Does Your Diversity and Inclusion Policy Adequately Address Your LGBTQ Population?

Diversity and Inclusion Policy

The bottom line is that equity matters and inclusion matters.

HR leaders should regularly review their organization's diversity and inclusion policy to ensure that it's still up-to-date, effective and reflective of the culture the organization is attempting to establish. Businesses that wish to be seen as progressive need to ensure their diversity and inclusion policy is broad enough to cover all facets of the organization on a national, and even global, scale.

Businesses Leading the Way

Travis Kelso Turner is the executive director of Executive Pride, an LGTBQ workplace quality organization. Turner points to The Walt Disney Co. as an inspiring corporate citizen that models best practice in LGBTQ inclusion. "Disney has openly supported workplace protections and inclusion for decades," says Turner. They were among the first to offer same-sex marriage health benefits in 1995 and openly support LGBTQ inclusion in the workplace.

Another organization that stands out is Skittles. "Brands like Skittles are bold enough to 'donate' their rainbow to gay pride events and organizations like Disney set the pace with early adoption of same-sex marriage health benefits, regardless of state policy on same-sex marriage," says Turner.

Focus on Values, Not Cost

Business values, not cost, should drive benefit decisions, says Julie Sanderson, HR manager with Farm & Wilderness summer camps in Plymouth, Vermont. Cost never interferes with equity when it comes to making policy decisions, says Sanderson. "When writing the medical benefits policy, we didn't talk about it in a financial sense but in a who are we, what are our values and it's the right thing to do kind of way," she says. "We felt we needed to include many variations of 'spouse' and 'children.'"

This kind of inclusiveness is increasingly important to employees. While in law school, William J. Roberts says he chose his current firm, Shipman & Goodwin, because of its inclusive policies. At the time, he and his boyfriend were interested in moving back to New England to be closer to family, and because at the time, Connecticut offered civil unions and LBGT-friendly adoption laws.

When looking at law firms, he says, things that stood out about the firm include recruiting at a LGBT lawyer job fair (the only firm in Connecticut that came to the fair), legal work on same-sex marriage rights, sponsorship of events in the local LGBT community and policies treating adoption the same as biological birth. "If firms are serious about recruiting LGBT staff, they need to go beyond benefits and be seen as a stand-out," says Roberts.

Beyond Policies to Practice

It's not just about policy, though. The corporate environment also needs to be inclusive to ensure that employees feel welcomed and valued, says Ben Brooks, founder and CEO of PILOT, a tech startup that helps managers retain top talent. "It is great to have nondiscrimination policies and equal benefits programs," Brooks says. "But for the most part in the U.S. that is becoming fairly common. What matters in terms of truly inclusive workplaces is ensuring that the culture and the way the organization operates is LGBTQ inclusive."

Do people feel comfortable bringing same-sex partners to corporate family events? Are staffing decisions considerate of LGBTQ status? Does the organizational leadership visibly support LGBTQ colleagues, like marching with them in a pride parade or volunteering with them at a LGBTQ-focused community organization? These are the types of behaviors to cultivate, Brooks stresses. "Policies and benefits alone are necessary, but insufficient to create true LGBTQ inclusion."

The bottom line is that equity matters and inclusion matters. So be sure to take a look at your policies and practices to ensure that they are inclusive of all your staff.