In an ideal world, every workplace would be a sanctuary of acceptance, respect, and celebration of all identities. While there are countless individuals and organizations working to move us closer to this goal, any member of a marginalized group knows that not all professional spaces truly prioritize diversity and create an environment of inclusion and belonging. Finding organizations that wholeheartedly value and honor employees’ authentic selves is crucial for professional growth and fulfillment. This is especially true for members of the LGBTQ+ community, such as myself. Identifying workplaces that foster a culture of genuine acceptance—where LGBTQ+ individuals feel safe, both psychologically and physically, and that they belong—can be a challenging feat but it is well worth doing. We’ve put together a guide to help empower individuals to make informed decisions so they may better navigate the job market with confidence and find organizations that honor and uplift the LGBTQ+ community, while supporting their LGBTQ+ team members.
Over the more than ten years I have been in retained executive search, I have witnessed the transformative power of finding a workplace that aligns with your values and recognizes the unique contributions you bring as an individual. Anyone who has ever felt the need to pause to consider their audience before using a pronoun or sharing the gendered name of their partner, avoided using a public workplace restroom, or struggled to access benefits understands the difference an inclusive workplace makes. I feel incredibly lucky that when I come to work here at Shelli Herman and Associates, Inc., I can show up as who I am without hiding, without those sorts of considerations, and in a culture that has been conscientiously and carefully built to promote inclusion. It is even more gratifying that we apply these same principles to our work as an executive search firm. Evaluating potential clients, we choose to partner with organizations that share our values and commitment to diversity.
Ensuring an organization is genuinely welcoming to LGBTQ+ individuals requires a proactive approach and a careful evaluation of their practices. Here are some steps you can take to assess an organization's commitment:
Research company policies and benefits: Review the organization's non-discrimination policies, inclusive benefits packages, and support systems in place for LGBTQ+ employees. Look for evidence of equal opportunities, inclusive language, and support for different sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions. Research their employee benefits, such as healthcare coverage. For transgender and non-binary individuals, healthcare coverage that affirms and supports gender identity is crucial. By researching the organization's healthcare coverage, you can determine if it includes services specific to LGBTQ+ health needs, such as gender-affirming care, hormone therapy, and other forms of supportive care.
Evaluate leadership and representation: Investigate the diversity of the organization's leadership positions and Board. LGBTQ+ representation on the Board ensures that the experiences, perspectives, and concerns of the LGBTQ+ community are directly represented and considered in decision-making processes.
Make the most of the interview process: Interviewing is a two-way street, allowing you to introduce yourself to the organization and providing you with first-hand experience of the people you will be working with. Be mindful of the indicators of organizational culture you see and take stock of your own comfort.
Check diversity and inclusion statements: Look for companies that explicitly mention LGBTQ+ inclusion in their mission statements, values, or diversity statements.
Check LGBTQ+ workplace indexes and rankings: Various organizations publish indexes and rankings of LGBTQ+-friendly workplaces. These lists often highlight companies that have made significant efforts in creating inclusive environments. Examples include the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index (US) and Stonewall's Workplace Equality Index (UK).
Research whether the company has LGBTQ+ employee resource groups (ERGs) or affinity networks: This step will give you valuable insights into an organization's commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion and support. These affinity groups strive to create a sense of belonging, facilitate networking opportunities, and offer a platform for addressing LGBTQ+ issues in the workplace. By researching the existence of such groups, you can gauge the level of support and inclusion the organization provides to its LGBTQ+ employees.
We sincerely hope that these tips can help you find organizations that invest in, build, and tend to a culture of genuine acceptance and celebration—where diversity is not just a buzzword but an intrinsic part of their DNA. Happy searching and happy Pride!