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LGBT Workplace Equality – 5 Examples to Help Allies Understand

Ally companies put LGBT-friendly policies and business practices into place. But they don’t stop there knowing that policies are not enough. They create a workplace culture of inclusiveness and celebrate the differences that make each employee great. They actively recruit LGBTQ employees and welcome constructive feedback on how they are doing can how they can improve.

Employment discrimination and LGBT workplace equality have always been something of a personal issue and now my it is my focus with OutBüro.

My Personal Story

Professionally, I’d say that I’ve always been conservatively out. I have never made my sexuality a huge deal wearing it on my sleeve, but I have never tried to overtly hide it either – besides my time in the US Army in the late 80’s. When I’d start new jobs or client projects I’d be invited to the social after-work functions. Then as my sexuality became apparent those invites were reduced to only the super gay-friendly staff who wanted to do all the gay-things in the city. So the limited inclusiveness was layered with stereotypes of going to gay dance clubs and helping them shop for home décor, clothes, and gifts. Sure I’ve got style but at the time didn’t realize how I was being excluded and superficially used.

In my work and projects, I felt like I always had to go above and beyond the norm to prove myself to my employers and clients. I even had to deal with sexual harassment from a female senior executive that knew I was gay but seemed to feel that was a challenge she wanted to see if she could win.  Right now what are you thinking? Check yourself. Are you thinking, “poor him a woman was hitting on him”? If so, that’s a problem.

It became so bad I loathed going to the office, my days were filled with trying to avoid her and her excuses to be at my desk where she’d lean over from behind to point at my computer screen so that she could rub her breast against my back. This was coupled with many other innuendos and overt comments several times a week on how she liked how my pants fit and which ones didn’t hug my butt or crotch. I had no way to voice my frustration, anxiety, and anger too. No one took me seriously. When I tried to raise my concerns and issues I was literally laughed at by the Human Resource manager. He told me to toughen up and that he wished that executive was interested in him. REALLY With the rude and crude gay jokes from many male team members and the overt sexual harassment from the female top executive, my work-life was stressful, and ultimately had to leave that employer. I felt I had no recourse. It was a nightmare.

This caused me to enter corporate consulting where my Fortune 1000 and government clients changed every few months. I put myself in a position of swooping in, doing my job, and leaving so that I was nowhere long enough to have it matter. If it was bad, as it was several more times, I knew I had an exit and on to the next project.  On a government project, the main contact was not only very religious, her husband was a preacher.  I did the best job they have ever had anyone do – literally.  I turned the staff around from underperforming to over performing.  The contract was going to be lost until I swooped in and did my thing.  The firm was thrilled as they were rewarded the long term contract they thought they were sure to lose.  The client management was thrilled with the progress and performance.  But one day, the guy I was seeing dropped me off after lunch.  The main contact saw him giving me a pretty quick innocent kiss good-bye.  That afternoon she kept making reference to God, Jesus, and her church.  Then she started making negative comments about gay people and that she saw me kissing my boyfriend.  I stated that the kiss happened outside the office and likewise she needs to keep her religion outside of the office too.  Within a week I was laid off from the contract claiming there wasn’t enough budget – the budget I wrote and contact I saved.  So gay employee became unemployed over the religious views of a US Federal Government employee.  

After a couple of years of living out of a suitcase and hotel rooms, I again began to hate my work-life and my life in general with no roots and no real connections. It was difficult to make and maintain friendships and relationships traveling 75-90% of my work-life for 13 years. It was isolating.

Corporate LGBT-Friendly Policies

Today, corporations are leading the charge of LGBT rights and protections for employees. Companies of all sizes are implementing LGBT-friendly policies that include:

• Sexual orientation non-discrimination-policy
• Gender identity non-discrimination-policy
• Domestic partner benefits
• Transgender-inclusive benefits
• LGBTQ inclusive education

I share the above story of being sexually harassed to point out that in the United States Sexual Harassment policies have been in place since the mid-70’s. Yet it still happens today. Not only to women but also to men like me with both female and male perpetrators. My own incident may have happened quite some time ago, but just turn on any news station of your choice and within a week’s time you are sure to see a high profile case in the news today – right now. This clearly demonstrates that having company policies alone are not enough to remove and eliminate the root problem, change minds or culture.

