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LGBT, Positivity and Inclusion in the Workplace

LGBT, Positivity and Inclusion in the Workplace

By Julia Budahazy


Workplace diversity is a topic that has been in vogue for a while, yet many companies are still grappling with defining what this means to their organization, communicating why diversity is important and finding ways to consistently and meaningfully include diversity as a priority in their overall talent management strategy. With the rainbow flag flying high at Parliament Hill and Pride events gearing up across the country, now is a great time to think about lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer-identified (LGBT+) diversity in your organization and to leverage the heightened awareness of Gay Pride to drive home diversity messaging at your workplace.


A Little History

In 1977, Québec became the first jurisdiction in Canada to amend the province's Charter of Human Rights to include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground for discrimination. In 1996, the Canadian Human Rights Act was amended to explicitly include sexual orientation as one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination, declaring that gay and lesbian Canadians are entitled to "an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives they are able and wish to have…" Since then, many organizations have developed programs and policies to embrace LGBT+ diversity and have gone beyond drafting a policy, to integrating diversity as a core facet of their organization’s culture. You’ll find the leaders listed as Canada’s Best Diversity Employers, for starters. 


Where We Stand Today

Most organizations are aware of the importance of nurturing a culture of inclusion and positivity and uphold policies with respect to human rights at the workplace. These policies include steps to addressing discrimination, differential treatment and harassment, as well as ways to encourage a healthy work environment. However, we still have a long way to go. In a 2015 survey, the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion found that:

  • 67 % of non-LGBT+ respondents said there is no discrimination against LGBT+ employees; Yet,
  • 30% of LGBT+ employees in Canada report experiencing discrimination in the workplace compared to only 3% of non-LGBT+ employees; And, 
  • 33% of LGBT+ and 21% of non-LGBT+ employees report having witnessed it.


Managing Diversity

In order for diversity to be seen as an organizational priority and a positive aspect of workplace culture, it needs to be managed and nurtured. If diversity is to be appreciated as an asset, rather than feared as a divisive issue, leaders have to evolve with their workplaces and commit to championing diversity as a strength and priority for the long term wellbeing of the company.

With the support of senior leadership, organizations can establish their workplace as an equal opportunity employer, including taking steps to prevent and address human rights complaints. Below are some actions to consider as part of an overall Diversity and Inclusion Strategy:

  • Develop and promote anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies that address homophobia. Groups like Pride at Work, Egale and CCDI provide resources and guidance
  • Make it known that your organization is an equal opportunity employer
  • Promote diversity at work and direct employees to know and respect the policy
  • Create a discussion group to address issues related to LGBT+ diversity
  • Set up a networking opportunities for LGBT+ staff and their supporters
  • Encourage volunteering and fundraising for relevant charities

The Bottom Line for Business

A company that employs a diverse workforce can draw strength from the variety of talent and different perspectives employees bring to their jobs. Diversity can also improve an organization’s level of adaptability, strengthen its ability to provide service to diverse audiences, and ultimately inspire employees to think beyond their own realities and push their boundaries.

Companies that create an inclusive, supportive environment, will also strengthen their reputation and their employer brand, draw better candidates for open positions and retain top talent longer. People who feel secure in their workplace, supported by policies that engender acceptance and positivity will be more loyal, more focused on their jobs and less distracted and stressed. This, in turn, means that the organization will function better across the board, with greater efficiency and, ultimately, better profits.

With leading Canadian organizations like Scotiabank, Bell Canada, Sodexo, and many others committing to prioritizing LGBT+ diversity and inclusion, the path is clear.

Diversity is important and beneficial for business and a vital facet to success in the 21st century.