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Signs of a LGBTQ Inclusive Workplace

Guest post by: Chelsea Gilbert, Lehigh University Pride Center

As you embark on your job search, you’ll be looking for many things from your prospective employer - shared values, a culture of growth, a supportive supervisor, and many others. Regardless of your identity, another important dimension to consider while searching is LGBTQ inclusion.

Studies have shown​ that companies that demonstrate inclusion of LGBTQ people have ​higher economic outcomes, increased innovation, and greater employee productivity​. Simply put, LGBTQ inclusive workplaces are better for ​everyone​.

But how do you know whether a prospective employer has made a commitment to LGBTQ inclusion? It’s been my experience that there are several dimensions that can reveal this information throughout the search process.

Indexes & Ranking Lists: ​During my first job search, I googled my potential employers and “LGBT inclusion” before I even submitted applications. Through this process, I stumbled upon numerous lists that rank or score workplaces based on LGBTQ inclusion. The ​Corporate Equality Index​ is the most well-known and comprehensive list for Fortune 500 companies; ranking criteria include equal employment opportunity policies, spousal and partner benefits, transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage, and whether the organization has an employee diversity council. ​Industry-specific lists​ exist too, as do ​regional ones​. As you compare workplaces on these lists, make sure you fully understand the criteria they use. Though they can provide important information, rankings only represent one piece of the bigger picture of LGBTQ inclusion at a workplace.

Visual Symbols:​ It’s said that an interview is just as much for the candidate as it is for the employer. When you visit a workplace for an on-site interview, pay attention to what you see. For me, cues that an organization is “doing it’s work” when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion included all-gender restrooms, “ally” symbols or stickers, and prominent LGBTQ representation in materials in common spaces (posters, magazines, brochures, etc). These cues can also be found on an organization’s website - how long does it take to find the “Diversity & Inclusion” statement, if one exists at all? Are there profiles of LGBTQ employees that go beyond tokenizing and truly exemplify the culture of the organization? Don’t be afraid to have a critical lens as you assess whether the workplace is truly a place committed to inclusion!

Language & Rhetoric: ​In addition to keeping your eyes open throughout an interview process, it’s also important to listen carefully to the words used and questions asked by the staff with whom you’re interviewing. Did the employer ask you for your ​pronouns​, or share their own? Answers to your own questions can likewise be revelatory; I like to ask a general question, like, “How does your organization define diversity & inclusion?” to gauge how LGBTQ communities truly fit in to the organization’s vision. Generic answers like, “We are a​ ll ​diverse!” and “We treat everyone the same” may reveal an underlying issue whereby their so-called “commitment” is more surface-level than structural. Organizations that respond with a framework that goes ​beyond​ “diversity and inclusion” to “equity and justice,” and who explicitly mention where LGBTQ people fit in this conversation, likely have taken action to back up their stated commitments.

Family Building & Family Leave Policies: ​In my experience, benefits and leave policies are often difficult or impossible to find for prospective employees, and such matters are not generally discussed until after an offer is made. Whenever the conversation comes up, ask specific questions about ​parental leave policies​ - do they provide leave for non-birth parents? What about adoption leave? Is this leave paid at 100%? Is it equivalent to leave given to birth parents? Additionally, ask specifically about family building coverage - ART, donor sperm/eggs, and surrogacy services are just a few of the ​ways that many queer & transgender people build their families​. It can be especially telling if the responses to these questions are readily available or if they require some digging from the HR representative.

Finally, remember that you have excellent resources to help you navigate throughout your job search process. The ​Pride Center​ and the ​Center for Career & Professional Development​ are here to support you as you plan for your future beyond Lehigh!

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