Author Profile Picture

Joanne Lockwood

SEE Change Happen Ltd

Inclusion and Belonging Specialist

Read more about Joanne Lockwood

Stamping out homophobia and transphobia in the workplace

Transphobia and homophobia can be hard to measure, so how can we forge a way forward?
eliminating_toxic_prejudices_in_the_workplace

Homophobia and transphobia can show themselves through physical, verbal or emotional harassment or, more covertly, through microaggressions, marginalisation and gaslighting, but can also be hard to measure. 

Research by Equalityhumanrights.com suggests in every 100 employees in an organisation, approximately 16-18% have a prejudice against trans people with 14% having reported that they are a little prejudiced towards transgender people, while 2% said they were very prejudiced and a further 2% did not know. 

Furthermore, 1 in 8 LGBTQ+ people don’t feel confident reporting homophobia in the workplace. 

With this in mind, many businesses are increasingly wondering how to test their organisation for transphobic and homophobic attitudes.

In every 100 employees in an organisation, approximately 16-18% have a prejudice against trans people

Toxicity can be subtle

Joanne Lockwood, Inclusive Culture Expert and CEO and Founder of SEE Change Happen says: “Given transphobia and homophobia can be hard to measure, the way forward isn’t always clear. The stigma can also be different between gender and sexual orientation with a gay man generally being more stigmatised than a lesbian, but trans women being more stigmatised because of the narrative that they are a threat to cis women and children. Clearly, bullying or harassment accusations are a sure indicator of a toxic work culture, as is a lack of diversity, but there are more subtle clues.” 

In this article, Joanne Lockwood explores how to test for, identify and uncover these often hidden prejudices in the workplace and how to action change:

Bullying or harassment accusations are a sure indicator of a toxic work culture … but there are more subtle clues

Detecting an undercurrent

Are LGBTQ+ candidates, leaders, employees, stakeholders and customers all experiencing measurable and equal Positive People Experiences? Do you regularly host employee engagement surveys to test out psychological safety asking questions like: “Do you feel you are valued?” and “Can you bring your whole self to work”? 

Surveys can help detect an undercurrent and, even if anonymous, can be cross-referenced with demographics. Testing the experience of people who are gender transitioning can give some clear answers.

Are LGBTQ+ candidates, leaders, employees, stakeholders and customers all experiencing measurable and equal Positive People Experiences?

Fostering inclusivity

If LGBTQ+ employees are not being fully included this is a strong indicator. 

Do gay or transgender employees have a strong sense of belonging and fully take part in group activities if they would like to? Do they put themselves forward for training and leadership roles or do they often stick together or opt out because they feel marginalised? 

Promotion and hiring discrimination

There are several risks. The first is that people who are marginalised and not celebrated for their achievements are not hired or promoted and only individuals who fit the mould are considered. 

Secondly, if they are promoted or hired in a poor work culture then there is the risk of token hiring or promoting to cover all bases, which in turn fuels imposter syndrome. 

They may also be promoted and then get no support from their colleagues so end up leaving. 

Unfair task allocation

If you suspect a pattern whereby LGBTQ+ employees are consistently allocated to tasks that are displeasing or completely irrelevant to their job role, this may well be a sign of underlying discriminatory attitudes. 

Looking out for microaggressions

Microaggressions, misgendering, bias, exclusion and ridicule are still rife in business and coming out or feeling part of a team at work can feel very risky. 

Microaggressions mean you can’t quite put your finger on the issue. Perhaps you are tolerated but there is an undercurrent as people whisper about you, make snide remarks or you are not invited to things. 

It is presented in the same way by closet misogynists and racists. The result is destabilisation and a lack of psychological safety, often leading to absence and quiet quitting. 

Microaggressions mean you can’t quite put your finger on the issue

How to act, now

  • Change policy after listening and involving those affected

It is ineffective and counterintuitive to negotiate policies around LGBTQ+ inclusion without the voices of those in that community. How can companies address an inclusion issue without an inclusive approach? 

Include all voices and integrate them into policy negotiations. This may likely include introducing a gender expression policy. 

It is ineffective and counterintuitive to negotiate policies around LGBTQ+ inclusion without the voices of those in that community

  • Open up all channels to reporting discrimination

Is there a culture where people hide behind ‘it’s just banter’? Businesses need to actively outline the unacceptable nature of anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ+ and any other forms of discriminatory behaviour. 

By vigorously outlining standards, having a policy statement including acceptable language, and having clear whistle-blowing channels, individuals will have avenues available to them to report any harassment or issues that they are encountering, ensuring anonymity if required. 

Move from denial to official scrutiny and take a deep look at work culture, checking for reactions to big supporting statements put out by the organisation. Don’t paper over toxic comments and behaviour.

Is there a culture where people hide behind ‘it’s just banter’?

  • Go back to basics with the hiring process

The first thing to assess is the tone used in the vacancy advertisement – do your record-keeping methods and dress codes discriminate against trans people for instance? 

Make sure the job application only asks for relevant information to the role and doesn’t ask intrusive questions. Create positive narratives. Make sure your process is fair, the best person is selected for the role and the process is transparent.

Move from denial to official scrutiny and take a deep look at work culture

  • Make sure confidentiality is in place

There is no blanket rule for transgender individuals with regard to their gender identity or transition being public knowledge so protecting confidentiality may be vital. 

  • Encourage allies and role models to step up

Having supportive allies, including those in senior positions and peers, provides fundamental support for LGBTQ+ employees. 

Creating networking groups or just having visible LGBTQ+ role models can help embed inclusion across the organisation.

Make sure the job application only asks for relevant information to the role and doesn’t ask intrusive questions

  • Ensure learning and training and strong messaging are in place

Positive and clear messaging and values mean employees, stakeholders and customers are quite clear about where the company stands on discrimination. 

Managers should be offered training around the various issues that the community faces if required.

If you enjoyed this, read: #TDoV: Why it is your business, too

 

 

Author Profile Picture
Joanne Lockwood

Inclusion and Belonging Specialist

Read more from Joanne Lockwood
Newsletter

Get the latest from HRZone.

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.

 
 

Thank you.

Processing...
Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Subscribe to HRZone's newsletter
ErrorHere