Why Will LGBT-Discrimination Remain an Issue

I’d like to concentrate on the larger picture and examine why irrespective of anti-discrimination policies and legislative changes, LGBTQ employment discrimination will stay economically divisive, socially permissible and sadly common. Naturally gaining heterosexual allies to recognize this issue as a legitimate and continuing struggle for everyone regardless of sexual orientation is paramount to lasting equality for all. It all boils down to getting to know others and trying to empathize with their perspective. We have to keep in mind it isn’t LGBTQ people that are responsible for homophobia, thus ponder the sociological ecosystem of implicit homophobia that still does not permit queer people to thrive within it.

During my business travels working in hundreds of companies and government agencies I and found that my queer colleagues have nearly uniformly been and are more dedicated to performance and excellence in comparison to our heterosexual counterparts. This is not new or news. It’s fairly common knowledge. Why? It seems that in addition to overcoming any economic hurdles, their particular internalized homophobic programming and assorted trauma connected with a multitude of other societal disadvantages, disapproval, and rejection, they continue to be cautious and quite concerned about how others view about them to a much higher degree than their heterosexual peers. They are addressing a reality that their best will not be good enough, it will be discounted, simply because of who they are. Having experienced this in myself and observing so many others, I believe this bears “real-world” workplace significance.

Undermining Statements From Human Resources and Management

In an uninformed and apathetic manner, I’ve had the below statements made to me numerous times along my career journey. We need to re-frame the understanding of how gay, lesbian, bisexual transgender and queers struggle (not an exhaustive list):

1) Are you sure it was discrimination?
In other words: “Aren’t you just playing the gay card because it’s easier than nursing a bruised ego?” This is an invalidation that stems from a lack of desire to listen, learn and expend some true effort to assess the actual situation. Playing ones part within a discriminating culture means you don’t have to actively discriminate, however, you can certainly assist by remaining quite yourself and further silencing and demoralizing those who object to oppression. With this action, you also don’t have to stop and evaluate the experiences of other people in systems that you might incidentally thrive in, and therefore have no personal objections to. Allies do not show up for the party and then try to argue that the battle is not constant and affects everyone in the workplace. Thoughtfully listen to the full story, even if it shatters your own insecurities and past learned beliefs. Don’t enforce your narrative into it and emphasize your vantage point as the universal default. Become self-aware of when you are doing so and realize that it is not helpful and in fact perpetuates discrimination or worse.

2) Discrimination will be a hard thing to prove.
If an organization discriminates against a person, it’s the organization that must establish in court that it did not discriminate. Why is it so easily deemed that there ought to be a different set of rules for LGBTQ people, implying that it is up to them to prove that they are not lying, omitting facts or being oversensitive? Queer folks are actually all exceptional individuals. This thinking negates the fact that the injustice is being carried out by the perpetrator and not the victim. It dismisses the possibility that not all queer folks can financially afford to challenge discrimination in a court of law. Allies could educate themselves on systems of oppression and verses supporting dismissive statements.

3) But women – or insert race/gender/religion/nationality here – are discriminated against too.
If we are attempting to change a culture of discrimination specifically against queer people of all genders, races, nationalities, and heritage, it’s very diminishing to try and argue that there are simply more important problems, and by assuming gender/race/religious/nationality equality is explicitly heterosexual. Queer equality crosses all other equality categories. Listening is a really important part of supporting. We might use listening to build a sense of common purpose, silently recognizing similarities and then sharing approaches instead of falling into the trap of compartmentalized divisive thinking. Listen, get to know and understand your fellow human and co-worker.

4) Women are discriminated against all of the time. You are a man, so toughen up.
This type of statement is indeed binary, and once again fails to comprehend both why and how gay men and women are discriminated against so broadly and effectively. When you are a guy with perceived feminine qualities or a woman with perceived masculine traits, then gender stereotype fetishization and glorification of male masculinity and female femininity is used to discount, ridicule and isolate individuals and groups. Often a “hetero-passable” receive a pass or partial acceptance because they “fit” the environment cultural norm. This causes the employee to feel devalued again feeding into the idea that they have to work harder to prove themselves to be worthy.

5) You seem very angry. You may not wish to alienate or anger straight people.
I never want to purposely anger anyone, per se. However, I do want to upset the damaging hierarchies and power systems that all of us so effortlessly accept and preserve without any people ever receiving any real advantage from them. Frustration can lead to anger. But put yourself in that person’s perspective. Would you be frustrated and/or angry if the situation was directed at you? Oppressed people are generally exhausted from persevering it for the time until they’ve reached their tipping point to bring it to your attention. It is likely not an isolated event that has pushed them to the point of finally reaching out for help. Listen, analysis, empathize and rationally decide actions to take to address the current situation and prevent it from happening to others in the future.

Summary

Allies must acknowledge personal accountability, empathize with another person’s situation and then attempt to modify their thoughts and actions to grow from new knowledge and personal connections. Allies question their past learned beliefs and accept that their own thoughts and ideas about others may need to change. They take a proactive approach to empower and affect change within themselves, within coworkers and within the companies and organizations they work in and participate in.

Related Articles

Be a Superhero – Your Voice has the Power to Create Change

Company Reviews – Good for Companies and Their LGBTQ Employees

 

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Company Reviews – Good for Companies and Their LGBTQ Employees

OutBüro (OutBuro.com) is filling a gap in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer working and professional community by offering a Glassdoor.com-like service. On OutBüro LGBTQ employees may review their employers on not only general employee-related areas but those specific to the employer’s LGBTQ policies, benefits, culture, work-life balance, job security, CEO performance, and more.

OutBüro’s mission is to be an altruistic resource for both employer and employee by providing an open community of visibility.  

Employer Reviews

Company Reviews include a free-form text review along with prompting for pros and cons as well as a message to the CEO. Registered members’ ratings are displayed anonymously. Reviews must adhere to our Community and Company Reviews Guidelines. Other members may indicate a rating as helpful as well as flag inappropriate content for community self-governance. OutBüro’s founder, Dennis Velco, built and moderates LinkedIn’s largest LGBT professional group with 47k global members now as a service of OutBüro.

OutBüro empowers every LGBTQ person to add their past employers, if not already present. We are open to all company sizes from the small local business to Fortune 100. OutBüro’s Company Reviews directory is world-wide. No matter where an LGBTQ person lives and works they can have a voice in praising their employer or offering constructive feedback to be a catalyst for change.

Companies may claim their listing to gain additional features and ensure their information is correctly represented including the required responses to the presence of the following policies and practices:

  • Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Policy
  • Gender Identity Non-Discrimination
  • Domestic Partner Benefits
  • Supports LGBTQ Equality Globally (if operates in more than one country)
  • LGBT Inclusion Competency
  • Public Commitment to LGBTQ Equality
  • Requires Similar Policies for Contractors and Vendors

Add/claim your company today and invite your employee to review it. 

OutBüro (OutBuro.com) is a start-up company providing the LGBTQ workforce, professional a voice in improving our future. Our platform provides the ability to connect and dialog with others one on one and via topically focused groups at all levels of career phase from entry-level, professionals through entrepreneurs.

OutBüro’s Job Portal enables employers to attract quality LGBTQ candidates while demonstrating their commitment to the LGBTQ community. Job seekers may add their resume/CV to the growing search-able repository in an active and passive job search.

Why is this important?

Does your company have the policies listed above to protect your LGBTQ staff? If so, AWESOME. You are doing the right thing to create a welcoming and safe environment to attract and retain quality staff.

However, having policies are not good enough. They are only part of the equation. For example, Sexual Harassment Policies have been in place in the United States since the late ’70s. Today it seems nearly weekly sexual harassment case news seems to break of high profile individuals. Just think how many sexual harassment cases don’t make the local or national news. Further, think about how many incidences go completely unreported to even the HR department.

We aim to be a partner with you and your company by being a place where employees can voice their praise and accolades you deserve while also being the space where opportunities to improve can be brought to your attention. Both in an anonymous manner so that employees are comfortable in being honest. As noted we have a community content policy and Compay Review guidelines. We don’t want defamatory content and to that end, anyone, including you, may flag a review, image or comment for moderation – and potential removal if justified from the system. To submit a review every person must be an authenticated person. Should a Company Review warrant an internal investigation, upon your request, we’ll contact the submitter and ask if they are comfortable in coming forward.

