Beyond Inclusion: Bolstering LGBTQ+ Participation At The Workplace

Inclusion is meaningless without equal opportunity to create value and shape the face of work


Concerns around gender equality and the demand for a fairer world have evolved with time. We inhabit a time of unprecedented diversity and calls for it and yet, diversity and inclusion efforts always seem to be chasing their coveted and elusive goals. The reason behind it is deceptively simple. Like most things today, while there is a lot of talk and rhetoric about inclusion, it is often reduced to being a platitude in the absence of real action. Inclusion is not an abstract idea suspended in a vacuum, it has to lead to empowering changes in our ecosystems, which involve actual transformations. Rather than merely waxing eloquent about inclusion, we need to create empowering circumstances which allow the people to be included to become real participants and impact substantial decisions. This Pride Month, as we celebrate the multiplicity of gender identities and the diversity of human existence, let us take a look at where the workplace stands in relation to its bid to include queer people.

While corporations and organizations across the world have pledged loyalty to the LGBTQ+ cause, with firms signing declarations to prevent harassment at the workplace, a lot of work remains to be done.As experts at McKinsey note, a growing business case for inclusion has not translated into solid gains for the LGBTQ+ community within the workplace itself. According to their Women in the Workplace research, LGBTQ+ women have been found to be more underrepresented than women generally in America’s largest corporations with only four openly LGBTQ+ CEOs head these corporations, only one of whom is female and none of whom is trans. Their research also discovered that LGBTQ+ women face increased rates of sexual harassment and discrimination based on gender and orientation while trans employees faced a distinct set of obstacles to performance and career progression.

These are not merely empirical findings, but have real-life implications. In the presence of a culture of discrimination, erasure and harassment, whether subtle or overt, queer individuals have faced gigantic challenges— professional, emotional and mental to come out on top and decisively participate at the workplace. Therefore, as the aforementioned study demonstrates, merely having a formal proclamation to the cause of inclusion has not resolved long-standing issues effectively and we need to turn inclusion into a platform for substantial and consequential participation.

To this end, a few introductory measures to ensure structural support are necessary. Starting off, we must first ensure the compulsory presence of LGBTQ+ individuals at the workplace, creating posts exclusively for such applicants. Once presence is taken care of, there has to be a regime of gender sensitization and education in place which is in tune with modern realities. The office's infrastructure and policies must also be changed, with the presence of appropriate bathroom facilities, health support, and leave policies for transitioning employees. Finally, we need to set up resource cells and grievance redressal mechanisms for queer individuals which provide the specific kinds of support they seek or might require. These steps are necessary and fundamental to build an environment for meaningful participation.

Once these reforms are accomplished in the organizations, the real deal can be achieved by making the leadership sensitive and proactive and approaching queer employees for insights, feedback and perspectives on major company decisions. In other words, their inclusion has to be made participatory to an extent where they are directly involved with and are exhorted to participate in professional discussions and projects. When that does happen, the resource cells and grievance redressal mechanisms have to be vigilant to respond to all sexist, transphobic and inappropriate behaviour, linguistic expressions and microaggressions by people in the organization, so that the flow of queer participation is undeterred. Finally, when dealing with projects which involve a social dimension, particularly dealing with issues of gender and sexuality, let queer people lead and weigh in. These changes in professional culture alongside structural transformations can effectively catalyze queer participation at the workplace, instead of a mere rhetorical stance that advocates inclusion.

Overall, inclusion is meaningless without equal opportunity to create value and shape the face of work. Instead of shallow promises, LGBTQ+ individuals deserve the playing field to be levelled and made open to their interventions. This is what can make the world of work a fairer place and craft the next chapter in the quest for equality.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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