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How Your Business Can Fight Homophobia and Protect All Employees (IDAHOBIT Day 2020)

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International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia & Transphobia, also known as IDAHOBIT, is a day of celebration for the LGBTQ community. 

IDAHOBIT Day - Breaking The Silence
 It's important for your business to protect the rights of your employees. (Image source: Envato Elements)

In this article, we'll look at the inequalities still present in the workplace for the LGBTQ community as well as seven ways in which your business can take action to protect the rights of all of your employees.

What Is IDAHOBIT Day?

The date May 17, 1990 stands in recognition of the day that the World Health Organisation no longer listed homosexuality as a diagnosis for mental illness. In 2004, the first annual recognition of this day was marked by LGBTQ activists and given the name, IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia). 

In 2009, biphobia and transphobia were then added to create what we now call IDAHOBIT day. The observance of IDAHOBIT day has now become an international opportunity for individuals and organizations to raise awareness for the work that still needs to be done to combat prejudice. 

Why Is IDAHOBIT Day Important in the Workplace? 

Homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia can cause conflicts within the workplace that are harmful to individuals, groups of individuals, and ultimately the entire company. These types of prejudices often go unnoticed in the workplace and create an unsafe and unprofessional working environment. 

Having your business recognize this day shows that you're committed to creating equality in the workplace regardless of one's sexual orientation, gender identities, and sex characteristics. 

Breaking the Silence

Every year a theme is introduced for the international day against homophobia day to highlight the inequalities that still exist and the progress that needs to be made to give sexual, gender, and bodily minorities justice and protection. 

This year's theme, Breaking the Silence, encourages minorities to voice their concerns about their mistreatment not only in the workplace but also in their everyday lives. Modern society has become more and more accepting of people of all different sexual orientations, but minorities still feel ashamed and afraid to openly discuss this with their friends, families, and colleagues. 

Fight Homophobia
Many LBGTQ workers are afraid or believe it's unprofessional to discuss sexual orientation or gender identification in the workplace. (Image source: Envato Elements)

May 17th is a day to break this silence and let individuals that are a part of the LGBTQ community to let their voices, stories, and lived realities be heard. 

Creating a diverse workplace is a goal that you should always strive to achieve even though this goal can prove to be difficult to reach. Regardless of how far along your business is to reaching this goal, recognizing IDAHOBIT day and the Breaking the Silence theme will show that you're aware of the hardships that the LGBTQ community faces and that you striving to provide a safe and prejudice free work zone. 

In this article, we're going to explore the “Breaking the Silence '' theme further and provide a deeper insight into the serious issues that LGBTQ people face. We'll also cover eight ways in which you can protect your employee's rights by highlighting inclusive policies that your business can adopt. 

Fight Homophobia: Breaking the Silence

To help give you a better understanding of just how big the LGBTQ community is and how many of them are affected in the workplace and in their everyday lives, let’s go over some of the latest statistics provided by Catalyst.

  • In the United Kingdom, 2.0% are LGBTQ
  • In the United States, 4.5% are LGBTQ
  • In Australia, 3% are LGBTQ

As mentioned, society still creates a stigma around being LGBTQ that discourages them from associating themselves with the community. Because of this stigma, the percentage of LGBTQ people in these countries is likely to be higher.

Having a safe, cooperative, and productive workplace encourages workers to bring their full selves to the work each day. 

Catalyst also found that in the United States, 46% of LGBTQ workers are closeted in the workplace. 59% of them believe it's unprofessional to discuss sexual orientation or gender identification in the workplace. 

The situation is similar in the UK, where about one in five LGBTQ respondents said that they don't share their gender identity or sexual orientation with coworkers. (Source: National LGBT Survey: Summary report

This leads LGBTQ workers to not bring their best selves to the workplace and keeps the troubles they face due to their sexual orientation and gender identification from being voiced. 

The Catalyst statistics on just how many LGBT employees face hostility and inequality in the workplace are staggering. 

  • 20% of LGBTQ Americans have experienced discrimination when applying for jobs.
  • 22% of LGBTQ Americans haven't been paid equally or promoted at the same rate as their peers.
  • Approximately 43% of LGBTQ American employees hear offensive lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender jokes. 

According to the The Guardian, 70% of LGBTQ people in the UK have faced workplace harassment. So, the problem is an international one.

Most countries and states don't provide legal protections for LGBTQ employees. In the United States, there's no federal law protecting employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, there's no state-level protection for sexual orientation or gender identity in 29 of the 50 U.S. states. (Source: Catalyst)

Simply put, this means that an employee can be fired for being LGBTQ. 

The statistics outlined above show the need for change in the workplace. LGBTQ people aren't protected from discrimination in the workplace and that can have a negative impact on your business without you even knowing it. 

Benefits of Having a Diverse Workforce

Having a social goal of inclusion has proven to be beneficial for businesses. There are numerous positive effects that'll help make your company a much stronger one. Here a two main advantages of having a diverse workforce:

1. Brings In New Perspectives. If your business has employees of different backgrounds, cultures, and sexual orientations, then you'll have employees that can contribute different views and perspectives to help solve problems. These different points of view wouldn't have been shared without a diverse workforce.

2. Increased Productivity. People like to fit in and are cautious about sticking their necks out. Having a diverse workforce helps your employees feel like they belong no matter what their race, background, or sexual orientation is. This sense of belonging will help with cooperation between employees, spark creativity and ultimately foster a more productive working environment. 

