When tens of thousands people weathered wind and rain to march in Toronto's Pride Parade on Sunday, they demonstrated a solidarity around diversity and human rights that's shaping the 21st century.
Their silent protests against police, and the handling of a possible serial killer case in Toronto’s gay village, demonstrated how far we have to go, too.
It’s not just a public safety issue. For all the openness of the Pride Parades, employers have not done enough to create open and inclusive workplaces, especially for people who identify as LGBT+.
Among minority groups, LQBT+ employees feel more discrimination and harassment than any other, according to new research from Diversio. The Toronto firm surveyed 2,100 employees in 20 firms across Canada, the U.S. and Britain, and found LGBT+ employees to be 3.7 times more likely than heterosexuals to say they had experienced mental, physical or sexual harassment at work. And they were nearly twice as likely to feel their opinions weren’t sought out or valued in the workplace.
LGBT+ employees remain underrepresented in the workforce. The group accounts for just 8% of entry-level positions, 6% of management roles and none of the executive and board ranks surveyed, according to the Diversio study.
We debated the problem at a recent Toronto roundtable with a group of community leaders, as part of an RBC Disruptors event featuring Dax Dasilva, the CEO and founder of Lightspeed, one of Canada’s fastest-growing tech companies.
Here’s some of what they had to say:
1. Inclusion Is About More Than One Group
Companies need to encourage expressions of inclusion among all employees, regardless of their sexual identity. As an example, Dasilva said he attempts to celebrate religious holidays even if he doesn’t observe them. “I want people to feel represented and that we’re not just celebrating Pride or Martin Luther King Day because of a certain group,” he said.
2. Use the Power of Networks
Bruce McDonald, chair of the Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, said we need to do more to help LGBT+ entrepreneurs connect with large companies and government agencies, and to facilitate opportunities for financing and mentoring. He pointed out that emerging LGBT+ entrepreneurs often feel apprehensive when approaching large organizations. “While they’re comfortable in their own skin, they’re going into an environment where they’re not that comfortable,” McDonald said.
3. See the Economic Opportunity
It’s clear by now that the LGBT+ community has a measurable and significant impact on business. The community has a global spending power of US$3.5 trillion (yes, that’s trillion), according to LGBT Capital. Moreover, roughly one-fifth of millennials identified as LGBT+, according to GLAAD.
4. Showcase Success
Colin Druhan, executive director of Pride@Work Canada, tries to encourage companies to showcase LGBT+ role models to their staff, highlighting individuals from underrepresented communities who have done exceptional work in their field. “People need to realize there’s an importance to telling their story,” added Kary Cozens, executive vice president of StartProud, which helps LGBT+ students transition into the workforce. “Often people may think that they just want to be known for being good at their job, not for being a queer person. Well, why not? Why can’t you be both?”
5. Measure, Measure, Measure
If it’s not measured, it probably won’t get managed. And that’s where we’re seeing some progress. In the 2018 Corporate Equality Index, by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, 83% of Fortune 500 companies have gender identity protections that include transgendered people in their nondiscrimination policies, up from just 3% in 2002. As well, 82% of all businesses surveyed in the CEI — which polled more than 5,000 major brands — offered benefits to domestic partners. And of those, 89% extend these benefits to all partners, irrespective of the gender of the partner.
6. Think Long Term
The group stressed the need for patience, and to learn by doing. No organization is going to get it right at the start. But we won’t get it right if we don’t start. As Dasilva said: “Iteration is innovation.”
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.