Workplace PR: LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts yield positive impacts, but challenges persist

by | Jun 27, 2022 | Public Relations

New Deloitte research finds many organizations are prioritizing LGBT+ inclusion, creating an overall positive impact in the workplace, according to nearly 80 percent of respondents in the firm’s latest report, LGBT+ Inclusion @ Work: A Global Outlook.

The research reveals that more than 70 percent of LGBTQ+ employees are more inclined to stay with their current employer because of its approach to LGBTQ+ inclusion and many cited visible allyship and the availability of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) as key enablers of an inclusive culture. Yet despite these efforts, 42 percent of all respondents reported experiencing non-inclusive behaviors at work.

Surveying 600 respondents from organizations across 12 geographies and a range of sectors, the research provides a snapshot of the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ employees (defined as those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and more) to understand their daily realities, what organizations are getting right, and what can be improved.

“It is clear that employers are taking steps to incorporate LGBTQ+ inclusion into their DE&I strategies, and that this is regarded positively by their LGBTQ+ employees,” said Emma Codd, Deloitte Global Inclusion Leader, in a news release. “However, it is also clear that there is much more for these organizations to do to fully embed LGBTQ+ inclusion into their everyday culture. Organizations need to go beyond programs to embed a truly respectful culture where non-inclusive behaviors are not tolerated and everyone feels able to be out at work.”

Workplace PR: LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts yield positive impacts, but challenges persist

Organizations have introduced a range of actions that employees view as having led to meaningful support

Many organizations are focusing on LGBTQ+ inclusion within their Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) strategies, with around 80 percent of respondents reporting that their employers have introduced LGBTQ+ inclusion actions and initiatives and 95 percent of those believing that this has led to meaningful support for LGBTQ+ employees across their respective organizations.

According to respondents, actions taken by organizations vary—nearly 40 percent say their company leaders speak openly about LGBTQ+ inclusion within the organization, a third say their organizations have LGBTQ+ allyship programs, and nearly a third (31 percent) say their employers discuss LGBTQ+ inclusion at external forums such as business events.

Almost all (93 percent) respondents who work for global organizations also believe that organization-level communications and actions around LGBTQ+ inclusion are translating into meaningful support in their home countries.

Workplace PR: LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts yield positive impacts, but challenges persist

Despite supportive actions from employers, non-inclusive behaviors persist at work

Despite the positive steps organizations are taking to support their LGBTQW+ employees, 42 percent of survey respondents reported experiencing non-inclusive behaviors at work. These non-inclusive behaviors included unwanted comments of a sexual nature (33 percent), unwanted comments on gender identity (25 percent), and broader unacceptable behavior.

Furthermore, these behaviors are experienced in both office and remote working environments. Nearly half (47 percent) of those who reported experiencing non-inclusive behaviors said they experienced these in a physical office, while 20 percent have experienced them in a virtual setting. One-third (33 percent) experienced such behaviors in both physical and remote environments. Of those who encountered these behaviors, nearly three-quarters reported their experience to their employer, and six in 10 were satisfied with the response.

The rationale as to why respondents didn’t report non-inclusive behaviors was generally similar across all gender identities (for example, when it came to concerns as to the perception of colleagues). Women, however, were more concerned than men that their complaints would not be taken seriously (40 percent vs. 22 percent) and that the behavior wasn’t serious enough to report (33 percent vs. 16 percent), while men were more concerned than women that the behavior would get worse (38 percent vs. 17 percent) if it was reported.

Workplace PR: LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts yield positive impacts, but challenges persist

Many still choose not to share their sexual orientation and/or gender identity with the majority of their colleagues

Around one in five respondents are not out to anyone at work about their sexual orientation, while 34% are out only to their closest colleagues. Of the latter respondents, 36 percent reported that while their immediate team/colleagues made them feel comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation at work, the organization at large did not. From a gender identity perspective, nearly one-quarter (23 percent) who are out to some of their colleagues are worried that being out to the majority of their colleagues will adversely impact their career.

Of those respondents who are out to the majority of their colleagues, nine in 10 agreed that this is because their workplace culture helps them feel comfortable being out.

“It has been encouraging to see a focus on LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace,” said Michele Parmelee, Deloitte Global deputy ceo and chief people and purpose officer, in the release. “However, the survey has also shown us that more needs to be done. Looking ahead as companies build future-ready organizations, it will be incumbent upon leaders and colleagues to focus on three critical elements to promote LGBT+ inclusion: enabling employees to feel comfortable being out at work, creating an environment where non-inclusive behavior is not tolerated, and leveraging visible and vocal allyship.”

Download the full report here.

Conducted in February 2022, Deloitte Global surveyed 600 members of the LGBT+ community currently in employment across 12 geographies and 10 major industry sectors. The LGBT+ acronym (which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and more) is used throughout this survey for consistency and includes anyone who does not identify as heterosexual and/or cisgender. The survey respondents comprised permanent employees on a full-time basis (93%), permanent employees on a part-time basis (5%), and contractor employees (2%). Over half of respondents (55%) identified as male, 39% identified as female, 3% identified as transgender, and 2% identified as non-binary. 43% identified as gay, 34% identified as bisexual, and 14% identified as lesbian. Other sexual orientations and identities represented included pansexual (3%), asexual (3%), queer (2%), and heterosexual (1%). The survey respondents comprised adult LGBT+ employees across age and experience levels; a slight majority were younger than 39. Most employees surveyed have at least six years of workplace experience.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter