With Pride Month in full swing, let’s take the opportunity to talk about LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace – what is happening in the job market right now, what can we do to improve our collective well-being and what are the challenges faced on each side of this story.
About Michelle ‘Michi’ Raymond & myGwork
For this discussion, we joined forces with Michelle ‘Michi’ Raymond – Diversity & Inclusion consultant by day, musician by night. An alum of an EFMD school, IE Business School, Michi is now the Business Development Director at myGwork – a global networking hub and job board for LGBTQ+ professionals and graduates. She works with companies worldwide – educating them, providing resources for proper, authentic support for the LGBTQ+ community, and in turn helping said global community to reach inclusive employers.
Before hosting a live discussion with Michi (streaming live on Thursday, 24 June), we sat down with her to talk about the students and graduates in the community, as well as schools and employers. What challenges are they all facing on the job market, and how do we approach those obstacles?
Watch us live on YouTube on 24 June, 13:00 CEST for a discussion with Michi on being out in the office. Students and graduates, Career Services, and employers will all get a chance to ask questions and find out more about such topics as finding and becoming an inclusive workplace, the future of the market or gender-inclusive language and communication practices.
Watch live and set a reminder!
Is the job market becoming more inclusive?
From the LGBTQ+ talent’s point of view, the state of the job market is getting better and healthier – slowly, but surely. Luckily, “the demand for talent is higher and employers simply can’t afford to be picky”, Michi says. For this pragmatic reason alone, “employers open their eyes more towards different candidates that used to be outside of the scope where their ‘ideal’ candidate would be. However, until hiring managers and talent acquisition specialists take a close look into how to diversify the talent pool, they’re never going to achieve diversity. It takes money, time, and commitment – not every company has resources for that. However, let’s keep in mind that the ones that do have that opportunity and use it wisely are seeing very good results – such as higher retention, or profitability”. It takes some extra effort, yet building a more diverse talent pool and a more inclusive environment is clearly beneficial to all. This is a direct sign that, as employers, we should all drive towards achieving that goal – a non-discriminatory, healthy workplace for all.
Challenges on both sides of the inclusion issue
What challenges do employers face?
Michi’s daily work involves talking with employers who want to build a more inclusive workplace and diversify their talent pool. These include both: those who are already hosting or sponsoring events in the LGBTQ+ space and putting out content related to their Diversity Statement, and those without a significant diversity presence. The latter are the ones that myGwork sees as an opportunity to support the broader diversity and inclusion agenda. Organizations that want to expand their diversity and inclusion efforts, but don’t necessarily know how, have the opportunity to work closely with myGwork and devise D&I and employer branding strategies to authentically reach members of the LGBTQ+ business community.
There are many challenges that arise for an employer who is setting their first steps on the road to diversity. One of the main struggles is authentic employer branding. Companies don’t want to come off as inauthentic in the support for the community without having solid policies to back up that claim. Which is the right approach – Michi suggests that a great step towards authenticity for employers is simply talking with their own employees. Transparency and support for those community members who are in their closest environment is key – let them share their story and their experience working for this company and see where you can go from there. Employer branding is an important stage of becoming a more inclusive company, in order to be “attractive for someone who might want to work there but at the same time is not ‘flashy’ and strictly connected with marketing”.
Facing many challenges for employers often needs proper training and professional advice. There are many company- or example-specific issues, especially at a later stage in recruitment (such as job interviews), where myGwork brings out the big guns. Michelle says that, as advisors to employers, to some extent they can only speak for themselves, give some suggestions and share personal preferences – “that’s why we partner with trainers and coaches who dedicate 100% of their day to researching and understanding these specific issues, so when we see an employer struggling with more complex problems, that’s who we call”. One such example? “We had one company that was really struggling with their imagery for marketing and we recommended feedback from one of our training partners, who actually pointed out that other communities would likely take offense in what the company proposed. By reaching out for help from trainers, they possibly avoided backlash and maybe a PR scandal.” Using the help of professional trainers and coaches can have an outstanding effect on the company’s growth as an inclusive workplace for the LGBTQ+ community.
What challenges does talent face?
We’ve been over this many times – disqualification during recruitment (as this study published by András Tilcsik in the American Journal of Sociology reports), unequal wages, and higher job instability and probability of getting fired (as Michi pointed out in this article).
So, the ultimate question arises – to come out and state it in my CV or not? Even though the statistics are clearly advising against that, we all know it’s not this simple. There is no straight answer to this question – it all comes down to a personal decision conditioned by many factors, such as financial situation, goals, career path, and, of course, personal drive, determination, and values.
Michi’s struggle in meandering through the job market was driven by her search for acceptance in the workplace, and against the current of being advised otherwise by family and friends, she decided to keep everything in her resume as is: “If I get the interview, and it’s with an employer who is not going to embrace me for who I am, then I don’t want to be there anyways. It’s just a waste of my time – instead I’d rather be rejected so I can spend time having meaningful interviews with those who will accept me for who I am. Statistically, I would’ve had a job sooner and I struggled financially but I said no – this is who I am, this is what I do – take it or leave it.” However, she points out she had the “luxury” of prolonging her search, whereas many simply cannot afford that move. In the end it all depends on what a person is looking for – whether it’s financial stability, feeling included at your company, growth possibilities, or else.
The question then is – does it have to be one or the other?
Let’s bring the change closer…
… at school
How can we bring the change closer to the LGBTQ+ community? Let’s start with education. A recent report conducted by Just Like Us, a UK-based LGBT+ young people’s charity (who are currently celebrating School Diversity Week) says that “young people who attend schools who take part in LGBT+ inclusion work are likely to have better mental health outcomes than those who attend schools that don’t – whether they are LGBT+ or not”. This statement should be the greatest incentive for schools to take action.
First, get proper Diversity & Inclusion training from the top down. Educate yourselves on supporting LGBTQ+ students before approaching step two – providing counselling not only on mental health but also the job market. Career Services have to be aware of the specific challenges faced by both talent in this community and employers. Last but not least, educate the rest of the student community about those challenges, celebrate inclusion, support students in their attempt at starting their own initiatives and reach out to inclusion-oriented organizations (and there are many ready to help out!).
… for us all
Only by coming together, we can make a change for the better living of the whole job market and our ecosystems. So here’s a call to arms – let’s educate, share and grow together. Let’s discuss and work on solutions instead of avoiding coming to terms with the truth and superficially getting rid of the problem claiming it’s not ours. We are all collectively responsible for our well-being in the ecosystem.
To quote Lady Phyll from UK Black Pride, “instead of calling people out, we should be calling people in”.