This wiki discusses the creation LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Groups within companies and how they support the diversity and inclusion of LGBTQ+ families by influencing the policies, benefits, and education of its employees.
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are volunteer based employee-led groups that provide support for shared values, goals, characteristics and experiences. ENGs also promote diverse and inclusive thought that align with the organizations business practices and objectives. Traditionally ERGs are focused on underrepresented or interest based groups. Examples of ENGs include Business Women's Network, Black Employee Network, LGBTQ+ Pride, Sustainability, Wellness, etc. ENGs exist in 90% of Fortune 500 companies .
LGBTQ+ ERGs are for employees who identify as LGBTQ+ or allies who are supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. This support group provides a safe space for members to share stories, learn from each other, network with other colleagues, engage in career development, create awareness, and promote diversity and inclusion within a company’s corporate culture and policies. The American Psychological Association concluded that organizations which provide LGBTQ employees with a supportive environment where they feel safe being open about their sexual identity results in employees who are not only more satisfied and healthy but also more dedicated and productive .
Goals of LGBTQ+ ERGs
LGBTQ+ ERGs focus on a variety of goals including :
- Advocating for LGBTQ+ equality in the workplace by highlighting improvements to policies and practices that would improve the company’s UN Corporate Equality Index, or encourage the company to participate in the UN Corporate Equality Index.
- Obtain sponsorship from a company executive so they publicly endorse equality.
- Establish a mentor program to build leadership skills for early talent.
- Identify business opportunities to engage with LGBTQ+ customers and organizations.
- Attend conferences and career fairs to recruit LGBTQ+ employees.
- Participate in Pride parades to show support to the LGBTQ+ community and promote the company's diversity and inclusion values to the public.
How LGBTQ+ ERGs Support LGBTQ+ Families
Non-Discriminatory Company Policies
Once an LGBTQ+ ERG is established, they can work with company executives to create or change policies to explicitly state the prohibition of harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ+ identifying employees. These policies help ensure employees feel safe enough to come out and be their true authentic selves at work. Employees with LGBTQ+ families will feel able to talk freely about and attend company events with their partners, children and family members. Over 80% of Fortune 500 companies have anti-discrimination policies that protect LGBTQ employees . This is especially important now in the US, where President Trump’s administration issued a memo arguing that anti-discrimination protections under Title VII do not apply to transgender people. However, 111 leading American companies have endorsed the Equality Act, a bill that would add comprehensive protections for LGBTQ+ people in the existing civil rights laws .
LGBTQ+ ERGs can also work with HR to review policies and ensure gender neutral language is used. Using "they", gender neutral pronoun, guarantees that people who don't identify as either a man or woman still feel represented in the company policies. This especially applies when discussing company dress code policies. Eliminating gendered language can erase existing stereotypes and be inclusive of gender queer and non-binary people within organizations. 48% of Canadian organizations use gender neutral language in their benefits policies .
LGBTQ+ ERG’s can help companies work towards adjusting their health care benefits to include transition resources for transgender employees. This can include mental health counseling, hormone therapy, speech language therapy, gender affirmation surgery, mastectomy, facial feminization, sperm retrieval, egg freezing and more. ERG’s can also influence facilities to make gender neutral bathrooms available. Trans-inclusive medical policies allow companies to financially assist their employees and that employee's immediate family members through transition. In 2018, Human Rights Campaign stated 759 US companies offer transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage . 11% of Canadian organizations cover transition related surgeries .
Transition guidelines can also be set into place so that the responsibilities and expectations of supervisors and colleagues during an employee's transition is properly supported. These responsibilities include participating in training to recognizing the person’s new name and pronouns. Policies relating to a person's transition helps ensure the employee has a successful workplace transition.
LGBTQ+ ERG’s can bring in experts from non-profits or LGBTQ+ organizations to host information and training sessions to help educate employees on LGBTQ+ topics. This could help employees understand their LGBTQ+ colleagues and family members better. Sessions can focus on learning proper terminology, fostering inclusive behavior, LGBTQ+ issues and the struggles of coming out. For example, employees who are parents of an LGBTQ+ child can benefit from being able to participate in an open conversation with experts who can prepare them for discussions with their child.
The ERGs can also providing training sessions specific to people managers, so they can help ensure compliance to company policies, understand how to support their team and be comfortable discussing LGBTQ+ topics. As the first point of contact for their team, training provides people managers with the confidence to be an inclusive leader and answer questions regarding health benefits, dress code, washrooms etc.
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