Pride Month: Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Around the world, June is recognized as Pride Month, commemorating a tipping point in LGBTQ+ history during the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The purpose is to celebrate the impact LGBTQ+ members have had on the community. However, we cannot forget about also honouring this tradition in the workplace. It’s important to take a moment this month to celebrate our differences and work towards a more inclusive future in the workplace.

The Society for Human Resource Management defines inclusion as “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.” So, let’s take the opportunity to discuss how employers can join the trend of improving these qualities at work and learn why inclusion is so important for employee wellbeing.

Statistical Truths About Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace 

A Harvard Business Review study surveyed over 16,000 employees from 14 countries in 2019. The research found some pretty interesting realities about how LGBTQ+ people feel they fit into their company’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) policies. Unfortunately, 75% of underrepresented groups (LGBTQ+, women, racial and ethnic minorities) do not feel that they’re benefiting from their companies’ D&I programs. To add to this, members of majority groups continue to underestimate obstacles that underrepresented employees face.

However, on the flip side, a sizeable majority (61%) of employees still believe diversity and inclusion strategies are beneficial and essential, from research at Quantum Workplace. These employee perceptions of D&I play a pivotal role in employee engagement and thus impact company culture. Employees who believe “no change in D&I is needed” tend to be more engaged compared to those who believe their organization needs D&I improvements. So, those underrepresented individuals who desire more intensive D&I programs tend to feel less a part of their company culture in the first place—a disheartening reality.

How can employers change this disconnect? It starts with improving inclusion. One-third of employees surveyed from the Quantum Workplace report believe an inclusive culture must be developed before diversity can thrive. If organizations do not foster supportive and open company culture, efforts towards diversity are likely inefficient. To develop a culture of inclusion, this research shows employees believe that the most essential factor is building respect.

“Though flexible in definition, respect is expressed in some very common-sense ways. But common sense doesn’t always drive behaviour in the workplace.” – Lisa D’Annolfo Levey Founder & Principal, GenderWorks.

Building respect is the foundation to creating an inclusive environment where all employees embody the D&I policies in place. However, all employees across the board must embrace these qualities in order for D&I benefits to thrive.

Here are some practices to build respect at work from Lisa D’Annolfo Levey:

  1. Listen
    • Hear out your employees and coworkers. Empathetically build off of others’ contributions. “The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply” – Stephen Covey.
  2. Show curiosity
    • Get to know your co-workers—this can be done by simply asking about family, friends, weekend or after-work plans, etc. Exhibiting even small acts of interest shows that you value your co-workers’ lives outside of work.
  3. Respect people’s time
    • Be on time, intellectually and physically (or virtually), to all interactions with employees. Values others’ time as if it were your own.
  4. Praise employee contributions 
    • Take note of the positive impact people bring to work. By learning to celebrate all sizes of achievements, people will feel respected and motivated to keep on winning.

The Relationship Between Diversity, Inclusion, and Mental Health

Employees with diverse backgrounds still face discrimination, misrepresentation, biases, micro-aggressions, and other forms of stressors every day. These barriers undoubtedly impact psychological safety and mental health at work. Research has found that at least one in five LGBTQ+ Americans have experienced discrimination in the workplace because of their LGBTQ+ identity. Furthermore, it is known that some LGBTQ+ people have limited access to health and mental health support, therefore likely adding stress to accessing proper mental wellbeing resources at work. Given the impact, employers need to comprehend that accessible mental health is imperative to creating an inclusive workplace.

While employers broaden their D&I strategies, not only for the LGBTQ+ community, but also in race/ethnicity, gender, age, physical ability, socioeconomic status, educational background, ways of thinking, family status, and lifestyles, we can ensure that employees from diverse backgrounds feel included to get the mental health support they need. As employers move from words to actions, they must comprehend how supporting employee mental health is key to being a part of the solution. By having access to adequate workplace mental health resources, from counselling services to mental health screening tools, investing in workplace wellness is an essential element to an effective D&I strategy.

After all, having equal access to resources that contribute to individuals’ resilience and allow all employees to thrive in the workplace is the foundation to inclusion. D&I and mental health go hand-in-hand.