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10/ 21/ 2015


Boost Innovation & Unleash Creativity:

Develop a Fun & Creative Culture at Work presented by

Jillian Mood, Director of Talent Aquisition & Culture, Magmic CENTURIAN CONFERENCE & EVENT CENTER 170 COLONNADE RD, OTTAWA

Diverging Perspectives on LGBT+ SelfIdentification and Inclusion in the Workplace I n many organizations, there are HR systems to collect demographic information about employees, but often only about groups protected under Employment Equity legislation. The unintended consequence of these practices is the erroneous message that diversity is limited to these four groups (i.e., women, aboriginal identities, ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities). A report published by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, in partnership with the University of Guelph, examined the issues of self-identification, inclusion, and discrimination in the workplace for LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, and other sexual and gender minorities) employees. One of the largest studies of its kind, the report summarizes survey responses from over 1400 Canadians. It is common for employees and organizations to dismiss sexuality and gender identity as characteristics unrelated to the workplace. This is especially common among heterosexual and cisgender individuals (cisgender indicates someone who identifies with their birth-assigned gender). The assumption is that sexuality and gender identity are private matters that should not be discussed at work. However, this neglects the complexity of a person’s identity and discounts how heterosexual and cisgender individuals often openly bring their identities to work with them every day. Sexuality includes having a photograph of a significant other on a desk, or talking about what someone did on the weekend with their partner. Many heterosexuals do not realize that they are already “out” with their sexuality by virtue of their ability to discuss these things openly. Furthermore, sexuality is part of the workplace when we think about work-family policies, such as parental leave, partner benefits, and who is invited to workbased social events. On the other hand, gender identity is often not talked about in the workplace because many people have no understanding about what gender identity means. As a result, discrimination in workplaces towards

individuals with minority gender identities is common. In addition to outright harassment and discrimination, trans-employees may not receive appropriate health benefits, have access to a safe workspace, or freedom to present their identity in a preferred fashion, and colleagues may identify these employees by the wrong pronoun or name. Sexual orientation and gender identity are important topics within work environments, but most employers, coworkers, and clients are unaware of how to approach these subjects. What are the best practices for being inclusive? How can employers talk about sexual orientation and gender identity without infringing on people’s privacy, or making LGBT+ employees feel uncomfortable, in the spotlight, or tokenized? Some of the key findings, from the report shed light on these questions.

IMPORTANCE OF BEING “OUT” AT WORK There were significant differences between heterosexual/cisgender and LGBT+ employees on the importance of being out at work. Nearly half of non-LGBT+ respondents indicated it was not important to be out at work, in contrast to 85% of LGBT+ respondents indicating it was at least somewhat important to be out at work. LGBT+ respondents were more likely to be “out” or public with their sexual orientation, and less likely to be out with their gender identity. Human resources professionals should take note that more than two-thirds of all respondents felt that employers should provide employees the opportunity to formally self-identify if they wish.

MISUNDERSTANDING AND OVERSIMPLIFICATION OF GENDER IDENTITIES Many respondents expressed that there is a lack of understanding regarding gender identity and how we allow individuals to share their identities. Most importantly, when we only use the term “LGBT,” we

oversimplify sexual orientation and gender identities. HR professionals should consider allowing employees to write in their identities to allow individuals the autonomy to authentically self-disclose.

LACK OF AWARENESS OF DISCRIMINATION The survey revealed a misunderstanding and underestimation by non-LGBT+ people of the experiences of discrimination faced by LGBT+ employees: • 67.2% of non-LGBT+ respondents said there is no discrimination against LGBT+ employees; • 29.1% of LGBT+ employees report having experienced discrimination; and • 33.2% of LGBT+ and 21% of non-LGBT+ employees report having witnessed it. For those who had experienced discrimination, one-fifth (19.7%) report occurrences several times per month, 8% reported occurrences several times per week, and 4.3% reported daily occurrences.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR HR PROFESSIONALS AND EMPLOYERS Multiple recommendations emerged from the research for how employers can improve inclusion for LGBT+ and all employees.

AUTONOMY IN LGBT+ SELF-DISCLOSURE All employees should be given the opportunity to self-identify in HR processes, including LGBT+ identities. Disclosures should be voluntary and confidential, and employers should communicate the purpose for the data collection and privacy protocols that ensure confidentiality of employees’ personal information. Furthermore, an organization must build trust with employees before expecting disclosure.

ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE CHANGE. Creating an inclusive culture takes time and dedication, though more employers

are realizing how important it is. An organization that is not inclusive is likely to have more disengaged employees and higher turnover. There are a number of things organizations can do to provide an inclusive work environment: • Assess policies and procedures to ensure they are not biased; • Use gender neutral wording in communications and policies; • Provide education to staff about sexual orientation and gender identity; • Develop diversity and inclusion strategies and initiatives; • Implement diversity councils and/or employee resource (network) groups; and • Encourage non-LGBT+ people to become allies and support inclusion for all.

A CONSIDERATION FOR EMPLOYERS While there is no definitive research on exactly how many LGBT+ people there are in Canada, if you have a significant number of employees, and few or none are “out” at work, employers should ask themselves what about the culture or environment of your workplace is deterring people from disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity. As HR professionals, it is our responsibility to create inclusive cultures, where each every employee feels comfortable to be themselves at work. To read the full report, visit: Thomas Sasso is Co-Founder of the Sexual and Gender Diversity Research Lab at the University of Guelph, where he is a PhD candidate in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Cathy Gallagher-Louisy is the Director, Knowledge Services at the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, where she leads the organization’s research portfolio and provides consulting and training services.

Sharing knowledge SubScribe to the Workplace MatterS, an employment law blog published by the employment law Group at Nelligan O’Brien Payne. Keep up to date on employment law issues and practical insights on all areas of employment law for employees and employers in the private and public sector. Check it out today at: Subscribe here: HR Update Employment Law Blog Ad.indd 1



The Human Resource Professionals Association Ottawa chapter publication


The Human Resource Professionals Association Ottawa chapter publication