Realising the value of diversity in the workplace

Davin Roche

Davin Roche, Director of Workplace Diversity at the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), writes that there are many benefits that come from employers, not just employees,  embracing inclusivity and diversity in the workplace. 

The positive impact of Health Minister Leo Varadkar TD speaking publicly about being a gay man earlier this year dovetails with positive comment from industry leaders such as the ESB’s Pat O’Doherty and IBM’s Peter O’Neill.  It is clear that more and more employers are seeing the value of investing in LGBT equality and inclusion in the workplace.

But there is still much to do. Minister Varadkar is one of approximately 170,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the Irish workforce, almost half have not come out. It is clear that executive leaders can play a significant role communicating a message that is translated into inclusive practice and culture throughout the business.

Companies need to ask themselves, are their personnel equipped to support LGBT employees who want to be open about who they really are? Our own evidence shows that when LGBT people come out at work it is more likely to be to their peers than to their manager, but the relationship with the latter is critical in order for companies to be able to engage with their employees. One in four LGBT people have experienced bullying or harassment at work while one in ten have missed work as a result. Minister Varadkar was fortunate with the support of An Taoiseach when he was coming out, can most LGBT people say the same thing?

Many are still navigating their way through workplaces with cultures that do not promote inclusivity of all. This is unfortunate for the employee and the company. Surveys show that LGBT people who are out are more engaged, report higher levels of job satisfaction and stay longer in organisations.

GLEN works with a wide range of employers to ensure that their equality and diversity initiatives include LGBT issues through our Diversity Champions Programme and network for employers.

We recently launched the Workplace Equality Index, to allow employers to benchmark their organisations on LGBT diversity and inclusion, this is an initiative supported by many major employers, such as IBM; “The Workplace Equality Index allows participating organisations to get an independent assessment of their LGBT diversity policies and practices. It provides us with an incentive to improve and demonstrates that diversity is vital to our success,” said Peter O’Neill of IBM.

Davin Roche

Director of Workplace Diversity

Diversity Champions – Ireland’s Network of LGBT Inclusive Employers

www.diversitychampions.ie  

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