1. Social Intelligence – Manifested in the ability to get along with others, and successfully navigate complex interpersonal interactions. Because LGBTQ individuals are statistically more likely to be minorities in group settings, they learn to modify their behaviours and reactions in order to minimize discrimination. This generally results in the ability to “read a room”
2. Courage – The process of embracing their identity and confronting heteronormativity requires courage on a daily basis
3. Empathy – The process of coming out involves a tremendous amount of personal insight and reflection, which ultimately improves the ability to empathize with people around is. Being in touch with their own self seems to create a stronger sense of acceptance and openness towards others
4. Authenticity – Lesser pressure to conform to societally defined roles and narratives, resulting in being more authentic
5. Resilience – Because LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to face identity-related discrimination and accompanying emotional hardships than their straight counterparts, they often have no choice but to develop resilience
6. Creativity – LGBTQ+ individuals experience the world so differently, which triggers creative styles of expression and communication
Through experience and common sense, we all know how important these behaviours are to survive and thrive, especially in the current global context. In fact, a recent HBR article (April 2020) speaks of many of these behaviours – specifically Courage, Authenticity, Empathy & Social Intelligence.
My first thought when I was reading about this - It isn’t only the organization that is supporting LGBTQ+ individuals, it is most definitely the other way round too!
The confluence of current events amplifies the urgency for an updated approach to Diversity & Inclusion. COVID-19 and the associated economic downturn disproportionately affect the health, wellness, employment, and economic security of people of color, women, caretakers, part-time workers, employees with physical and mental health conditions, and employees with nontraditional family arrangements. The recent demonstrations for racial equity amplify the structural and implicit biases impacting people of color’s health, wellness, and ability to “show up” at work. These identities cut across the LGBTQ+ workforce and reinforce the need to re-look inclusion strategies specifically. Here are some of my thoughts
1. Inclusion > Diversity?
The acronym D&I puts Diversity before Inclusion. My sense is it works the other way round too – i.e. inclusion can drive diversity. It isn’t only about increasing numbers – i.e. a tick in the box when it comes to hiring or promoting LGBTQ+ individuals. It is about fostering a sense of Psychological Safety. Psychological safety is being able to show one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image. It is tough, however, to sustain psychological safety when there is discrimination or a sense of “onlyness”. Given the LGBTQ+ industry is valued at $5 trillion globally, at a macro level, the cost of less psychological safety could cost every country’s economy.
2. Inclusion has a significant impact on an organization’s employer brand
Young employees (Gen Z & Millennials) seem to be making career decisions on the basis of culture, including LGBTQ inclusion. As per recent BCG research, straight employees under 35 (Gen-Z and millennials) are 1.6 times more likely to know LGBTQ colleagues, 3.6 times more likely to join ally programs (where available), and 3.0 times more likely to find value in their LGBTQ colleagues being out, compared with older non-LGBTQ employees. Relative to other generations, Gen-Z also has the lowest number of individuals who identify as strategy and/or heterosexual. Straight Gen-Z and millennial workers are also significantly more likely to recognize discriminatory comments and actions against their LGBTQ colleagues. This has an immediate impact on an organization’s employer brand.
3. Inclusion drives innovation…A lack of it restricts the ability to take creative risk
Our current economic and global context (given the pandemic) requires us to do things differently to sustain business results. Innovation requires the ability to see things differently. This is where being inclusive of diverse views and individuals’ matters. However, the recent BCG study indicates that employees who experience discrimination are 1.5 times less likely to suggest creative ideas.
This research seems to suggest that LGBTQ+ inclusion is both the RIGHT thing to do, as well as the SMART thing to do for organizations. There could be multiple solutions to LGBTQ+ inclusion, however, I think the starting point is for individuals and leaders in organizations to interact with LGBTQ+ individuals.
Why do I say this?
I’ve been lucky to have interacted with LGBTQ+ friends/colleagues. Listening to and understanding them has been fascinating. It made me realise that I lived with both conscious and unconscious biases. I realised how my own language and communication can make a difference. These personal interactions are perhaps the reason I resonate with the (above) research on unique LGBTQ+ strengths.
While a focus on interaction and understanding seems rather simple in comparison to the complexity of this situation, I don’t know if we can truly progress without it.
Inclusion isn’t only about a set of policies or increased hiring – it’s about everyone in the organization being invested and committed to it. This commitment requires empathy and connection.
- 2014 study by Michelle D. Vaughan & Eric Rodriguez - LGBT: Incorporating Positive Psychology into Theory, Research, Training and Practice
- 2008 study, International Journal of Professional Psychology: The positive aspect of being lesbian or gay
- 2003 study by Glenda Russell and John Richards
- 2013 study, International Journal of Psychological studies – Is there a Gay Advantage in Creativity?
- April 2020: Behaviours that help leaders manage a crisis – HBR
- June 2020: A new LGBTQ workforce has arrived - BCG