Towards a sense of belongings for LGTBI+ people in organizations


I have always said that a person is not just a man or a woman, from one race or another, with or without a specific sexual definition. This way of approaching diversity differs from positions focusing on equality, and does not foster inclusion, as it objectifies people based on some of their features. Diversity is defined by a set of identities that are interrelated in multiple ways within each person, comprising everchanging current situations, strongly influenced by the social, family or professional environment, along with other circumstances.

Following the advances that have been made regarding other diversities (which we are still making) in which, in general, there has always been a decoupled perspective, we find ourselves at a key stage in which to continue advancing in respect of a differentiating focus within organizations as regards LGTBI+ people. Beyond any significant political decisions, such as the recent executive order approved by Joe Biden to fight against anti-LGBTQ draft bills, and to encourage affirmation measures and inclusive environments, there are four parameters that should mark out the path to be followed in organisations for LGTBI+ people (as described in two recent studies[1]):

  1. On the one hand, it is important to create an organisational environment in which LGTBI+ people feel comfortable expressing their identity, although this decision to “come out of the closet” is entirely personal and never business-related, which should not prevent the creation of an open inclusive culture in which these people can freely decide whether or not to do so and, as a result, to protect their identity in the workplace. For this, it is necessary to develop internally the concept of cultural competence, i.e. the intention and capacity to comprehend, consider and interact with people from other cultures or belief systems allowing different perspectives to be observed and valued, developing a sense of purpose and individual responsibility. In this sense, interesting organisational tools and practices exist that can assist such inclusive places, such as, for example, the alliances arising from Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for LGTBI+ people.
  1. In addition, everyone within the organisation must place themselves in learning mode, in the sense that it is necessary to be aware and clearly understand that there may be undesirable or negative comments, actions or conduct meaning LGTBI+ people do not feel as they should in the workplace, with inclusive language taking on particular relevance in these cases (especially as regards the use of pronouns). In many cases, those comments that are harmful for the LGTBI+ community are not necessarily the result of total prejudice, but rather someone is simply not aware or has not had the necessary training. If people are not encouraged to recognise or become aware of these small mistakes in judgement or expression, it is possible they may never realise that what they are saying is offensive. When creating an environment of feedback, it is always possible to understand better.
  1. Expressly speaking out against the discrimination of LGTBI+ people is a way of performing inclusive leadership and ensuring psychological security for those people, creating an environment in which anyone may approach that person leading the organisation in a manner that is totally open.
  1. Organisations must go beyond the programmes they define in order to foster a truly respectful culture in which no non-inclusive actions are tolerated and everyone develops the necessary sense of belonging (Diversity + Equality + Inclusion = Sense of Belonging), which is the true ultimate purposes to be achieved, as being diverse, equitable and inclusive is not enough for creating an environment that helps people make the most of themselves, as they also need to feel that they belong and that they can maximise their opportunities. All of us form part of the backbone of organisational culture and belong to this reality.

Extending the famous quotation by Verna Myers, we may end by stating that diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance, equality is dancing without an invitation, but a sense of belonging is feeling free to ask whoever you want to dance with you.

Mario Rodríguez Lancho, Partner at Auren Personas

[1] Survey conducted by LinkedIn and YouGov among LGTBQ professionals, and the Deloitte Report entitled « LGBT+ Inclusion @ Work 2022: A Global Outlook», both dated June 2022.