It is important to be aware that every person – no matter what community they may belong to – is an individual with their unique identity and their own story to tell.
As outlined in my previous blog, it can be simple to put people from the LGBT+ community into a box or mistakenly believe that the experience of one person is representative of the experience of everyone from a marginalised group.
LGBT+ people exist within all communities, including people of colour, the young and old, people of faith and those with a disability, each bringing different lived experiences, perspectives and, sadly, levels of discrimination and oppression.
A gay man may have to deal with homophobia and a black man may have to face with racism, but a gay black man is likely to experience both. As such, they may find racism within the LGBT+ community and homophobia within the black community. Now consider if you were a lesbian Muslim. You might have to deal with racism, Islamophobia and sexism, as well as homophobia.
These aren’t just hypothetical examples. Recent reports and surveys highlight the influence having an intersectional identity has on the levels of discrimination and its effect on people’s working lives.
Findings from Stonewall show that a third (35%) of LGBT+ people hide their identity at work out of fear of discrimination, and this figure rises to 42% for black, Asian and minority ethnic employees and 51% for trans workers.
Meanwhile TotalJobs has recently published a study demonstrating that a lack of understanding of identities results in trans people not feeling able to bring their whole selves to their jobs. It found that 25% of trans people have experienced discrimination from co-workers, 33% have faced discrimination in job interviews and applications, and 53% believe they are met with more barriers in their progression to senior positions.
Disabled LGBT+ people are also heavily marginalised within society. With one in five LGBT+ people having experienced a hate crime or incident within the last 12 months, and one in three disabled people feeling that disability prejudice is still commonplace, they face discrimination against both parts of their identity.
While all these statistics make uncomfortable reading, it’s vitally important for leaders to acknowledge that the reality of living with an intersected identity means you often face multiple barriers and adversity.
As well as outright displays of discrimination and bullying, employees may fall victim to more subtle but just as damaging behaviours, such as exclusion and microaggressions, and could resort to code-switching – the process of hiding aspects of their true selves – to “fit” more comfortably into their surroundings.
People’s difficulties with accepting intersectional identities can also make someone feel like they don’t completely belong in one group or another, which can lead to isolation, depression and other mental health issues.
Here’s what you can do to take a stand against discrimination within the workplace and ensure everyone within the LGBT+ community, no matter what their identity, feels like they belong.
Communicate your values: Show your people what you stand for by publishing a positive statement, internally and on your website, stating your commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.
Visibility is key: Back up your statement by ensuring there is diversity, and representatives of intersectionality where possible, at all levels of your organisation.
Get it down in writing: Create a robust discrimination policy outlining exactly what is and is not acceptable behaviour, with a specific acknowledgement of the LGBT+ community and other marginalised groups.
Put it into practise: Ensure your words are transformed into action with proactive and regular equality and diversity training for everyone.
Provide reporting channels: Whether it’s through regular one-to-one reviews with managers, a dedicated Diversity Officer, an internal LGBT+ support group or an anonymous hotline, make sure employees are made aware of and provided with clear channels for reporting incidents of discrimination so you can tackle issues as quickly as possible.
Take action: Employees will feel confident that you are committed to stamping out discrimination if you take decisive action when incidences are reported. Be ready to launch internal investigations and use your power to sanction poor behaviour.
Listen: Take the time to gather feedback on the experiences of your employees and what your organisation could do better to help people bring their full selves to work. Regular surveys, focus groups or perspectives given during one-to-one catch-ups can all provide crucial insights.
Show your commitment to your people’s welfare with an employee hotline for reporting harassment, bullying and discrimination. The Tell Jane freephone hotline offers an anonymous and independent platform for employees to air their concerns. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Have a read of our other blog posts which may be of interest!