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Support for LGBTQ+ Inclusion Has Reached Record Levels

hand makes heart with Pride flag in background

A record 1,384 employers participated in the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC’s) corporate equality index (CEI) in 2023, with 545 companies receiving a perfect score, according to the advocacy group’s latest report.

Launched in 2002, the CEI measures an employer’s policies, practices and benefits for LGBTQ+ employees.

“The future workforce is more out and allied than ever before in our nation’s history, and this year’s CEI shows a business community looking for ways to further support LGBTQ+ workers and their families,” HRC President Kelley Robinson said in a statement. “Participation in the CEI allows companies to stay competitive, gain recognition and improve recruitment and retention going forward.”

According to the report:

  • A record-breaking 95 percent of participating businesses have nondiscrimination protections specific to gender identity, up from 5 percent in 2002.
  • 94 percent of businesses offer transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage, up from 0 percent in 2002.
  • 70 percent of employers have instituted gender transition guidelines with policies and documentation guidance to support transitioning employees, their managers and their colleagues.
  • 70 percent of businesses provide inclusive benefits for same-sex and different-sex spouses and partners.

Shawnie Hawkins, HRC’s senior director of workplace equality, said best practices for LGBTQ+ inclusion at work include incorporating gender-neutral dress codes and inclusive restroom policies and supporting the LGBTQ+ community outside of work.

“It’s [HR’s] responsibility to create an inclusive environment and set the standards for how that can be accomplished,” Hawkins said.

‘Still Much Work to Be Done’

The rise in LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace comes as a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills are being introduced in state legislatures.

More anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced from January to May 2023 than in each of the previous five years, according to HRC. The states that have been the most aggressive in advancing anti-LGBTQ+ laws include Florida, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

These bills include:

  • Restricting in-school discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Prohibiting schools from requiring gender or sexual diversity counseling or training for students and staff.
  • Banning drag performances.
  • Blocking gender-affirming care.
  • Criminalizing transgender people for using the restroom that matches their gender identity.

Robinson warned “there’s still much work to be done” to achieve true equality.

“The ongoing state of emergency for LGBTQ+ folks is a glaring reminder that our fight for equality and justice is far from over,” she said. “We must continue to push, to advocate, and to demand policies and practices that ensure true equality for all.”

[SHRM Online: Ensuring Workplace Inclusion for LGBTQ+ Employees]

5 Simple Ways to Enhance LGBTQ+ Inclusion

While the latest CEI had more participants than ever before, far fewer companies received a perfect score (545) than they did in 2022 (842).

“What this tells us is consistent with what we’re seeing in other data: Your LGBTQ+ employees need to see more to know that you are a truly inclusive workplace,” said Ben Greene, an international speaker and CEO of BG Trans Talks.

Greene, a transgender man, noted as many as 260,000 people have fled their home states due to oppressive legislation, showing that employers must take a firm stance on “standing with them and supporting them—otherwise they have no choice but to find another employer who will.”

An LGBTQ+ inclusion toolkit published by SHRM alluded to a report by the IBM Institute for Business Value, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates and Workplace Pride that identified five recommendations for strengthening LGBTQ+ inclusion at work:

  • Update policies. Ensure that all anti-harassment, bullying and nondiscrimination policies include LGBTQ+ individuals. Review other policies such as dress code expectations and make sure they do not promote gender stereotypes.
  • Use preferred names and pronouns. Define appropriate workplace behaviors that are consistent with your beliefs and values about inclusion, such as using an individual’s preferred name or pronouns, and speaking up when someone is not being treated respectfully.
  • Provide training. Train employees to recognize and eliminate discrimination. Such training should include information on LGBTQ+ terminology, gender-neutral language and examples of inclusive behaviors.
  • Communicate with employees. Share companywide information about the organization’s policies and guidelines for LGBTQ+-inclusive behavior and practices with employees, supervisors and managers. However, HR should share information related to a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, such as asking a health care question about their transition experience, only with the individual.
  • Launch an ERG. ERGs, or employee resource groups, help underrepresented workers share experiences with one another. ERGs can improve employee engagement, provide developmental and networking opportunities, and enhance employee retention.

“I think while homophobia, transphobia and anti-LGBTQ+ misinformation continue to be spreading like wildfire on a national level, both politically and socially, there will be more work to do,” Greene added. “And it’s important that workplaces draw firm lines on inclusion if they want to retain their LGBTQ+ employees.”


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