Driving LGBTQ+ Change From Within

The tech industry is one that goes through constant change. From the invention of the internet to the creation of the cloud, digital transformation and beyond, we are taught, as an industry to be ready for the next big change. 

As a sector that’s always ready for change, you’d think that this industry would have been ready for “people transformation” an evolving workforce focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. And while the tech sector is one of the more progressive industries, the LGBTQ+ community can feel a little left out. 

In June around the world, organisations celebrate Pride Month. Visit social media and you’ll see an array of rainbow logos and statements from companies that say they’re inclusive, yet this does not inspire LGBTQ+ people to disclose their identity in the workplace. In fact, in a recent survey by Indeed, only 30.7% of LGBTQ+ employees are out to everyone at work and according to Stonewall, one in five feel that being LGBTQ+ limits their job opportunities.

A Lack Of Data

In recent years, there has been a huge focus on getting more women into the tech industry. In the UK, any organisation with over 250 employees must publish a gender pay gap report and with the Gender Pay Gap Bot on X (formerly known as Twitter), companies are becoming more accountable for building a gender-inclusive organisation. Unfortunately, such requirements do not exist for LGBTQ+ inclusion even though the LGBTQ+ pay gap is almost double the gender pay gap at 16%. 

A 2022 study by TechNation looked at diversity and inclusion in UK tech. While this report did a deep dive into the experiences of women, BAME and younger employees in tech, it overlooked the experiences of LGBTQ+ people. 

With a lack of data, combined with a larger pay gap, it’s no wonder so many LGBTQ+ people hide their true selves at work. This is why it is so important to look out for the LGBTQ+ community.

Ignorance Is Bliss, But Education Is Change

If you’re not a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it can be very easy to ignore the problem. In countries like the UK, it can look like the LGBTQ+ community has the same rights as the rest of the population because of recent developments such as equal marriage. However, conversion therapy, an intervention that seeks to “cure” LGBTQ+, still exists, and trans people must be diagnosed with gender dysphoria to receive gender-affirming treatments. This is just a scratch at the surface of LGBTQ+ experiences and the burden they carry every single day. It is impossible for the community to leave the burden at home before coming to work which is why being an ally is important. 

LGBTQ+ charity, AKT, describes being an ally as people “who try to use their influence to elevate the voices of underrepresented groups and help bring their struggles larger mainstream discussion.” Put simply, it’s someone who is looking out for others, and giving them the support they need. As tech organisations, we need to educate people on the importance of being an ally and the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community to truly build an inclusive culture. 

It’s important to remember that when it comes to allyship, we’re only human and we will make mistakes. Being an ally is not a qualification but more of an indication, a sign to your LGBTQ+ peers to say “hey, I’m here for you, and I want to learn more”.

Global Organisations Have A Big Role To Play

Being an ally goes beyond the individual, and if your company is flying a rainbow flag in June, you need to be an ally for the LGBTQ+ community all year round. Most companies will have a code of conduct protecting people against discrimination, but we must look deeper into our policies, training and learning sessions to make people feel included. 

With 64 countries criminalising “homosexual activity” and many more not having legal protection in the workplace, we need to stand up for our people. This means that as tech companies, we need to put our people first. If your organisation operates in a country that isn’t LGBTQ+ friendly, you must reiterate the protections your employees have when they are working for you. 

Additionally, training and education can create a culture shift, teaching people how to treat LGBTQ+ people. With 53% of LGBTQ+ people being reluctant to come out at work due to jokes, and 1 in 5 being told they need to dress more masculine or feminine, we have a responsibility as an employer – and across the industry - to create this culture shift. 

Think Outside The Box

While LGBTQ+ inclusion is important, we must look at all angles of diversity and inclusion with an intersectional lens. WomanKind defines intersectionality as “the acknowledgement that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression and we must consider everything and anything that can marginalise people”.

This means that people can be marginalised from multiple angles. LGBTQ+ people may belong to multiple groups such as being a person of colour or identifying as a woman which means that they could experience the marginalisation of those groups as well as being LGBTQ+.  

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to LGBTQ+ inclusion, but as tech organisations, we all have a vital role in fostering an inclusive environment where everyone feels included and takes a continuous learning approach. We can’t “get it right” 100% of the time, but if we try, we’re already on the right path. 

Caroline Griffin Pain is General Counsel at Colt                             Image: Geralt

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