies and benefits into place — even before the recruiting process — shows inclusion is a rooted component of the company, Dobroski said.

Support Beyond Pride Month

Vocal support is essential, whether through social media commentary, events or internal communications, but it may be viewed as worthless if it only takes place during Pride Month in June, Lewis-Kulin said.

Social media support for a month that isn’t backed up by year-round action may damage employee trust, she said. Instead, companies should engage their LGBTQ+ employees and ERGs frequently — not just during Pride Month, and not just for input on LGBTQ+ topics or initiatives.

“It’s vital for companies to ensure their support for the LGBTQ+ community is not just performative,” Dobroski said. “To ensure year-round inclusivity, companies should integrate LGBTQ+ support into their core values and operational practices, rather than limiting it to Pride Month.”

Editor’s Note: Additional Content

For more information and resources related to this article, see the pages below, which offer quick access to all WorldatWork content on these topics:

Also, check out additional articles on equity and the LGBTQ+ workforce:

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