Companies across the world are increasingly giving recognition of, and commitment to, LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) diversity and inclusion. And so they should, as businesses have a key role to play in contributing to a more just society by creating inclusive workplaces where employees can be themselves.
Without diversity, life would be very boring. We would live in a very sterile and animatronic world where innovation suffers, progress stalls and businesses fail to change with the times. Diversity and inclusion are just as important in the workplace as they are in any other aspect of life. This has been known and understood throughout my time in HR, and, in many ways, remains the biggest challenge that most organisations face.
That, of course, means including people from different backgrounds, cultures, age groups and ethnicities. But it also goes much deeper than that. The most successful, forward-thinking and adaptable organisations consciously hire people who think or behave in diverse ways, and who are prepared to challenge traditional ways of thinking within that organisation.
Building a working culture which embraces diversity requires an acute awareness of the unconscious biases that encourage everyone within an organisation – from the chief executive to graduates – to surround themselves with people who think and act like them.
Most organisations will argue they do this already. They will say they are inclusive, but, often, they still let their unconscious bias rule their hiring decisions – meaning they revert to type and hire people similar to themselves. Everyone has inherent biases. The trick to stopping those biases ruling decision-making within an organisation is to promote awareness. Once we become aware of how our own biases are affecting the decisions we make, then we are less governed by them and more likely to make a more informed choice.
To understand the opportunities and challenges of achieving a more diverse workforce we need to understand that being ‘out’ at work and having true diversity in your workforce is better for an employee’s performance and therefore good for overall productivity.
Integrating diverse thinking connects leaders with employees, LGBT with allies and businesses with society. This change needs to be driven by demonstrably inclusive leadership. If executives - allies and LGBT alike - understand the potential for positive change, the opportunity is huge. There is a clear role for SEA to help support progressive leaders who understand the need to engage responsibly with a rapidly changing word and bring them together to discuss the economic and social purpose of business.