Touting Your OutBüro Score

Just as many companies are rightfully proud of their HRC Corporate Equality Index Score and make public announcements about reaching their 100% score, we aim to be your grassroots measurement of your LGBTQ employee satisfaction rating. We hope and believe that as your OutBüro company record gains reviews that you’ll be touting your OutBüro score too in press releases and displaying your OutBüro score on your corporate HR and Recruiting website.

It will not only demonstrate that you have LGBTQ-friendly policies but that your current and recent past LGBTQ employees LOVE WORKING at the company. This will bolster your diversity recruiting and retention.

Articles on OutBüro

With our Premium membership, you’ll have the ability to post content on OutBüro’s blog via your profile – Submit Articles. This can be company news, industry news, events, and just about anything. We’d naturally love it to be diversity/LGBTQ focused, but general info is welcomed.

Early Adopter Pricing

We are eager to work with you and build our community. We, therefore, have aggressive early adopter pricing that will remain in effect for renewals as long as you maintain uninterrupted membership. If membership laps, renewing will then be at the current rates. We value relationships and maintaining them. The cost is currently kept very low to minimize the approval process within your company. Getting started is the most important thing.

Getting Started

To register, simply visit www.OutBuro.com.

  1. Complete at least 30% o your personal professional profile.
  2. From the EmployerRatings page search for your company. 
    1. If present, choose Claim Listing.
    2. If not present choose the Add Company button. Choose the 45-dat trial if you are an authorized person, main point of contact, etc.  The free listing meant for any employee to add an employer has very limited features enabled.  
    3. Complete the listing and explore the site.  Schedule your introduction chat with the OutBüro team.

Check out the growing knowledge base under the more menu for instructions.  Contact us if you need assistance.  

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How to Hire the Right Employees for Your LGBT Owned Business

Your business has the best chance of success if you hire the right people to work for you. Skilled, enthusiastic, and flexible staff will help your business run and grow smoothly. But how do you hire the right employees?

Hiring is part of your job

As a business owner or founder, your vision for your company affects everything. It’s part of your job to find and hire employees who will share that vision and take your business forward.

Even if you intend to outsource to contractors and freelancers, this is still important. Whether you’re hiring a permanent staff member or trying to find someone to do short-term contract work for you, it pays to get the right person.

With a little thought and planning, you’ll be able to clearly determine your requirements, find candidates, and narrow down your choices. Eventually, you should find the right employee for the role you’re offering. Here are some useful tips to help you make that decision.

Plan your hiring strategy

This should be part of your business plan. Think about where you expect your business to be at various stages over the next year, and how many employees you’ll need in order to get there. For each new vacancy, consider the following points:

  • Prioritize what you or your team actually need
    Make lists of the tasks you want each new employee to take on.
  • Hire people with complementary skills
    Think about operational versus ideas people and sales skills versus creative ability.
  • Be clear about what you can afford
    Look into market rates and offer a suitably competitive salary within your budget.
  • Decide if you want a part-time or full-time employee
    There are pros and cons to both, so research this before deciding.
  • Is your business at the growth stage?
    Small, growing businesses can benefit from hiring flexible people able to take on multiple roles in the company.
  • Is experience important to you?
    Larger companies tend to require deeper, specific expertise and experience, though flexibility is still useful.

Small businesses have to budget carefully, which is why good quality cloud accounting software is so helpful. Use it to plan your budget and see if you can afford to hire someone new for a particular role. Balance the cost of employing them with the increased revenue they should bring to your business.

Consider your culture

Your company has a culture: a way of approaching business, a way of thinking and operating that’s unique. This affects the way your business operates and the way it’s seen by customers.

You, as a business owner or founder, have a big influence on your company’s culture, but so do the people you hire. So consider these points before you start hiring:

  • What is your company culture now?
    Ask your employees (perhaps anonymously) or customers how they view your business.
  • What do you want your culture to be?
    Think about successful companies and how they do business. Try to copy their good points.
  • Do you want to hire someone who will fit into your company culture?
    If your team is running smoothly you might want someone who will fit in perfectly.
  • Would you consider hiring someone who might challenge your company culture in a positive way?
    Group-think and confirmation bias can hold your business back. Someone who can challenge your business culture might get you out of a rut.
  • How will you define your culture in words when you’re recruiting?
    It can be difficult to explain your culture to someone new, so take the time to prepare.
  • How will you evaluate an individual’s suitability to your company culture?
    Think about the interview questions you might ask.

