You may have noticed it’s that time of year again when companies change their logos with rainbow flags. You might think this isn’t even an issue in this day and age in the UK, with legislation and society being more accepting towards the LGBTQ+ community. Job done, right?
Sadly there is still a long way to go. Stonewall research shows us that more than a third of LGBTQ+ staff (35%) hide who they are at work. Research has also shown that nearly a third of young LGBTQ+ people (30%) avoid careers in science, technology, engineering and maths because of negative stereotypes and fear of discrimination.
This has a knock-on effect on all companies including tech companies, because having diverse teams is essential for businesses that want to stay relevant to their customers, and competitive in the talent market.
In this blog post we’re going to share the benefits of improving diversity in your business, and 7 practical actions you can implement to make your LGBTQ+ colleagues feel more welcome.
Benefits of diversity in teams for businesses
If you are still reading this then the chances are that you are aware of the importance and value of having a diverse team. You know your business will have access to more creativity and wider skill sets, opinions and perspectives. Plus, more diverse ideas for solving business problems, which will help your company grow.
But in case you need some stats to help support your plans, we’ve got your back!
- Corporations identified as more diverse and inclusive are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors. (McKinsey)
- Diverse companies are 70% more likely to capture new markets. (HBR)
- Diverse teams are 87% better at making decisions. (People Management)
- Diverse management teams lead to 19% higher revenue. (BCG)
- 74% of millennials believe their organization is more innovative when it has a culture of inclusion (Deloitte)
- 47% of millennials are actively looking for diversity in the workplace when sizing up potential employers (WeberShandwick)
At GearedApp one of our developers, Céleste (they/them) shared how much they valued being comfortable and safe to be their authentic self at work. “When you don’t need to worry about hiding your identity at work you can focus more on doing your job well.” They said this was due to company culture created by leadership.
Raising awareness and making changes to language that is used in GearedApp from the top down, helped to make them feel more welcome and included. Normalising more inclusive language and attitudes within GearedApp has helped to make discussions more open and transparent, which has improved communication and benefits the whole team.
One of our Project Managers, Kirsty (she/her) explains why this has been so important in her career journey. “The mental energy and stress to police and hide your identity, because you are worried about how your career will progress, reduces the level of bond within teams and becomes a barrier to getting the best out of people. You can’t achieve your or your team’s full potential if you don’t have trust within the team, where everyone can be their full self. Having diverse teams that are happy to speak openly, can help others feel more comfortable to be their authentic selves as well. It creates a ripple effect. At GearedApp having rituals like our Monday Morning Warm-Up call, where we talk about our weekend and our Friday Debriefs, is a great opportunity to normalise sharing life and interests outside work, especially helping make remote workers feel more connected. Being able to talk openly about our partners is just as important as walking in a Pride Parade.”
You can read more about the importance of investing in your company culture here:
7 important steps companies should take to improve diversity in their teams
1: Awareness of language
Be aware of your use of language when communicating and writing your company policies. A great proportion of the problem is through exclusion by omission or accidental/unintentional exclusion. Whether this is through using gendered terms used in your parental leave policies or talking about partners at work with the default assumption that everyone is cis-gendered and heterosexual.
2: Normalise the use of pronouns in introductions
This simple and virtually effortless way to make LGBTQ+ people feel more included is easy to implement on your LinkedIn profiles, slack profiles and email signatures. Normalising this within your teams by introducing colleagues with their preferred pronouns when meeting new team members or clients. This can avoid people feeling excluded and give a small hint that someone doesn’t need to hide who they are.
3: Hire a Diversity and Inclusion consultant
If you don’t have the lived experience of any particular minority within your leadership team, the unconscious biases within your company may unintentionally prevent people from diverse backgrounds from even applying for positions in your company in the first place. Hiring a specialist consultant in this field could help you.
4: Create a more open and inclusive culture
Discuss inclusion and diversity in team meetings, ask what could be improved, ask team members for input for design and tech considerations for example, form fields asking for titles or gender. Are they really needed? If so make sure the options are inclusive. Seeing things through the point of view of your LGBTQ+ team members and making small changes can make a huge difference.
5: Inclusive hiring practices
The outdated language of ‘we don’t see colour’ or ‘we hire the best person for the job regardless of background’ enables biases to continue, because the barriers to opportunities for minorities still exist. Having a positive bias in your hiring for a minority could add many intangible benefits to your team. And so bring more outside perspectives and ideas that a monocultural organisation might not have considered.
6: Stop sitting on the fence
Companies coping out and avoiding issues around diversity, whether it’s not calling out inappropriate language and behaviours or doing business with a discriminatory client or in a discriminatory country. It speaks volumes about where your true values lie. Your customers and staff prefer companies that align with their values and do the right thing and they will vote with their feet and wallets.
7: Actions speak louder than a rainbow logo
One of the arguments some companies use to not show support for the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalised groups (or any other causes for that matter) is the potential for backlash for virtue signalling or being ‘too political’. This is easy to remedy by taking real action. Some easy practical things you could do are: donating to causes like Stonewall, LGBT Youth Scotland, or Mermaids; sharing resources with your teams like documentaries, articles or TEDx talks; highlighting LGBTQ+ role models within your industry; or hiring a speaker to give a presentation to your organisation.
If you have any LGBTQ+ team members, here are some groups and organisations for support and community:
Queercode Scotland is a community of queer coders. We build tech together, share our ideas at local meetups, and provide support for queer people working in software development.
Lesbians Who Tech is open to the LGBTQ+ community and its 50,0000 members include women as well as nonbinary, trans, and gender-nonconforming individuals. The organization aims to connect LGBTQ+ tech workers and to create more visibility for queer, female, trans, GNC, and POC leaders in the industry. Lesbians Who Tech also offers the Edie Windsor Coding scholarship, which grants scholarships to LGBTQ+ women and nonbinary tech workers to help kickstart their technology careers.
Out in Tech has 16 chapters with 40,000 members and touts itself as the “world’s largest nonprofit community of LGBTQ+ tech leaders.” The purpose of Out in Tech is to create opportunities for members to “advance their careers, grow their networks, and leverage tech for social change.” The organization also offers a mentorship program for LGBTQ+ youth aged 17-24, pairing members with a mentee to help them learn technical and professional skills.
LGBTQ in Technology Slack is a safe space for LGBTQ+ people in tech to chat, support one another, and connect virtually over a Slack channel. This moderated Slack channel is open to people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning, as well as “any of the many other subgenres of people who are not generally considered both ‘straight’ and cis.” It’s a great way to connect with other LGBTQ+ individuals in tech in a casual and low-pressure environment.
Queer Coders is a community for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer coders, developers, programmers, designers, analysts, data wranglers, “technophiles,” and allies. Members can network with other LGBTQ+ coders and analysts through forums and networking opportunities. It’s also a valuable resource for companies looking to hire LGBTQ+ programmers and for coders to find companies that are LGBTQ+ friendly through the job board.
Implementing these suggestions is a great step in the right direction and at GearedApp we are constantly looking at ways we can improve as we know it will be an evolving process. We know that increasing diversity does not, by itself, increase your company’s effectiveness. What matters is how your organisation harnesses the benefits of the diverse opinions and perspectives, and whether it’s willing to reshape its power structure.
You can read more about how we are building our company culture here:
Diversity and inclusion cannot be a one-time campaign or a one-off initiative. Promoting them in the workplace is a constant work-in-progress, and should be maintained and nurtured to guarantee effectiveness. What we have found at GearedApp is having empathetic leadership is key to this transformation. For real change to happen, every individual leader needs to buy into the value of belonging – both intellectually and emotionally.