Every year, June marks Pride Month – a month where millions of people representing LGBTQ+ communities and allies celebrate and honor the queer identity with parties, parades, picnics, learning events, and more.
DEI isn’t just about Pride, and Pride isn’t just about DEI. But there is a clear relationship between the two, so Pride serves as a good time to revisit – and possibly recharge – the DEI efforts within your organization.
While that sounds like a serious task in the context of a celebratory month, it makes sense when you consider that the first Pride celebrations weren’t really celebrations at all; they were protests against the horrible and inhumane discrimination the queer community faced every day of their lives. Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall Uprising, a six day long clash between police and protesters in Manhattan in June, 1969.
There has been much progress over the ensuing years. Among the most notable milestones (albeit a far too recent one) was the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2020 that gay and transgender employees are protected from workplace discrimination by the Civil Rights Act.
Despite the progress to date, there is still much work to be done to reach true inclusion and equity. Unconscious bias exists in every workplace – the only variance is the extent to which they’re allowed to affect policies and procedures – and LGBTQ+ workers face microaggressions on a daily basis. Perhaps most concerning is the fact that a significant percentage of LGBTQ+ workers report that they’re not out at work. That doesn’t serve anyone well – the employee or the employer. Employees that feel seen and heard for who they really are can focus on their performance and results. A more inclusive workplace means better and happier employees, which means a more successful company.
Diversity and Inclusion Means Business Success
That’s not just speculation; studies prove it. According to Deloitte, inclusive workplaces are six times as likely to be innovative, and have over twice the cash flow per employee over non-inclusive workplaces. Results from another study – a joint effort by Boston Consulting Group and the Technical University of Munich – showed that companies with higher diversity scores see 38% more revenue from innovative products and services than companies with lower scores.
As recruiters, we are Human Resource leaders who have tremendous influence in making our workplaces – and, in the case of agency recruiters, even our clients’ workplaces – not only accepting, but truly inclusive for everyone. Only when companies draw from diverse talent pools can they promote diversity and work towards inclusion. And that begins with hiring practices that are DEI-informed.
This Pride Month, let’s take a look at several high-impact ways you can bolster your company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Strengthen Leadership Buy-In
Without support from the top, any other efforts to strengthen DEI will almost certainly fail. True inclusion isn’t possible unless it’s part of the fabric of the entire organization, and that has to come from leadership. Pride Month is a great time to create opportunities to educate and inform company leadership, creating a safe opportunity – with no judgment – for dialogue and questions. If it’s not already there, perhaps Pride Month could be the time to add Inclusion as a corporate value.
Bias affects all aspects of interactions and relationships between people – in the workplace and elsewhere. Recognizing and mitigating the impact of bias in the recruitment and hiring process is a key first step in creating a more inclusive workplace.
Being human means being biased. We make snap judgments about many things in life, people included. This is neither bad nor good, it’s just a fact. Our brains do this because it’s the only way to process the amount of information we take in at any given time. This being the case, trying to eliminate bias is a fool’s errand. It’s not possible. The goal is to become aware of bias, and mitigate its effect on things that it shouldn’t influence. Like hiring new employees, for example.
Way back in 1952, the Boston Symphony Orchestra changed the way they auditioned new musicians, and other orchestras followed suit. From that point on, players auditioned behind a screen, so that evaluators couldn’t see them, they could only hear them. They even carpeted the pathway to the room so that the sound of shoe soles wouldn’t be a clue as to the gender of the musician. Prior to this change, the orchestra was much more likely to hire a male musician than a female one. After the change, when the audition was based on performance alone, the ratio flipped: the Orchestra was slightly more likely to hire a woman than a man.
This is only one example of the power of unconscious bias in hiring decisions. The ‘first impression bias’ also carries tremendous weight in its three variations. The ‘halo effect’ kicks in when a good first impression is made, meaning everything that person says or does thereafter is viewed in that favorable light. The ‘horns effect’ has exactly the opposite effect. And the ‘personal similarity’ effect causes people to gravitate to (and possibly look more favorably on hiring) people who remind them of themselves.
Companies can compensate for these kinds of bias in a number of different ways. An increasing number of organizations are using blind resumes, in which only the skills and experience of the candidate are visible, with no information about the gender or nationality of the applicant. These companies also eliminate social media checks for the same reason – to avoid any bias in hiring based on appearance or lifestyle. Many companies front-load their hiring processes with skill tests, which perform a similar function: focusing on the skills and abilities of the candidate rather than factors related to their personal identity.
Bias in hiring can start long before an interview ever takes place, though. When you look at job postings, how often do you use words like ‘driven’ and ‘competitive’? How about ‘cooperation’ and ‘teamwork’? Men are more likely to apply to the former; women to the latter. Take a critical look at the way open jobs – and the ideal candidates to fill them – are described, and eliminate language that carries gender bias. Not sure where to start? There are tools online that will evaluate the language you use, point out words and phrases that could bias the audience, and suggest alternatives.
Use and Promote Inclusive Language
Pronouns are a critical aspect of gender identity. A growing number of companies are asking employees to include their pronouns in email signatures, and in internal collaboration platforms as well. If your company isn’t doing this already, Pride Month could be a great time to start.
Internal corporate communication can be guilty of using language that’s not inclusive, too. This would be a good time to scan internal documents and other communications for ‘he and she’, and substitute ‘they’ instead.
Create Inclusive Spaces
With more and more companies going virtual, with employees working out of the office some or all of the time, Pride presents a great opportunity to host virtual events with an inclusion theme – fun, social gatherings, or learning events like workshops.
For companies who have employees in a physical space, this month could be the right time to consider gender inclusive restrooms.
Finally, take a look at the potential that Employee Resource Groups have to promote inclusion in the workplace. In addition to providing a safe and supportive environment for people to connect with each other, they can also be part of the solution process – acting as a sounding board to help leadership understand what additional changes should be made, and why. It’s important to note that ERG’s with an LGBTQ+ focus typically include members that join as allies – in some cases even more than half.
This Pride Month, there’s much progress to celebrate. There’s also much work yet to be done. Celebrate Pride with all your employees, and make it a month to celebrate and learn together. At the same time, use it as an occasion to dig deeper into your DEI practices, making your organization a more inclusive one for every one of your employees, and a stronger, more competitive company.