Good culture is more than just putting pool tables or a ‘relaxation zone’ in your business premises, especially if your employees are too stressed or overworked to use them! It involves helping your staff develop as individuals and also as part of their team.

Find candidates: Six recruitment agency alternatives

You could use a recruitment agency to try to find candidates for you. With their wide reach, they can locate people who might not otherwise hear about the role, but they usually charge quite a lot. For an important management-level position this might be worthwhile, but there are other options:

  1. Use your LinkedIn account
    Search for people in your location and field with the right skills. Update your profile to let people know you’re hiring.
  2. Talk to local business agencies
    Make sure you network socially in the real world. You may find yourself introduced to the ideal candidate.
  3. Add a We’re hiring! link to your website and email signatures
    Ensure it links to a page with up-to-date job vacancies and contact details.
  4. Advertise on job websites.
    These will charge, but usually not as much as recruitment agencies. You may receive some unsuitable applications from job-seekers taking the ‘scatter-gun’ approach, though.
  5. Ask your business partners and clients
    Tell them the type of person you’re looking for and see if they can refer anyone to you.
  6. Use your social media accounts to announce that you’re hiring
    The more places you advertise your requirements, the more likely you are to find candidates.

The amount you spend on advertising the role will depend on your budget. Keep track of costs in your accounting software, to make sure you don’t over-spend.

Make a short-list of applicants

Filtering applicants into a short-list can be time-consuming and requires a lot of thought. Look through each application and think about whether the person fits the criteria you’ve specified.

  • Consider their qualifications
    Are they relevant to the role? Are they up to date?
  • Look at their work experience
    Have they moved around a lot? That’s not necessarily a cause for concern but it might indicate potential problems.
  • What’s their background in your specific field?
    How much time have they spent working in environments that are similar to the role you’re offering? What relevant knowledge do they have?
  • Check their posts and behavior on social networks
    You’ll probably learn more about their background, maturity, and life skills. Don’t be too harsh here, because everyone needs to let off steam occasionally, but any recurring issues might need to be taken into account.

It’s also a good idea to check references before the interview stage, as it might save you time if something negative turns up.

Questions to ask when you interview candidates

Draw up a range of questions about each candidate’s career and skills. Include some open-ended questions so the candidates have the opportunity to talk about themselves and their goals. For example:

  • Ask them about their successes
    Encourage them to talk about their achievements, even those outside work. A well-rounded individual should be a useful addition to your team.
  • What do they think about your company?
    See if they’ve done their research about your business, as it’ll give you an idea of their commitment.
  • Enquire about hobbies and interests
    Employees with good work-life balance tend to be more productive and creative than those who are fixated on their careers. Find out what they read, what they watch, how they learn new skills.
  • Go for a walk with them
    Perhaps give them a tour of your premises or take them out for a coffee – and talk while you walk. You’ll get a better idea of their personality than you will in a formal interview environment.

Make sure you follow all legal requirements regarding privacy, discrimination, and fairness during the interview and recruitment process. Check local legislation to ensure you don’t make any costly mistakes.

What to look for so you can hire the right person

Hiring the wrong person can be expensive in terms of money and emotional stress, especially if you have to fire them soon afterward. So take the time to get it right. Some more things to consider include:

  • Personality
    Is this person going to fit into your existing team or will there be a personality clash? In a small business, this can be a critical issue.
  • Flexibility
    The ability to adapt to new and different tasks is a valuable skill.
  • Problem-solving ability
    Look for someone who uses logic and lateral thinking to overcome challenges.
  • Communication skills
    Knowledge is of little use unless it’s communicated. You need someone who’s approachable and easy to talk to.

As well as these points, try to hire someone who fits in with your strategy and core business values. And make sure it’s someone you can trust.

Above all, use your instincts

As a business owner, you sometimes have to go with what feels right, because that feeling is the reasoning of your unconscious mind.

The right person will almost certainly feel right to you, as well as ticking all the boxes for experience, qualifications, skills, and personality. If you have doubts about someone’s suitability to the role you’re offering, it’s probably best not to hire them.

Once you’ve hired the right people you can start to build them into a working team that will function efficiently and takes your business forward.

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