IDAHOBIT day is here to bring a voice to the unheard and encourages the LGBTQ community and businesses around the world to break the silence and to start having discussions about bettering the lives of people of different sexual orientation, gender identities, and sex characteristics. 

Not sure how to make your business safer for employees that are LGBTQ?

In the next section, we'll go over eight different ways for you to implement inclusion policies so you can protect your employees.

8 Ways to Protect Your Employees’ Rights

Knowing what sort of inclusion policies that you should put in place to protect your employee's rights can be a challenge. That's why I've collected eight of the best ways for you to apply these policies in your company right now:

1. Talk About It 

As mentioned, 59% of LGBTQ employees feel that it's unprofessional to talk about their sexual orientation or gender identification in the workplace according to Catalyst. The stigma that surrounds these types of discussions makes it incredibly difficult for your LGBTQ employees to feel safe in the workplace. Having conversations with your employees individually or as a group about the company's support of the LGBTQ community can have a huge impact on equality at your company. Not only will your LGBTQ employees feel much more comfortable in the workplace, but every other employee will feel more comfortable as well. 

2. Examine Your Hiring Practices

The first step in protecting your employees' rights is during the hiring process. Excluding a certain group of employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identification doesn’t even give your company the opportunity to protect your employee's rights because the workforce hiring may not have been fair to everyone who applied. 

The benefits of having a diverse workforce are outlined above. Having this diversity will only benefit your business and will show future employees that you take protecting the rights of employees seriously. 

If needed, don’t be afraid to change your companies hiring policies so they treat everyone fairly.

3. Review Your Current Employee Policies

The next step to ensure equality for employees is to examine your current employee policies. If your current policies favor one group over another, then it may be time to make a change. 

Make sure that all the employee policies don’t give preferential treatment to a specific group of people. Having this imbalance in policies instantly creates a divide in the eyes of employees and can be damaging to the health, safety, and productivity of your employees. 

Implementing policies that give everyone equal treatment can have a powerful positive effect on the dynamics of your workplace. Take the time to revisit your companies hiring policies and make any changes if necessary.

4. Revamp Benefits Offered

Even today, many benefits programs exclude services that LGBT people need. Only 49% of the US Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits and only 62% of them include transgender-inclusive benefits. (Source: Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index)

If you're got employee policies to promote equality and don't offer benefits to LGBTQ people, then there's still clearly inequality in your company. This will be transparent for all employees and create a divide. 

If you're going to change your employee policies, then you also need to strongly consider revamping the benefits offered to LGBTQ employees. Here's a list of a few benefits programs that can be offered:

  • paid parental leave and family-building benefits for all
  • paid sick leave
  • professional development opportunities
  • student loan repayment program
  • reimbursement for fertility treatment
  • retirement programs

Even if your company implements equal hiring practices, you run the risk of losing LGBTQ employees without some sort of benefits program. Many employees are willing to leave their current job if they find another company that offers more benefits. Now is the time to revisit your benefits programs offered to the LGBTQ community!

5. Conduct Training

Companies with effective diversity training programs have employees who are overall happier, more productive, and tend to stay with the company. 

Implementing a diversity training program will not only create a more equal working environment, but it'll make every employee feel valued. 

Conducting a diversity training program will highlight to all your employees that everyone should be treated respectfully and fairly and given equal and encouraged access to resources and opportunities. 

The training will emphasize that diversity of employees will lead to a more successful working environment and to overall success in the company. To communicate your business’s inclusion policies, the human resources department must perform regular diversity training and workshops to reinforce inclusion and equality in the workplace. 

The training can go over workplace scenarios and provide employees with examples of how to respond to diversity and reinforce the importance of inclusion. For more information on diversity and inclusion training, take a look at the article below.

6. Get Company Leadership on Board

Protecting the rights of your employees is a team effort. 

Creating an equal working environment has to start at the top of the company. Everyone in a leadership role in your company must be on board in order for real change to take place. 

The first step is to make your company's leaders aware of your intentions for inclusion and fair treatment. The best way for you to do this is to have a meeting with your company's leaders and outline your goal of having a workplace that protects the rights of employees and the importance of doing this. 

Next, discuss the different policies that can be added or changed to create inclusion. 

Just sending out emails to your company leaders isn't advised here. You want to show that the rights of the company's employees should be taken seriously and scheduling time to address these issues will garner more involvement from company executives. 

7. Create Networks

Creating LGBTQ employee networks can help create new opportunities for career advancement and mentoring. This can also be very helpful for workers so they can share their experiences. 

You or your company leaders can set up an LGBTQ specific network or encourage your employees to create one. 

8. Consult With Experts

Even though you may have good intentions in trying to set up a discrimination-free workplace, you might not have the expertise to design your company's policies and programs yourself.  

Thankfully, there are numerous LGBTQ organizations that can provide your company with valuable resources such as advice, policy creation, training, and much more. 

For a list of LGBTQ professional and student associations that you can consult within the US, check out this list from the Human Rights Campaign

If you live in another country, there are many similar organizations that you can reach out to as well. 

Make a Difference Today!

You can now see just how important it is for your business to protect the rights of your employees and why it's important to celebrate IDAHOBIT day in the workplace. 

In this article, we've outlined eye open statistics on just how unequal the workplace still is in 2020 for the LGBTQ community and how your business can fight against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

What are you waiting for?! Help by breaking the silence in your business and create a workplace that celebrates diversity and equality for all now!

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