LGBT+ Inclusion

Stephen Frost, founder of f(i) discusses key actions for recruiters during LGBT+ history month.

I remember ten years or so ago – listening to the CEO of a major company talk about diversity and inclusion. All was going swimmingly until they tripped up and got the acronym wrong, referring by mistake to  BLT’s (bacon, lettuce and tomato) in the workplace!

Thankfully things have moved forward, and today there is pretty widespread knowledge and recognition of the acronym LGBT+. Most businesses now understand the language and basics of supporting employees who might identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or other sexual minorities, either in terms of orientation, or identity.

Language is important as we become more educated and comfortable using and understanding terminology, so our reality becomes more inclusive. This LGBT+ History Month, it’s time to go beyond language into actions.

Even in countries where LGBT+ rights are protected by law, many still feel uncomfortable revealing their sexuality. In the United States, 53% of LGBT+ workers are not out at work and many British graduates go back into the closet when entering work, even though they’ve been open at university and this is particularly true for those aiming to start new roles with new employers.

So what are the key actions necessary for true LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace?

  1. Understand your cognitive dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the gap between stated intention and actual behaviour. It’s the intention-action gap. You might say you want to lose weight, but keep eating cake. You might say you’re an inclusive leader but keep allocating work to the same ‘trusted’ people. It’s important to be self-aware of what you’re saying on LGBT+ and what you’re actually doing. In an age of transparency, social media and activist employees, authenticity is crucial.

One of the ways to ‘close the gap’ in the workplace is through feedback. Ask your LGBT+ network how you’re doing, either directly or through a third party. Check employee engagement surveys. Talk to people.

The best way to see how a company ranks in terms of LGBT+ inclusivity is just to look at the numbers. In our population, six per cent identifies as LGBT+ and so a truly inclusive organisation should look at their own figures compared to that benchmark.

If your company can say with transparency that ‘three per cent of our workforce identifies as gay’ it isn’t just a measure of diversity as saying ’50 per cent of our workforce are women’ would be, it is a measure of inclusion. The percentage of your workforce that identify as gay is the measure of how many LGBT+ people in your office feel comfortable enough to declare their orientation at work. Using data is a powerful way to understand how inclusive your company is, allowing you to take real action to improving inclusion.


  1. Mentor, sponsor or be an ally

One of the reasons LGBT+ progress has been considerable in the last decade is because most straight people know someone who identifies as LGBT+. It is these personal connections that reduce fear and increase understanding.

However, we all have a natural tendency to surround ourselves with people similar to ourselves. This is called homophily and it’s the natural and normal tendency to gravitate towards like minds. Its particularly important for recruiters to be aware of and alert to this tendency.

If recruiters don’t actively seek for diversity in candidates, inclusion won’t ‘just happen’.

Encouraging diversity

Here are five key things every recruiter should have on their to do list:

  1. Marketing – follow the example of Lloyds Bank – make sure your marketing and communications are LGBT+ positive and that your commitment to inclusivity is especially prominent in  your Employee Value Proposition
  2. Longlist – make sure your longlist is diverse and that you have gone to LGBT+ talent pools to look for candidates
  3. Shortlist – know the make-up of your shortlist. Consider how you are monitoring inclusion and whether to mandate LGBT+ inclusion in shortlists
  4. Interview – include your commitment to Diversity & Inclusion as a key element of the interview script
  5. Post interview – make sure you seek feedback from candidates on their experience through the process so that you constantly improve.

You don’t need me to warn of the dangers to business of ‘group think’ and the value a diverse range of voices and ideas deliver to the business bottom line. Implementing the above techniques and moving your organisation further towards an inclusive meritocracy is not only the right thing to do. The more you open doors, the more you let diversity in, the better your businesses will perform.

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